In an email from a blindness agency in the spring of 2011, I read about ITN, a transportation system coming to the Boston area. My friend Candice mentioned it again this July, and located their number and website. Using that information, I was able to get in touch with them to learn more about this service.
I recently conducted an interview with Jeanne Bushnell, Executive Director, at the Framingham office of ITN/greater Boston. I spoke to her back in August, and again this past Friday. She patiently answered all my questions about its history, mission, and how we can participate.
The Independent Transportation Network was founded by Katherine Freund, in Portland, Maine in 1995. She was motivated by a tragic accident caused by an elderly driver that resulted in the death of her 3-year-old son. She did not blame the driver, and rather directed her anger and grief toward solving America’s shamefully inadequate transportation systems for the elderly. The Independent Transportation Network was born, and began to branch out across the country by 1996. From its inception, the mission has been to provide its blind and elderly riders with courteous, attentive service.
So, how does the Independent Transportation Network differ from Paratransits across the country? To start, it runs24 hours a day, seven days a week, utilizing volunteer drivers. When these drivers are hired, they are carefully screened for attentiveness, a friendly demeanor, and caring and compassion towards all their passengers. The goal of the drivers and staff is complete safety and satisfaction of every patron they serve.
As my friend, Candice said on her trip to North Station from Framingham in August, “The driver was wonderful and even waited on the train platform until I was on the train. We chatted all the way to Boston. I will definitely use them again.”
When speaking with the director, I was impressed with the level and quality of caring each driver shows. They converse with each passenger, and if going grocery shopping, will carry bundles in to the passenger’s residence for them. If the ride involves a medical appointment, the driver only leaves when a blind or elderly passenger is with a receptionist who can assist patrons to appointments.
The Independent Transportation Network is a nonprofit, receiving funds from Tufts Metro West foundation, private donations, and other community resources. Riders have an account and Massachusetts is looking to defray costs for low-income riders via scholarships, as do other states.
Paratransit is a fantastic resource, and riders in many cities and towns have curb-to-curb or door to door service. But this is often insufficient for blind/senior citizens who have additional disabilities and poor mobility skills. With most Paratransits across the country, you must also have sufficient money in your account to take advantage of their service. While, this is also true with ITN, the aforementioned scholarships should be able to help.
Some areas that the Independent Transportation Network operates in include parts of California, Nevada, parts of Florida, South Carolina, Illinois, Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine, and Massachusetts. Some towns served in Massachusetts are Brookline, Brighton, Cambridge, Newton, Roxbury, Framingham, Natick, and Ashland.
How can blind people across Massachusetts help spread the word about this company? You can start by contacting the Framingham office at 1-781-296-1496. Ask for Jeanne Bushnell, who can mail out brochures, which you can then pass on to organizations. To learn more about this organization in your area go to www.ITNAmerica.org. You will find more information for your area and to sign up as a rider.
The shameful crisis of inadequate transportation for elderly and disabled people across America is growing, but ITN is part of the solution.
Have Ziegler Readers taken ITN? If so, how do you like it?