FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – The Johnny Appleseed Aktion Club held their first Candidate Forum at the Allen County Public Library Wednesday night.
The Johnny Appleseed Aktion Club, a service and leadership development group for individuals with disabilities sponsored by Kiwanis, invited nine candidates, ranging from running for County Council to State Rep. and Senator, so people in the disabled community could sound-off about what issues are important to them.
People brought up finding more jobs for the disabled and Medicaid waivers, but their biggest concern is making Citilink busses more handicapped accessible.
“I have a friend who is forced to ride the bus. Because of her disability, she is unable to get a driver’s license. She would like more access to jobs, even without a license, and the fact that she is pretty much hemmed in by the bus schedule, also limits her accessibility to jobs,” said Charliece Glenn, who is partially deaf.
Most of their issues echoed those of others in the community. They suggested expanding transportation hours and some of the routes, creating more bus depots with more benches, and having assistants who can accommodate and help protect disabled people while they're riding.
Pam Porter has a daughter who is disabled and says her daughter and son-in-law ride the bus all the time, and it’s become inconvenient.
“I have a safety issue with my daughter riding alone on public transportation,” said Porter. “There have been some serious issues. This population sometimes can be approached by somebody that they maybe think is a friend and really isn’t.”
Porter added, “There’s also no place to sit. After 45 minutes of waiting, they’ll sit on the curb, and they cannot sit on the curb because of safety issues,” she said.
Porter and other members of the disabled community believe these changes can be made, if public officials plan for it.
“They’re going to have to put it into the budget. They’re going to have to make it part of the planning they do with other councils and elected officials,” said Glenn.
“I think they need to listen. I think they need to understand how complex the funding sources are. Because we’re dealing with Federal, State, and local monies, sometimes it gets lost in the mesh, and they need to be more knowledgeable about where the money comes from and listen to the people who are receiving the services, what they feel would really help,” said Porter.
The candidates seemed to take everything into consideration, but they stated they can only go so far on disabled bus accessibility without the cooperation from Citilink. The candidates said, if elected, they'd try and include more funding for the needs of the disabled community.
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