Masha Flinn gets around pretty well with her main form of transportation -- her wheelchair, she told the Casper City Council during a work session Tuesday shown on its YouTube channel.

But sometimes Flinn needs help from friends and family, especially in winter when the wheels don't grip the snow and ice, she said.

"Like most disabled people, I don't want to have to rely on those people all the time," Flinn said.

"I want to be able to be independent, and be able go where I need to go," she said. "But a lot of times when it snows outside, because the sidewalks and the crosswalks and the ramps are not cleared out, it makes it almost virtually impossible for me to get around."

Flinn belongs to the Casper's Council of People with Disabilities (CCPD) and is a student at Casper College.

The city council authorized the creation of the CCPD in 2019 to better understand the needs of the community's disabled persons.

The CCPD was seeking direction from the city council about working with other city groups and private businesses to improve winter maintenance of sidewalks and crosswalks.

Council agreed to help.

Before Flinn spoke, the city's risk manager and the CCPD's quality of life subcommittee Zulima Lopez told the city council about the group's plans for the year.

'The members of the council have regarded access to safe, reliable and affordable transportation as an essential quality of life issue for disabled people in our community," Lopez said.

For her part, Flinn cited some personal experiences that underscored the need for better transportation access.

For example, one time her wheelchair got stuck at a CATC bus stop where the area was covered in ice and she had to call her father for help, she said.

"In that instance, it was almost two hours before my father could come and help me," Flinn said. Her parents work full time and she shouldn't have to call them for help, she added.

She also cited the intersection at Durbin and Second streets where the left-hand turn lane signal nearest the library was covered in ice and snow, she was stuck, motorists saw her but just drove around her.

"And then I nearly get hit because I couldn't get out of the way," Flinn said, adding she often has a service animal with her and she's more concerned about the animal getting hit than her own safety.

To fix some of the problems Flinn discussed, Zulima presented the results of a survey in August that asked how disabled residents use transportation, what challenges they face with access to transportation and ways to enhance the availability of transportation.

According to her presentation and a memo she wrote in the work session agenda, the survey showed a majority of respondents said:

  • They didn't feel they had adequate transportation.
  • They relied primarily on friends or family for transportation.
  • The lack of transportation limited their ability to get to medical appointments.
  • Limited transportation on weekends and evenings was their biggest challenge.
  • Limited transportation hindered their ability to participate in community events and activities, shop, and have access to food.
  • A centralized contact about options would improve transportation.
  • Helping service providers organize and support transportation would benefit the community.

After analyzing the results, the CCPD's quality-of-life committee identified projects for 2021 to enhance transportation ability:

  • Continue the partnership with the Casper Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, and advocate for the disabled community.
  • Pursue expanding ride share access -- Uber and Lyft -- for people with disabilities.
  • Pursue expanding taxi access for people with disabilities.
  • Further discussions between ride-share companies and medical service providers about access to health care.
  • Develop a list of all transportation resources for disabled people.
  • Pursue grants to help fund transportation projects.
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