They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. For some of us taking that first step can seem daunting. That journey could come in many forms: striving for a personal goal, taking on a home project, embarking on an educational path, or in some cases, becoming an advocate to improve the lives of other people. It all begins with an idea, and more importantly, the motivation to see that idea through to its conclusion.
David Kremer was a man with an idea. David was a frequent passenger on the Santa Barbara MTD bus, and he took offense at the “Disabled” bus pass that the city had given him. “I have a disability, but I am not disabled,” said David. “I did not like the way that word treated me. I felt like I was being put down,” he said. So David took that first step to have the city of Santa Barbara change the name of the bus pass.
This was no small feat. He lobbied hard, and gave a formal presentation to the Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District (MTD) outlining his ideas for a new designation for the “Disabled” pass. His advocacy was successful, and the city changed the name of the pass from “Disabled” to “Mobility,” with David being issued the very first Mobility pass at a ceremony at MTD headquarters.
He also received a certificate for his efforts from then Congressmember Lois Capps, and an article was written about him in the Santa Barbara News Press. Lois Capps said that the work that David had done was “an inspiration for the community.”
Donald Geagan is another motivated individual with ideas for positive change. Donald was using private bus transportation to and from his UCP (United Cerebral Palsy) program in Thousand Oaks. Thousand Oaks can get very warm in the summer, and not every bus that they used had adequate air conditioning. Donald was concerned about the welfare of some of his fellow bus riders so he launched a successful campaign to have the transportation provider use only air-conditioned buses.
His fellow bus riders were truly grateful. “Everyone thanked me,” said Donald. That wasn’t the end of Donald’s journey for advocacy, though. When Donald found out that his UCP program was considering a move to a new facility, he sprang into action once again. The UCP program had been in the same location for 29 years, the location was ideal, and the bathrooms were fully equipped and recently renovated. Donald felt this move would be disadvantageous for himself and for the other participants. He recruited his friend Judy, and his father Joe. They presented their case to the Conejo Valley Board of Education to keep the program at its current location.
Donald also got other members of the community to join in and write their feelings about the proposed move. There were a few hurdles along the way, but the Board listened to their plea and agreed to keep the program in place. Donald was overjoyed. “I felt on top of the world that they would listen,” he said. Donald’s advice to others with an idea for change: “Don’t give up. Keep trying until you get positive results.”
Thomas Coffey is an avid bowler. He frequents a local bowling alley in Goleta. Occasionally the elevator would be out of order, so he asked the staff to take out the elevator and put in a ramp instead. The bowling alley management agreed to make Thomas’ suggested changes in their remodeling! “I told them that I was advocating for everyone in wheelchairs. It also impacts my friends. People at Alpha Resource Center go to the bowling alley and they had the same problem.”
Thomas is pleased that his request will benefit others. Finding solutions can start with finding the right person to speak with. “Just go and talk to the people at the place and let them know your feelings about it!”
Thomas continues his advocacy, “I’m the President of one group of the Applied Abilities Program for Work, Inc. I help the people who have problems with the roads, the sidewalks, or if they’re having problems with organizations for the disabled.
It takes motivation, tenacity, and courage to speak out for ourselves and others, but often a lone voice can get positive results that can be of great benefit for many. Though our journeys may be littered with obstacles, we can all be inspired from the example that Donald, David and Thomas have set, and take that first step.