While transit has been my professional business for 15 years, it has been an integral part of my personal life for over 40 years. I like to tell transit professionals that I should look like nothing but good business to them. I need to go places and I need to pay someone to drive me there.
While my friends and siblings were looking forward to their first automobiles, I was looking forward to learning the skills I needed in order to take advantage of public transit. Once I turned 16 and finished a summer program where I learned to navigate the world using the long white cane, public transit was my ticket to freedom, my wheels, my ride, my independence. Transportation was only a problem if public transit didn’t go there.
The Accessibility Story
This story is not unique to me. Public transit is the key to independent mobility for many people with disabilities for whom driving a personal automobile isn’t an option.
A big part of the disability movement in the 70s and 80s focused on the need for public transportation to be accessible to everyone who needed to use it.
Over time and with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the transit industry rose to the occasion and purchased accessible vehicles, worked to improve access at stops and stations, and started implementing regulatory requirements to provide assistance to passengers with disabilities.
The Equality Fight
Over time, the disability community and the transit industry came together to make accessibility improvements. Easterseals Project Action, the indispensable resource for people and families living with disabilities, was instrumental in establishing a neutral place for this important dialogue to occur.
In my session at ThinkTransit: The Trapeze Technology Conference, you’ll learn that the history of the disability movement and the fight to be treated as equal citizens is much larger than just accessible transportation. Though, as always, transportation is necessary to facilitate equal access to almost everything else.
Join me in the “History Behind the ADA” session on Monday, April 10th at 11:00 a.m. and share your perceptions of how public transit has progressed over the years.
Ride in Someone Else’s Shoes
Once the basics have been addressed, it’s time to move the game to the next level. Understanding the riders who need transit the most is a good place to start. To do this, you need a clear understanding of what is involved in taking a public transit trip for riders with disabilities. It requires much more consideration than just which bus to catch and if that bus is accessible.
Start to grasp the full scope of what has to be considered when a person with a disability decides to use public transit to go somewhere.
Easterseals Project Action offers you firsthand insight into this topic in the session “Accessible Transportation: It’s More Than Just a Ride” on Monday April 10th at 4:30 p.m. Through a little hands-on experience, you will start to grasp the bigger picture. Through this improved focus, you can start to address accessibility using a more holistic approach which, in turn, will only benefit your transit service and the community as a whole.
Think transit, think access, think business! It’s to everyone’s advantage!
Donna has over 35 years of experience as a professional in the field of disability advocacy with most of those years as a training and technical assistance specialist on disability-related laws and issues. Since 2002, she has focused specifically on transportation issues. Her areas of knowledge pertinent to accessible transportation include community approaches to implement systems change needed to improve accessible transportation, ADA rights and responsibilities, travel training, coalition building, the transit experience from the customer’s perspective, the increasing role of technology in transportation access, and the accessible pedestrian environment. Her strongest skills are the ability to communicate clearly and to help diverse groups find common ground from which to seek and create solutions. Donna understands firsthand the essential role of accessible, affordable transportation in the lives of people with disabilities, and it is both her job and her passion to help find solutions to transportation needs. She is a graduate of Mississippi State University and has earned ADA Coordinator certification from the Great Plains ADA Center and The University of Missouri.