Independent Perspective 1749 Ericka Miller on how a Systems Advocate works for better access and services for all citizens with disabilities in the region.
Host: Welcome to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of Western New York Independent Living (WNYIL). Our guest today is Ericka Miller, Systems Advocate with Independent Living at Niagara County (ILNC). And I'm your host, Ernie Churchwell. Welcome to the program, Ericka.
Guests: Thank you very much for having me, Ernie.
Host: I imagine that many people that are familiar with our organization knows that we have all kinds of counselors and independent living specialists and whatnot but I'm not sure that everyone knows just what a systems advocate does. How would you describe your job?
Guest: A systems advocate is different than an individual advocate, whereas an individual advocate would work more person to person with an individual in the community on an access issue, I'm looking at more of the system as a whole. So, we're talking transportation or housing, or even voting rights. So, if there is an issue with several voting locations in the county, then you would bring this issue to me and then I would go to the board of elections and say, What the heck is going on? What can we do to address it?
Host: So, whereas the independent living specialist or other counselors are structuring their actions about what is in the best interests of this one particular consumer that they're helping at the moment, what you do will help a whole swath of individuals with disabilities by making things more accessible, more accommodating, more understanding of what their needs are. What do you see as admittedly, you've only been in the job a relatively short time, but have you had an opportunity to oversee what sort of things in the community are going to sorely need your attention to be remedied?
Guest: Well, like you said, I’ve only been in this community for a short time. But I think what you'll find in many communities is there are core systems that typically have issues. Some might already mentioned, housing and transportation, and voting rights, but there are other things like domestic violence. There's benefits issues, there's all kinds of different systems that we don't even think about necessarily, that would impact a disabled person on the daily.
Host: Just a few weeks ago on this program, we had a grassroots systems advocate, Stephanie Speaker, who is behind a movement which you may or may not have heard of, she is trying to get Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority to expand the range of their paratransit access line, which is the curb to curb, van transportation service for people with certain disabilities. Currently, they will only transport you with your starting and ending point is within three quarters of a mile of a fixed route bus system. And she would like to expand it to three miles which are much more than doubles the coverage. Needless to say, they are not jumping at this opportunity with great enthusiasm. Have you had the chance to look into something on that order?
Guest: This is not necessarily specific to this area. Paratransit is a bear throughout the entire state. And I think that any opportunity to expand service to offer the ability to more people to use this service is a wonderful idea. I understand that there's pushback, but you have to think of the needs of the community when it comes to services such as transportation.
Host: Would you believe that we must be having fun because time is flying. We just have a little bit left. I'm sure people will have questions. What's the best way to contact you?
Guest: Right now, the best way to get my attention is to email me and it's firstname.lastname@example.org
Host: Thanks so much for being with us, Ericka. You've been listening to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of WNYIL. Our guest today has been Ericka Miller, Systems Advocate with ILNC. And I've been your host Ernie Churchwell.