The Importance of Accessibility in Public Transportation

Public transportation is a wonderful resource. Buses, trains, and taxis provide an affordable and reliable solution for people who don’t have their own vehicle. Millions of Americans rely on public transportation every single day to get to work, school, appointments, and other obligations.

However, many people take the ease of public transportation for granted. Despite the Americans with Disabilities Act (A.D.A.) of 1990 requiring public transportation to be accessible for individuals with disabilities, many transit systems remain largely inaccessible. 

Think about older facilities such as the New York subway system—there tends to be out-of-order elevators and a lack of wheelchair lifts, ramps, and handlebars. Anything built prior to 1990 is exempt from meeting accessibility requirements, leaving people with disabilities unable to participate in these forms of transportation. So, why does this matter?

Why is Public Transportation Accessibility Important?

According to a study conducted in 2019 by the U.S. Department of Transportation, 25.5 million Americans have self-reported travel-limiting disabilities. Of this, 3.6 million Americans do not leave their homes due to their disability. This can be due to physical restrictions, cognitive limitations, and financial challenges. Access to public transportation accessibility affects many areas of a person’s life, including:

  1. Mobility

Because mobility is a common challenge for many individuals with disabilities, they rely on public transportation to travel from place to place, such as running errands, visiting a friend, or receiving healthcare. 

Public transportation enables mobility for people who do not have other transit options. When it is not accessible for people with disabilities, it can disqualify this population from contributing to the community, creating meaningful connections, and accessing essential services.

  1. Employment

People who are physically unable to access public transportation have a disadvantage in the job field. In fact, 80% of individuals with disabilities that are willing to work, remain unemployed. Much of this has to do with lack of resources—including accessible transportation.

A person’s physical ability should not place a barrier on their professional options. When public transportation is accessible to everyone, people with disabilities have greater opportunities to gain employment. 

For more information on employment options and resources for adults with disabilities, read our blog, 11 Employment Options for Adults with Disabilities.

  1. Independence

Public transportation allows people without personal vehicles to engage in and contribute to their community. Inadequate funding and enforcement of accessibility results in millions of people unable to be independent with their transportation, relying on friends and family for rides. 

A lack of access to transportation is proven to contribute to social exclusion. People are prevented from participating in the economic, political, and social life of the community because of reduced accessibility to opportunities, services, and social networks. 

Accessible public transportation offers freedom to those who desire to interact with everything the community has to offer. When an individual with a disability is able to utilize public transportation, they can be more independent than ever before—allowing them to foster confidence and growth!

Advocating for Accessibility

The unfortunate truth is that we cannot fix inaccessibility issues overnight. What we can do is be advocates for change. Emphasize the importance of inclusion in the community by campaigning for change, lobbying the local government, and spreading awareness of these issues. For more advocacy tips, organizations, and resources, visit our blog, 5 Actions to Become a Disability Advocate

Paratransit Transportation

Public transportation should be accessible for everybody—regardless of ability. To overcome the barrier of inaccessibility, many people with disabilities rely on paratransit transportation services to meet their mobility needs.  

Paratransit is a transportation service that offers individualized rides from taxis, minivans, or small buses equipped with wheelchair ramps and/or lifts to enable access. By filling in the gaps where public transportation falls short of meeting the needs of people with disabilities, paratransit transportation helps people live more independently.

Covey Advocates for All

Located in Appleton and Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Covey is a non-profit organization devoted to creating opportunities that foster personal growth for adults with disabilities and their families.  We are happy to provide resources for public transportation and paratransit services such as the GO Plus A.D.A. paratransit service. Contact us today!