Maintaining Accessibility During the Pandemic
Paratransit Van Operator Jeff Ryan has dedicated his professional life to serving people with disabilities in the Spokane community. Before serving the riders of STA’s Paratransit, he worked for 20 years at the Arc of Spokane, a non-profit agency that supports individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“I get to spend time with those who I used to work with at the Arc,” Ryan said. “My favorite part of the job is definitely the people. Since I started here three and a half years ago, I’ve met quite a few great people.” Since the COVID-19 pandemic, some aspects of the job have changed for Ryan.
“We’re disinfecting the vans between trips and we always have our masks on,” Ryan said. “It’s a slight adjustment, but it’s not a huge deal to me. It just makes sense to protect ourselves and our customers.”
Drivers and passengers are required to wear masks at all times and disinfectants are used on all surfaces of the vehicle to maintain a clean and safe environment for each passenger.
Beyond the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and advanced cleaning protocols, Paratransit implemented social distancing by taking one customer at a time and expanding their services to include the Rides for Seniors program.
“It has been a benefit to our customers. We take them straight to where they are going and back,” Ryan said.
Rides for Seniors is available to all senior citizens age 60+ in the Spokane Transit service area. As a high-risk group in the community, this service ensures that they can social distance when using public transit.
“I’ve really been impressed with STA’s response to the pandemic,” Ryan said. “They could have chosen to downsize or cut services, but they have kept services going and really care about their employees and the community. STA is a great company to work for.”
From serving the disabled to serving the elderly, Jeff is proud of his work during these challenging times and believes Paratransit is vital to the Spokane community.
“A lot of people out there depend on public transportation,” Ryan said. “Whether it be for recreation or medical appointments, many of the people we serve would be stuck at home without Paratransit.”