National AccessAbility Week: A Conversation with Tamara Tedesco

National AccessAbility Week: A Conversation with Tamara Tedesco

May 31 to June 6 is the National AccessAbility Week, a week that celebrates the valuable contributions of Canadians with disabilities and recognize the efforts of individuals, communities and workplaces that are actively working to remove barriers to accessibility and inclusion.

Tamera Tedesco helps with the Access Transit Users’ Advisory Committee and a lot more to do with accessibility and transportation.

Although Tamara Tedesco jokes that the reason she’s stuck around TransLink for so long is for the five-year anniversary pin, it’s immediately clear that it’s the impact of her team’s work in Access Transit Planning that gets her out of bed and into work each morning.

“Because our transit system covers such a vast geographic area, we service a wide range of people. I think that’s something really wonderful about public transit – all different types of people rely on it,” says Tamara. “Our aim in Access Transit is to enhance the accessibility across the system and make transit inclusive to as many customers as possible.”

Tamara has been blind since birth, so public transit has played an important role throughout her life. Growing up in a small town on Vancouver Island, she always knew she’d end up in a bigger city one day. A few years after graduating, she packed up and relocated to Vancouver:

“I’ve always been unwaveringly independent. As a young teenager, I recognized that I couldn’t ask my parents to drive me everywhere. I think sometimes we can forget that there are all kinds of reasons that younger people are unable to drive. If you can’t see, that’s a big one. Having a way to get around independently has such a big impact on the quality of life, so it was important to me to find a place to live that was as accessible as it could be.”

Now, in her role as AccessTransit Coordinator, she is able to witness how the freedom of movement benefits other transit customers as well: “it means a lot to me that I’m able to help people and work towards making transit a really valuable and important aspect of their lives as well.”

Tamara’s job involves administrating the Access Transit Users’ Advisory Committee and the HandyDART Users’ Advisory Committee, coordinating their meetings, managing communications with committee members and recruitment. She also helps with the development of accessibility policies and advises departments across the TransLink enterprise on accessibility-related initiatives.

With this work comes unique challenges. As Tamara explains, “accessibility means very different things for different people depending on what their needs are. It’s always a juggling act trying to prioritize projects and determine where the biggest opportunities for improvement are. We really want to improve accessibility for as many customers as possible.”

One barrier that the team frequently confronts is trying to find a balanced solution when customers, especially customers with disabilities, have not only different needs, but often completely opposite and competing needs.

For those interested in promoting accessibility awareness, Tamara suggests a couple of ways that customers can provide feedback and get involved at TransLink:

“One way to submit feedback is through our regular channels – online or by phone. Any feedback or questions for Access Transit Planning gets sent to me. For those who are passionate about making sure accessibility issues are always considered and have a lot of transit experience, we usually have 3-5 openings for new members on the Access Transit Users’ Advisory Committee each year. Whether they are someone with a disability or represent someone with a disability, it’s a great way to be connected to the work we do. Recruitment opens in early August and ends in mid-September. Application information can be found on the Access Transit Users’ Advisory Committee page.”

For those of us at TransLink, we’re grateful for Tamara’s compassion, enthusiasm and commitment to earning that five-year anniversary pin. ?

Written by Rebecca Abel