Having been involved with the disabled for a number of years, I have learned that public transportation is an integral part of their lives.
The Wheelin' Sportsmen is a program that provides the disabled an opportunity to participate with others in the shooting, hunting and fishing sports. Wheelin' Sportsmen, part of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) has provided mobile hunting blinds that are environmentally controlled and featured state of the art technology so that hunters with the environmentally controlled and feature state of the art technology so that hunters with the highest degree of disability can participate equally with those not afflicted. The idea of providing such opportunities has been a catalyst for other opportunities in recreation.
Picnic events, target shooting days and fishing at the MDNR Pocket Park are just a few examples of what is now in store for those who currently reside in skilled care facilities.
Most of these residents are senior citizens who, at this point, only had memories of their past experiences outdoors to reflect on.
The only way groups from facilities or individuals with special needs (such as wheelchair transportation) can participate is by public transportation. The Delta Area Transit Authority (DATA) has been the only service able to fill that void. It takes some planning and coordination, but in most cases, the events for the disabled go off without a hitch.
A year ago I was asked to join with others on the Michigan Accessibility Council. Time after time I've been asked how it is possible to run the Wheelin' Sportsman program and the other events set for senior citizens and others with disabilities?
My standard answer and example is the great community spirit and cooperative effort of the people of Delta County and agencies, including DATA, that are making such a difference for others.
I have also come to realize how many people that are simply lacking their own transportation rely on DATA for grocery shopping, doctor's visits and other important daily appointments. DATA is also contracted to transport groups of disabled people to their jobs so they too can be a more productive part of society.
The request millage set for next week is not unique to the area. It is simply asking the residents of Escanaba and Wells Townships to enroll in supporting this vital mode of public transportation.
The revenue generated by the assessment will also serve to help those who reside in the Escanaba and Wells Township area, by opening up more service availability and discounted rates to ride the bus.
The success of the Wheelin' Sportsmen program and other combined recreational opportunities for the disabled and senior citizens has been accomplished through the total community support.
It would only seem logical for Escanaba and Wells Township residents to join in this effort to not only keep but expand the local transportation system by voting yes on the DATA millage request.