Letter to the editor: Response to the Justice regarding accessible transportation
Recently an article was published by your team reflecting on the services provided by Escort Safety Service, specifically that of the Accessibility Transport van service that is offered. We, the current management team and the appropriate campus partners, came together to review the concerns raised in the article and the policies currently in place. We would like to use this platform to address some of the concerns raised in the article, as well as how we are looking forward to the future.
Before continuing, we would like to note that, with any service, we continuously work on improving ourselves and supporting our peers. A large number of the issues raised were issues that previous management worked tirelessly to rectify. Those issues, ranging from punctuality to driver conduct, were concerns raised by passengers in past semesters. The previous manager of the Accessible Transport Services, Julia Haynes, worked to bring reforms to correct and address these issues. We thank and acknowledge all of her hard work.
What is the AT van?
The AT van is a subset of the larger Escort Safety Services department, a student-governed and staffed service intended to provide safe and efficient transportation of students and on-campus personnel. Accessible transportation works in tandem with the office of Student Accessibility Support here at Brandeis to provide campus-wide transportation to students with permanent and temporary disabilities.
Our staff are experienced drivers who are trained to be compassionate and professional in their daily routine transporting students. They are on-call for service on weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. This fall 2020 semester, drivers were provided with additional training to work efficiently under University COVID guidelines along with their original training, which covers how to provide a safe and secure means of transportation for students in need. We are proud to say that we have yet to have any concerns regarding the efficacy of the service.
How does AT work?
After being connected to AT, the Head Coordinator of Events and Accessibility will contact the passenger and send a blank schedule (an Excel spreadsheet) that needs to be completed by the passenger. This blank schedule should include anticipated pickups and drop offs that the passenger will need for the week. At Brandeis, many classes start and end at the same time. This means students will be requesting pickups and drop offs at the same time. We recommend students schedule pickups 20 minutes before they need to be somewhere, (i.e. the start of a class) and 10 minutes after the end of a commitment (i.e. the end of a class) in case it runs late.
A new schedule is sent to passengers every week via email and once that schedule is filled out by the passenger it is sent to drivers. Drivers use this schedule for their daily pickups. The purpose of having a schedule is to avoid overlapping pickups, but if passengers need an impromptu pickup they can contact the driver on call.
Please know that drivers in this role are dedicated in supporting their fellow students. We understand that there are times when things come up for which students cannot plan for. We want students to reach out to us for support when they need a pickup or drop off. It is important to note when students do reach out to us for an impromptu pickup, we may have another pickup/drop off at the same time, may be in the middle of supporting another student and/or trying to navigate pedestrian/vehicle/train traffic. Our peers’ patience and understanding are appreciated!
Past resolutions to issues
After some concerns were raised last year about the efficiency of the AT van, the managers restructured some of the policies and rules. We have outlined some of those below:
- Allowing passengers to have the driver’s schedule;
- Worked on providing passengers access to the van location which allowed passengers to be updated on how far the van was and if it was running late. This gave passengers more control when requesting rides and allowed them to hold AT van drivers accountable;
- The managers created an extra AT van schedule which added an additional AT van during the 4-6 p.m. hours to accommodate for overlaps in pickups by student and rush hour traffic; and
- When it came to the consequences that were used to keep drivers accountable, we reevaluated those policies as well. For example, if drivers were late to a pickup they would lose that shift permanently and if they were late to two pickups they wouldn't be able to drive AT.
New changes this semester
During this Fall 2020 semester, a few changes were also made to help better enhance the passenger’s AT van experience:
- We worked with SAS to add more information on the website for students who may need accessible transportation. On the SAS website is an application to request access to the AT van with clearly defined steps to follow;
- We also worked on making sure the information is clear and easy to navigate. A Frequently Asked Questions document was also created to clarify how the AT van works and to provide more information to passengers. Once a student is connected with the Head Coordinator of Events and Accessibility, the student will be sent the schedule along with the FAQs. We hope to soon place this information on the Escort Safety Service and SAS website for all to view;
- Lastly, as previously mentioned, the extra AT van was only available from 4-6 p.m. Now the additional AT van would be available at any time there was an overlap in the schedules of passengers.
If there are any additional questions regarding AT or general accessibility on campus, please feel free to visit the Escort Safety website and the SAS website. If you have any more specific questions or concerns regarding the AT van service, please feel free to contact the Escort Safety Services Management Team.
Thank you for your time, and thank you for the trust you put in us to be your drivers.
Escort Safety Services Management Team
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Justice.