Disability Pride Month marked with Transportation Forum and Appreciation Delivery to Local Bus Drivers

Friday, July 30th, 2021

Today Walton Options for Independent Living wrapped up a month long awareness celebration focused on Disability Pride with a virtual transportation forum, The Great Gathering, Phase II and delivering appreciation gifts to local area bus operators.
 
The Great Gathering Forum brought together members of the disability community as well as local government officials and Augusta Transit officials to discuss transportation service barriers in the local area and what could be done to remove them. Guests included Senator Howard Jones, Representative Sheila Nelson, Commissioner Jordan Johnson, Reverend Christopher Johnson, and Dr. Oliver Page.
 
A variety of topics were discussed during the two and half hour virtual forum including rider experience, funding, technology barriers, the goals of the Augusta Transit, and looking towards the growth of the area’s transportation to suit the needs of everyone in the community.
 
“As a Commissioner I am working to see that public transit has what it needs, we are committed to make the rider experience better,” remarked Commissioner Johnson. “My eyes and ears are open.”
 
Senator Jones added, “no real progressive city can become that without a transit vision. We certainly have inroads to make that happen, now more than ever before. If a city is to grow, it is important to have transportation. For example, jobs. Our millennial staff want more transit options.”
 
The Great Gathering Forum will be posted on the Walton Options YouTube Channel athttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVxWMQdxcLoJJdBIAiVodaQ
 
Following the forum, Walton Options’ Advocacy Coordinator and Augusta Transportation Board Member, Gaylon Tootle, visited the Transportation Hub in downtown Augusta to deliver 45 gift bags to the bus operators as a thank you for the work they have done over the last year during the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
“These drivers and operators have been an integral part of the community over the last year,” said Tootle. “Public transportation is a lifeline in the Augusta community, especially to persons with disabilities who rely on it to get to work, to the doctors, or just get their essentials. Their devotion to keeping the buses running has not gone unnoticed.”
 
Acknowledging the uptick in COVID-19 cases and their commitment to continue to keep the buses running, the gift bags were designed to be both an appreciation gift and something to keep the operators protected. The bags included reusable and disposable masks, hand sanitizer, a UV light sanitizer wand, emergency preparedness checklists, resource information, and a small Boldly BE gift.
 
Walton Options has also marked Disability Pride Month not only with the forum today but also with a social media campaign focused on disability rights facts and how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is making an impact in our community. They also hosted an online viewing of the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities’ (GCDD) documentary “6,000 and Counting” which highlights three Georgians’ stories about the impact home and community based services can mean for them and their independence journeys.
 
Although Walton Options celebrates Disability Pride Month every year, this year the focus on pride in the disability community will be continuing throughout the rest of 2021. In April, Walton Options announced the ground breaking of the new Center for Disability Rights and Resources at their current Walton Way office location.
 
The new Center is set to become the epicenter of independent living in the CSRA Community providing support and resources to a portion of the community which comprises nearly one-third of the CSRA population.
 
“The Disability Community is a demographic that spans age, race, gender, and economic background,” explains Tiffany Clifford, Executive Director of Walton Options. “We are excited to continue the celebration of Disability Pride as we look to change perceptions and teach the world that every person, regardless of ability, deserves to take up space, to exist, and to be. Our new Center and the awareness campaign around it, Boldly BE, is designed to benefit everyone in our community as we celebrate the diversity and inclusion of disability in the CSRA.”
 
The new 6500 square-foot Center for Rights and Resources will offer accessible consumer meeting spaces & classrooms, expanded staff areas, a communications lab as well as a multi-purpose room designed for community use including round-table legislative discussions and forums, community information fairs, and other engagement opportunities.
 
Donations for the new Center are open to individuals as well as local businesses and organizations. To donate to the Center’s Building Campaign, please visit https://boldlybe.waltonoptions.org/ or contact Ann Campbell-Kelly at 706-724-6262, ext 243 /acampbell@waltonoptions.org. You can also follow Walton Options on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn for updates.
 
Accompanying Photos:
1. Screen shot from transportation forum highlighting the Augusta Transit Goals being presented by Dr. Oliver Page, Assistant Director of Augusta Transit. Text reads: Augusta Transit Goals, Goal #1: Pursue federal grants offering up to 100% funding; Goal #2: Purchase hybrid powered vehicles; Goal #3: Expand transit services in low-income, underprivileged communities and employment rich areas; Goal #4: Smarter use of information technology to improve rider experiences, transit operations, and service planning (e.g., microtransit).
 
2. Advocacy Coordinator and Transportation Board Member Gaylon Tootle sits at his desk while hosting the virtual Great Gathering Forum to discuss transportation barrier in the area.
 
3. Advocacy Coordinator and Transportation Board Member Gaylon Tootle delivers thank you bags to the Augusta Transit Bus Drivers. Pictured left to right: Gaylon Tootle, Walton Options, Sharon Dottery, Transit Director, Priscilla King, Bus Driver, and Dr. Oliver Page, Public Transit Assistant Director.