by Chris Desborough
I am extremely fortunate to work for the city of Tucson. I am employed by Council member Paul Cunningham in his ward 2 office, where I help our constituents with a number of inquiries, ranging from “what’s the best number to call to pay my water bill?” through helping get their roads fixed. It’s very diverse and I love it.
Working for the city, you get to understand processes and you learn the names of people you need to escalate things to in order to get issues resolved, and it was because of this that I was able to assist the Southern Arizona Council of the Blind with an advocacy project that they had been working on. The effort was to get the paratransit eligibility form made accessible to blind and low-vision individuals.
For the longest time, the paratransit eligibility form was sent out as a paper hard copy; you would have to get sighted help to complete it and mail it back in. SACB had been advocating for an electronic method of completion.
When I got involved with the project, everything had slowed down, but I knew who to speak with in the city council. Soon afterward, I received a copy of a version of a fillable document to test. Between myself, fellow AZCB board member Bea Shapiro, and SACB member Wesley Derbyshire, we went to work testing the document and keeping detailed notes that I would later present to the Deputy Director of Transportation.
At this meeting, not only did I present the testing results, but I was also able to demonstrate the issues directly as a JAWS user on my laptop. The next step in the process was for the city to rectify the issues with the fillable document. A few weeks later I received a much cleaner and more accessible document to test.
This document is now available to download online, complete, and email back to the Department of Transportation, meaning the blind and low-vision community now has the same opportunity as their sighted peers to independently complete the ADA paratransit eligibility form.
This is a great example of how the SACB and AZCB come together to work for the rights of the blind and low vision across the state. This is also a great example as to why determination, tenacity, and hard work are vital in any advocacy effort. Sometimes it may seem as if we are pushing a large rock up a mountain, but on occasion we do get that rock up to the top of that mountain. And when we do, it feels darn good!