At Senate Hearing, Advocates Discuss Lack of Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities

Disability rights advocates emphasized the need for accessible public transportation at a recent Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing.

“The lack of available, affordable and accessible transportation is one of the most significant and persistent problems faced by people with disabilities,” said Billy Altom, executive director of the Association of Programs for Rural and Independent Living (APRIL).

During the hearing, advocates discussed current transportation challenges faced by people with disabilities, which include: lack of accessible taxi cabs, lack of available transportation options in rural areas, and difficulties traveling by air, such as proper wheelchair storage and assistance getting on and off airplanes. Witnesses shared personal experiences that shed light on the challenges people with disabilities often face when trying to travel.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in public transportation services, such as city buses and public rail and requires that public transportation be accessible. While the ADA includes provisions implemented in 1991 to provide accessible transportation to people with disabilities, such provisions have not yet been fully provided for and implemented.

Access to affordable and reliable transportation allows people with disabilities important opportunities in education, employment, healthcare, housing and participation in community life. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights recognizes the need to address the problems of transportation equity faced by people with disabilities and believes Congress should take tangible, immediate steps to fund projects that promote accessible transportation.

“This attitude that it can be optional to provide accessible transportation has got to change,” said HELP Chairman Tom Harkin, D. Iowa, at the closing of the hearing.