Transportation access is a daunting challenge for many people with a wide range of disabilities in North Dakota. Bismarck native Jillian Schaible knows this first hand.
Jillian has taken it upon herself to try and better matters, particularly in her community, through volunteerism and as a watchdog over local public transit issues.
Jillian, who has cerebral palsy, does not drive and frequently uses a power wheelchair that gives her more independence. She improved her own transportation access about three years ago when she applied for and began receiving transit tickets from NDAD for rides through Bis-Man Transit, the public transportation system for Bismarck, Mandan and Lincoln.
Each month, she receives assistance for up to 12 round-trip rides.
“It’s very helpful,” Jillian said. “Even if It covers my volunteer stuff and those types of things I’m involved in to help other people, it offsets some of the other costs for me. Sometimes I use it for personal things, and sometimes I use it for community events.
“I can schedule and I can kind of plan out what I’m doing and what I need to do and see how many things I need to attend.”
For example, she serves as a community liaison for people with disabilities on the planning committee for the Great American Bike Race (GABR) It's a large annual fundraising event in Bismarck to support children and young adults with cerebral palsy and other related childhood-onset conditions that permanently affect their lives.
GABR committee meetings will increase starting in December and continuing until the April 2019 event. Knowing she has transit assistance from NDAD helps her plan around those meetings.
Jillian, who’s on a fixed income, has taken on a mix of paid and volunteer work over the years. She continues to look for “suitable employment,” she said, but those jobs are scarce.
To complicate matters, she said, paratransit rules have changed. According to Jillian, those changes have resulted in reduced flexibility for riders while often expanding potential bus riding hours and further challenging riders’ abilities to meet set work hours and appointments.
Still, NDAD’s transit help is “fantastic,” Jillian said.
She’s hoping more people will be able to take advantage of NDAD paratransit assistance so they can come closer to “being in the community the way they want to be.”