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‘HART for All’ campaign targets area riders with special

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Unlike standard bus service, it offers personalized, point-to-point pick-ups and drop-offs.

TAMPA, Fla. — The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, or HART, has launched a new campaign aimed at encouraging more people with physical and intellectual disabilities to take advantage of the transit system’s services.

“I’ve been riding for like five months, “ said Sam Piazza, who has Down syndrome.

For Piazza, the HART Plus bus system is a godsend, helping him get to work at a Tampa PDQ restaurant and often to the gym where the 33-year-old trains for the Special Olympics.

“It’s really important for me to have independence and freedom,” he said.

Unlike standard bus service, it offers personalized, point-to-point pick-ups and drop-offs.

Piazza is also the face of HART’s new “HART For All” public awareness campaign, which is aimed at educating those living with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other intellectual and physical disabilities about how they can utilize HART services.

It will also train drivers on how to better interact with those who have special needs.

“And people with Down syndrome, people with cerebral palsy, people with autism, people with intellectual disabilities, etc. are a part of our community,” said HART Board Chairman Luis Viera. “And deserve to be heard and deserve to have services.”

The “HART For All” campaign was developed with input from local organizations that work with and support people with special needs. Those same organizations will be instrumental in spreading the word about how those living with autism spectrum disorder and other challenges can utilize HART services.

Piazza’s mother, Ruth, says the HART Plus program has been life-changing. When Piazza tried to ride regular buses, she would worry because they’d drop him off at busy intersections.

“It gives me a piece of mind because I know that we can depend on them,” she said. “You know, you have to be mindful of what the traffic patterns are, and what other people are doing to navigate that. And I don’t know that that would be safe for him.”

HART hopes that through educational guides, social media videos and a huge message-wrapped bus rolling its way around town that more people like Piazza will learn about — and take advantage of — the services.

“Because it’s about people with individuals like us,” said Piazza, “Who can actually have this transportation because it will guide us through life.”

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