CLEVELAND — Staying connected and active in the community can be a challenge for those living with developmental disabilities.
One mother is on a mission to tackle the transportation troubles that often isolate those individuals with challenges.
The daily routine of getting to work and back home is something many people take for granted. Adults like Peter Bruening, who has Down syndrome, are twice as likely to have inadequate transportation than those without challenges, according to the American Association of People with Disabilities. That is in spite of having access to para-transit or ride sharing services.
"The ambiguity of drop off and pick up is just beyond their ability to deal with. The vulnerability of our individuals makes those options less attractive," said Debbie Picker.
When Picker started looking for transportation options for her two children with Down syndrome, she uncovered a void.
"There wasn't anything that was customized for people with unique needs," said Picker.
So, Picker decided to launch her own service.
"Even if you can only do a little bit you got to do it," said Picker.
Fare CLE provides drivers who have experience with developmental disabilities to clients who might otherwise be stuck at home.
The service is "just helping these young kids get out on their own," said Carol Webster.
Webster brings Peter to his Beachwood home from his maintenance job at Signature Golf Club in Solon.
"He's a joy, he loves his job," said Webster.
Webster said this is much more than just being a shuttle.
Webster said she loves "seeing how happy they are to be at their jobs and go to their functions and be with their friends and family."
Peter's mom said she quickly noticed a change in her son.
"It makes all the difference in the world. He's been treated like a young adult having his own system for transportation," said Debbie Bruening.
Picker started her business as a for-profit, but quickly saw a problem.
"So many of our folks are not employed or under employed and they can't afford this transportation," said Picker.
Fare CLE is now a nonprofit, so it can access grants to help riders offset the cost.
"What keeps me going is knowing what I'm doing is needed and valued," said Picker.
About 150 rides are expected to be given this month alone, mainly in the eastern and southern suburbs.
Picker would like to expand to the West Side.
“If I had drivers, that is what the crux is," said Picker.
This story is part of A Better Land, an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio's deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Land story, tell us here.