May 14, 2019 6:48 pm

Regina program helps those with disabilities transition from Paratransit to city buses

WATCH: For people with disabilities getting around the city can be daunting, but a unique program launched last year is aiming to change that and it's making a difference. Katelyn Wilson explains.

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For people with disabilities, getting around the city can be daunting. But a unique program launched last year is making a difference in helping those individuals gain freedom and independence.

The Travel Training Program started as a pilot project in 2018 and is a partnership between the city, the University of Regina and Creative Options Regina.

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It’s aimed at helping people transition from Paratransit to city buses, taking them through a four-step program and learning how to plan, navigate and travel on the bus safely.

READ MORE: Regina group pushing for better Paratransit service

“Independence is one of the greatest things that’s come from this program,” said Ben Morris, creative director with Creative Options Regina. “It’s helped people get out there easily and as much as they want to.

“The first person who went through with us in its trial year was actually able to find gainful employment, based on the fact that they had learned to use conventional transit.”

WATCH: Regina group pushing for better Paratransit service (2015)

Being able to go where you want, when you want isn’t a luxury to which Pagan and Paige Racette were accustomed. Relying on Paratransit for more than 20 years, the twin sisters were limited when it came to getting around.

“You had to book [Paratransit] in advance, and sometimes, if you wanted a trip the day of, you weren’t guaranteed a trip,” Pagan said.

But that all changed last year, when the pair made the jump to city transit after graduating from the program.

“We’ve been able to get around the whole city, basically,” Paige said. “Some places that we’ve never been before; other places we are going constantly because it’s our favourite hangout place. It’s just a sense of freedom where we don’t have to rely on Paratransit all the time.”

READ MORE: Regina group looking to bring back bus service through Human Rights Commission

When it comes to making the switch, it comes down to fear for many. But thanks to transit travel trainers like Dylan Morin, who also went through the program, that fear quickly goes away.

“I’ve seen growth in a lot of people and hopefully it gets the demand off of Paratransit and more on regular transit,” Morin said. “It gives you the freedom and the chance to go wherever you want, whenever you want with hands-on training.”

So far, Morris is calling the program a success, saying the demand is increasing with two people currently on the waiting list.

“We’ve had quite a few asks to come out and speak to different organizations around the city, and every time we are there, we are getting questions about accessing the program,” Morris said.

READ MORE: City of Regina introduces new public transit fares, discounts

For Pagan and Paige, the program means new opportunities and a new sense of confidence.

“You can’t live in fear,” Pagan said. “How do you know if you don’t try? I’ve learned that since I moved out, I always try new things and this is one of the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

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