For more than 80 years, Easter Seals Nebraska has helped individuals with disabilities and special needs improve their physical mobility, return to work, or simply gain greater independence for everyday living. Ensuring the success of its numerous programs requires significant ongoing coordination and communication.
The organization recently adopted Microsoft MapPoint to help operate its new transportation service line, Nebraska Mobility, and the results have been overwhelmingly positive.
MapPoint, which Jamie Chambers, mobility administrator, calls the “backbone” of Easter Seal’s mobility project, has enabled the organization to revolutionize transportation services throughout Nebraska, by planning smarter, more direct routes that save time and money for riders, medical offices, and community and senior centers.
“We currently work with over 1,000 private and over 116 public transportation providers to help make their routes more efficient as well as more affordable to the people who need them most,” says Chambers.
Before launching Nebraska Mobility, there was a lot of unnecessary overlap and duplication of efforts. For example, nearby senior centers were picking up neighbors with three separate buses — all around the same time. Now, thanks to MapPoint, one bus is scheduled to service an entire neighborhood.
“Trip tickets are created based on where and when people are traveling, and the information is exported in the form of turn-by-turn directions to drivers to form a full day’s service route,” explains Chambers. Riders pay just 50 cents a ride (the costs are subsidized by grants) for door-to-door transportation from their homes to work, school or a local community organization.
“We’ve become an important public resource,” says Chambers. “Now individuals with disabilities who cannot drive or use regular public transit can make one call and know they will get a ride wherever they need to go.”
An Easter Seals transportation volunteer and client.
Easter Seals Nebraska also benefitted from Microsoft upgrades that spanned beyond transportation. As seamlessly as their programs functioned on the outside, numerous technology challenges lurked within the rapidly growing organization.
“Half of our office is on Macs and the other half is on PCs,” explains Chambers. It was not uncommon for a staff member to send a file to someone other than its intended recipient so it could be converted and sent back or printed out. “We couldn’t easily find, print, share or sometimes even open files,” says Chambers. “It was more than a mess — it was a showstopper.”
To complicate matters, Easter Seals Nebraska had two operating systems and three incompatible servers, and a quickly growing staff, which had doubled in size in just six months, with six remote employees.
In March 2011, a new Microsoft server and the latest version of Office for both Macs and PCs, acquired through the TechSoup Donation Program, brought all staff members onto the same page.
“These donations have increased cooperation between staff, streamlined internal technology training, and provided more efficient and reliable transportation services to individuals with disabilities, seniors, and the underemployed,” says Chambers.
Now instead of spending an entire afternoon figuring out how to open or share a file, or troubleshooting some other tech-related problem, Easter Seals employees can focus on increasing their impact. Chambers adds, “Since we are so closely constrained by time and money, this means being able to help more people in our community.”
Whether it’s moving people or important information, Easter Seals Nebraska relies on Microsoft technology to deliver a win-win for their employees, clients, and transportation providers.