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MU Students Discover People with Disabilities Often Don't Know Transportation Options

Oct. 7, 2008

Story Contact:  Jennifer Faddis, 573-882-6217,

COLUMBIA, Mo. - When three University of Missouri students were assigned a community assessment project research project, they didn't realize that their efforts could possibly change the lives of the people with disabilities in their community.

Kelli Balm, Whitney Hedrick and Megan Schulze, all undergraduate students in the Department of Occupational Therapy and Occupational Science  in the MU School of Health Professions, compiled data to determine the effectiveness of Columbia's current public transportation systems for people with physical disabilities. They also wanted to know what changes, if any, were needed to make the city more accessible for all.

The City of Columbia Para-Transit, Services for Independent Living, Older Adult Transportation Services (OATS) and A-1 Taxi were a few of the services the students studied. Surveys were distributed to numerous facilities to determine what information was already known, the desires of those using these transportation systems, and their levels of satisfaction. Although 75 percent of participants reported satisfaction with the availability of these public services, an overwhelming 82 percent were not sure exactly what transportation options were available to them or which one would best suit their needs.

Taking this information and reviewing public transportation systems of comparable cities such as Boulder, Colo., Sioux City, Iowa, and Decatur, Ill., the MU students created a brochure, that summarized the different transportation options available. The brochure included cost, hours of operation and contact information for transportation services.

"We have produced 650 brochures and plan to distribute them in 10 different Columbia locations," Hedrick said. "We are excited to gather our preliminary findings and suggestions and present them to the Disabilities Commission, so they can later communicate our results to the Columbia City Council."

Balm, Hedrick and Schulze hope that this study will evolve into a grant-funded project to improve the knowledge of and access to transportation for those with disabilities in Columbia and surrounding areas.

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