CLEVELAND — Staying connected and active in the Cleveland 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, 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," Debbie Picker said.
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," she said.
So, Picker decided to launch her own service.
"Even if you can only do a little bit, you got to do it," Picker said.
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 Bruening to his Beachwood, Ohio, home from his maintenance job at Signature Golf Club in Solon.
"He's a joy, he loves his job," Webster said.
Webster said this is much more than just being a shuttle.
She 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."
Bruening'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," she said.
Picker started her business as a for-profit, but quickly saw a problem.
"So many of our folks are not employed or underemployed and they can't afford this transportation," Picker said.
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," Picker said.
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 of Cleveland.
“If I had drivers, that is what the crux is," Picker said.