Accessibility: It's all relative
May 1, 2020 | Jessie Hartman, Athens CASA Volunteer and Intern
Rural America, especially Southeast Ohio, has faced its hand of challenges in our current society. Located outside of large towns and cities, its open countryside and low population density establishes particular strengths as well as challenges. Low population density fosters strong social ties among members of a rural community, while at the same time it can isolate its members. This isolation can lead to difficulties in accessing resources. Often cited, are the troubles related to transportation for rural community members to access needed services.
And now with the emergence of COVID-19, a new challenge has surfaced. Accessing reliable transportation has taken a backseat to conversation about access to a working phone and internet. This is particularly difficult in rural areas, where connections are slow, and often spotty. In a period of time where remote work, telehealth, and distance learning has become standard, rural Americans find themselves to be markedly disadvantaged.
We are realizing just how relative the nature of access really is. A dynamic shift has taken place: the new vehicle for work is no longer automotive, but technological. While the transition to remote work has been smooth for some, there are still significant challenges in continuing work and accessing basic necessities like healthcare and education. While no one can anticipate a pandemic, policymakers should consider how geographic contexts will impact different communities in unique ways. We all have to re-think how resources and supportive services are allocated. Are we really reaching everyone? What can we do better?
For community members in Southeast Ohio, there is some support:
Athens Public Transit: fixed route public bus system serving the City of Athens, Ohio, including the Village of Chauncey and The Plains
Athens On Demand Transit: program providing accessible and affordable door to door transportation service for all of Athens County
GoBus: city-to-city transportation services within the state of Ohio, can connect you to greater national and local transportation services to help you reach any destination in the United States
Ohio University CATS: “Campus Area Transit Service,” free shuttle service for students, faculty/staff, and visitors traveling to multiple destinations throughout campus, no pass or ID needed to ride
Ohio University CATCAB: “Campus Area Transit Service Cutting Across Boundaries,” free para-transit service to assist faculty/staff and students with mobility limitations
Central Ohio Transit Authority: public transit agency serving the Columbus metropolitan area
Free Wi-Fi Hotspots
Amesville Grange - 16 State Street Amesville, OH 45711
Waterloo Community Senior Center - 4005 Old State Route 56, New Marshfield, OH 45766
Athens County Public Library parking lots have free Wi-Fi
Athens, Chauncey, Coolville, Glouster, Nelsonville, The Plains, Wells (Albany)
National chains with free Wi-Fi
Walmart, Target, Kroger, Lowe’s
Internet providers offering limited, no-cost services during outbreak
Altice Optimum - (866) 200-9522 - for new customers with K–12 or college students in household, no cost for first 60 days
Altice Suddenlink - (888) 633-0030 - for new customers with K–12 or college students in household, no cost for first 60 days
Charter Spectrum - (844) 488-8395 - for new customers with K–12 or college students in household, no cost for first 60 days
Comcast Xfinity - https://www.internetessentials.com/ - for new customers who are eligible to public assistance programs, no cost for first 60 days
Cox - https://www.cox.com/residential/internet/connect2compete.html - for new customers with at least one K–12 student in household who qualifies for public assistance programs, no cost for first 30 days
On March 13, the Federal Communications Commission launched the Keep Americans Connected Initiative, getting over 700 broadband and telephone service providers to sign a pledge stating that for the next 60 days they will not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic; waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and open its Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them.
Jessie Hartman is a Social Work student at Ohio University. She joined the CASA team in 2019 as an intern, completing her senior level practicum at the agency. After completing preservice training, she has now been an active CASA volunteer for eight months! She loves the work she is doing with CASA, and is hopeful to continue working as an advocate for children in the future as a school social worker.