Transportation Initiatives That Improve Accessibility

By Adrian Johansen

All people deserve the right to travel. But a disability can make it difficult to drive, fly or use public transportation. Fortunately, various transportation initiatives to improve accessibility for people with disabilities are underway. And these initiatives are making it easier than ever before for those with disabilities to get where they need to go, as quickly and easily as possible.

Now, let's look at three transportation initiatives that improve accessibility for people with disabilities.

Cars, busses and trains race through a busy futuristic scene.

1. Self-Driving Cars

Autonomous vehicles, aka self-driving cars, transform the way people with disabilities get from Point A to Point B. They include a wide range of technologies to streamline transportation, including:

  1. Global Positioning and Geographic Information Systems: Work together to provide details about a car's latitude and longitude and other location-related information.
  2. Electronic Maps: Provide insights into road conditions, traffic and other geographic information.
  3. Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR): Enables a self-driving car to model its surroundings and use this information to produce a 3D map that a driver can access when he or she is behind the wheel.

The global autonomous vehicles market is projected to grow in the years to come. Meanwhile, as automakers explore ways to capitalize on the rising demand market, they look poised to heavily invest in self-driving cars.

Thanks to self-driving cars, people dealing with dementia and other disabilities that are more difficult to live with can travel safely. This is leading many automakers to explore opportunities to upgrade their existing cars or develop new ones with autonomous capabilities. It is resulting in research regarding the impact and benefits of self-driving cars for people with disabilities as well.

For instance, University of Pittsburgh researchers in July 2020 initiated an 18-month national study regarding the accessibility of autonomous transportation for people with disabilities. This study could lead to "wiser investments" by people who provide benefits to individual travelers with disabilities, said Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The University of Pittsburgh research is one of several relating to the use of autonomous transportation among people with disabilities. Going forward, new studies can offer a glimpse into the potential of self-driving cars for these individuals. It could also lead to unparalleled innovation in autonomous transportation, along with accessibility improvements for those with disabilities.

2. Public Transportation

Traveling by bus, train or other forms of public transportation is a must for many people with disabilities. However, enjoying accessible public transportation remains a persistent problem across the United States.

Traffic congestion and long commute times are two of the leading issues that make it tough to travel on public transportation without innovation. Regardless, people with disabilities typically have few alternatives. Some of these people do not own a car or are unable to drive. Others face a budget crunch, to the point where their only option for travel is public transport.

Initiatives to enhance the accessibility of public transportation for people with disabilities are ongoing. For example, Mercedes Benz-maker Daimler announced its CityPilot "Future Bus" in 2014. The Future Bus would provide autonomous public transportation and feature technology that would allow it to safely take groups of passengers across cities and towns. Daimler unveiled the design for its Future Bus two years later. And at this time, the Future Bus traveled approximately 12 miles on its own across a Netherlands bus route.

Accessible transportation options described at Abilities Expo

Several mobile apps have been launched to help people with disabilities get the most value out of public transportation, too. AbleLink WayFinder is one such example. The app lets individuals with disabilities create public transportation travel routes and activate them based on a GPS location. In addition, the app offers step-by-step visual and audio instructions to guide users and help them safely reach their destination.

3. Education

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has created significant demand for public health college and university graduates. It has even led some people to pursue public health jobs in which they can seek out ways to improve transportation accessibility for those with disabilities.

Many career opportunities are available to those who want to launch or support initiatives for transportation among individuals with disabilities. These include:

  1. Community Health Coordinator: Develops and manages community health problems and identifies ways to improve health outcomes for people in certain states, cities, or towns.
  2. Health Educator: Shares information about public health-related issues and offers insights into health education programs.
  3. Public Health Advisor: Helps public health organizations optimize their community programs and ensure they are run per national guidelines.

Earning a college or university degree in public health can help people with disabilities become advocates for transportation accessibility. Colleges and universities offer public health degree programs both online and in traditional classroom settings. Anyone can enroll in one of these programs to build the skills they need to become successful advocates for transportation accessibility for those with disabilities.

To begin a public health college or university degree, pursue program options. From here, anyone can receive training in myriad public health topics. They can then move forward with a career that allows them to advocate for accessibility in transportation for those with disabilities and others.

The Bottom Line on Transportation Initiatives That Improve Accessibility

Transportation initiatives show promise in terms of improving accessibility among those with disabilities. Yet, in the short term, people with disabilities must continue to do what's necessary to protect their mental health and overall wellbeing.

Supporting transportation initiatives that improve accessibility for those with disabilities and educating others about them is paramount. As more people start to understand these initiatives, their support can grow. And as a result, the initiatives can deliver exceptional results.

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