Feonix Mobility Rising, a Nebraska nonprofit focused on providing transportation for underserved groups, is building new partnerships and offering training from its new Ann Arbor office on Research Park Drive.
Feonix mobility innovation manager Rachel Kosla says the nonprofit became interested in Ann Arbor due to the many mobility projects in the area and the opportunity to apply for the Michigan Mobility Challenge. The state grant program is for organizations dedicated to improving mobility in Michigan, especially for underserved groups like veterans and seniors.
"Ann Arbor is a big mobility hub," Kosla says. "One of (Feonix's) partners, the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority, puts a lot of its efforts and funds into innovative projects, which is something Feonix wanted to be a part of."
Feonix was awarded a $457,000 Michigan Mobility Challenge grant last year, and it's now using the funds for programs like Disability Awareness Training for Transportation Agencies (DATTA). The DATTA training program is in partnership with the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living (AACIL) and was developed with input from the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA).
DATTA will be offered Aug. 8-9 to transportation providers, such as AAATA staff and other mobility professionals.
Kosla says the training is focused on providing quality customer service to people with disabilities and informing providers of different disabilities they may encounter in their work, both seen and unseen. People with disabilities lead the training so they can share firsthand experiences with the DATTA participants.
"Disability awareness is all about informing people about disabilities in an ethical way, meaning not just what it's like, and you should feel sorry because it's so hard," Kosla says. "It's about opening up that conversation and making people aware that disabilities exist and that they're not something people should feel like is taboo."
Kosla says she regularly consults AACIL and AAATA for feedback on the training and ideas for future programs, such as an online training program.
"The hope is it will be considered a quality product and worthwhile elsewhere across the state," Kosla says. "I'm really excited about this project and excited about the opportunity with the stakeholders that we've been put in touch with through Michigan Mobility Challenge."
Emily Benda is a freelance writer based in Ann Arbor. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy of Feonix.