Langevin, Katko, Titus Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Expand Transportation Access for Individuals with Disabilities

Mar 19, 2020 Issues: Disabilities, Transportation

WASHINGTON – Representatives Jim Langevin (D-RI), John Katko (R-NY), and Dina Titus (D-NV), have introduced the Disability Access to Transportation Act, bipartisan legislation to expand transportation access for individuals with disabilities. The bill provides $375,000,00 over five years for the launch of a one-stop paratransit pilot program. The legislation also increases funding for grants to meet transportation needs of older adults and people with disabilities when there are gaps in service and promotes reforms at the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to streamline reporting of accessibility complaints.

“The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted three decades ago, but people with disabilities continue to face challenges accessing reliable and convenient transportation options,” said Langevin, founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus. “The lack of access causes disruption in daily life as people with disabilities seek to attend work, school, or medical appointments and carry out other basic and necessary activities. With equity in mind, the Disability Access to Transportation Act will make significant investments that will help the transportation sector provide more inclusive services.”

“I am proud to join Representatives Langevin and Titus in introducing the Disability Access to Transportation Act,” said Katko. “By investing in one-stop paratransit systems, this bipartisan legislation will provide needed flexibility to Americans with disabilities and address existing gaps in the accessibility of essential services.”

“It’s simply too difficult for many individuals with disabilities to access public transportation in their communities,” said Titus. “By easing travel burdens, this bill will help ensure full inclusion in society for those who are too often left out and left behind. I’m grateful for Congressman Langevin’s leadership on this legislation and so many other issues of importance to the disability community.” 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one in four Americans has a disability. Lack of reliable transportation can impede independent living for people with disabilities; in particular, it can be a major employment barrier. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is over twice that of people without disabilities.

“One significant barrier to employment for many parents who are blind is the inability to drop children off at school or at childcare and then continue on to work,” said Stacy Cervenka, Director of Public Policy at the American Foundation for the Blind. “Most paratransit agencies require riders to take separate trips for each location, which means a wait of up to 90 minutes in between stops - impossible for parents who need to be at work on time. This bill is an important step toward eliminating one or the biggest barriers to employment for all blind and low vision people.”

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, public transit agencies are required to provide complimentary individualized ride service to people with disabilities who cannot use traditional services. In almost all cases, each leg of a paratransit trip must be scheduled independently and waiting times vary, severely limiting flexibility for riders. In a “one-stop” model, however, participants are allowed to schedule an intermediate stop to allow, for example, a parent to drop their children off at daycare. The one-stop paratransit pilot program will provide paratransit agencies resources to develop or expand paratransit programs that promote better coordination and allow brief intermediate stops to prevent long wait times between multiple trips. The pilot would focus on improving service in underserved areas and populations including rural communities.

“Congressman Jim Langevin, himself a wheelchair user, lives the experience of our members,” said James Weisman, President and CEO of the United Spinal Association. “United Spinal is grateful for his leadership, and for that of Representatives Titus and Katko, as they introduce the Disability Access to Transportation Act, which makes the nation’s transportation systems accessible to and more usable by our 58,000 members, and 57 million others with disabilities.”

Additionally, the legislation mandates changes to streamline the way in which accessibility complaints or concerns are communicated to the FTA. Currently, individuals who would like to report that they have faced discrimination based on disability need to navigate the FTA’s website and mail in a hardcopy form. Under the legislation, the FTA would be required to accept them by mail, phone and online. Further, it requires the Secretary of Transportation to file yearly reports of accessibility complaints and requires paratransit providers to post information about how to register a complaint through the FTA’s process to raise awareness.

The bill also creates an Accessibility Data Pilot Program to assist local communities in identifying gaps in transportation and methods to improve service to low-income, minority, older and disabled populations. State, metropolitan, and rural transportation planning agencies would be eligible to participate in the program. The legislation increases funding levels for Section 5310 grants that fill gaps in services for older adults and people with disabilities. It extends funded years and increases funding from $286 million for fiscal year 2020 to $434 million by 2025.

Lastly, the legislation mandates that the Secretary of Transportation establishes regulations enforcing the proposed guidelines issued by the United States Access Board setting standards for pedestrian facilities in the public right-of-way. These guidelines consider how individuals get to and from stations and contain important requirements for designing inclusive streets and sidewalks.

The following organizations support the Disability Access to Transportation Act:

  • Amalgamated Transit Union
  • American Foundation for the Blind
  • American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR)
  • The Arc of the United States
  • Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
  • Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF)
  • The Jewish Federations of North America
  • National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities
  • National Disability Rights Network
  • Paralyzed Veterans of America
  • Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO
  • United Spinal Association

 

Full text of bill.