What are some transportation strategies for the disabled

Visitor Question: What are some of the best ways for communities to address the transportation needs of people who are disabled, or differently abled?

I asked my city planning director this question, and all he did was point to several pretty impractical developments he is tracking. For instance, he said e-scooters were a great new transportation method. Well, I can see that for a 15-year-old who can't drive yet, renting an e-scooter for a tiny fee would be a welcome idea. But really, an e-scooter doesn't help you if you are confined to a wheelchair, or 76 years old, or 8 months pregnant.

My city has cut funding for its on-demand van transportation for older adults, and I think disabled people were able to sign up to use it too. That seems like it's going in the wrong direction.

If I spoke out about this at my city council, could you give me a list of ideas about how other cities deal with this problem?

Editors Reply: We have been hearing about other cities cutting their funding for on-demand transportation services, which are very helpful to disabled folks, recently too. Sometimes these changes indicate a different incentive structure coming from the federal government, but we cannot see any specific evidence of that right now.

First, realize that one strategy towers over all others when it comes to transportation for people with disabilities. They need what is called "on-demand transportation," meaning they can make an appointment for a trip taking them from door to door. Especially for mobility impairments, but also for many other disabilities, for transportation to be comfortable enough to use, it must take them exactly where they need to go, when they need to go.

The first tip in making this happen is to make sure that your disabilities community is well organized and can present a united front. If your city has an organization that deals with all types of disabilities, that will be relatively easy. If not, you may need to advise people you know to form an advocacy organization.

Surprisingly, often people with differing disabilities are not readily in touch with one another. Advocates for the hearing impaired might be well organized, but not know any blind people or mobility-challenged neighbors. So forming this overarching organization that can develop expertise in a variety of physical and mental conditions can be very helpful.

You, or the disability advocates that you get to know, will need to become active in attending the meetings of transit agencies or even the metropolitan transportation planning organization (MPO) to make an impact. Reach out to them in public ways, which now means on social media, to praise or blame them when there are positive or negative funding developments.

I find that one of the best arguments has to do with getting more disabled people into the workforce for greater economic productivity for your metro area. Even though the pandemic made "work from home" more common, many jobs still require showing up in person, at least ome of the time. Without a reliable and reasonably convenient means of transportation, people will remain out of the workforce and their talents will not contribute to the regional economy.

The disability community will need some to have some of its members ready to speak out about the inconveniences and indignities of having to shape their lives around a poorly performing transit service that does not offer enough choice of schedules or destinations, or does not offer its services at a reasonable price.

Let's hope that you can connect with a few people who will be the spark plugs for the kind of movement that it will take to gain greater funding for an on-demand transit service serving people with disabilities.

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