Langevin, Titus Seek to Expand Transportation Access for Individuals with Disabilities

Mar 9, 2021 Issues: Disabilities, Transportation

WASHINGTON – Representatives Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Dina Titus (D-NV) today introduced the Disability Access to Transportation Act, legislation to provide $375 million over five years for the launch of a one-stop paratransit pilot program. Additionally, the bill 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 Disability Access to Transportation Act will help address challenges that people with disabilities continue to face accessing reliable and convenient transportation options,” said Langevin, founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus. “Whether getting to work, school or medical appointments, a lack of access to flexible transportation services makes daily life much more difficult for people with disabilities. By expanding transportation offerings through inclusive services like the paratransit program, we will continue breaking down barriers to access and make our communities more inclusive for everyone. I want to thank my colleague Congresswoman Dina Titus and the disability advocates and community leaders who worked with us on this crucial legislation.”

“It’s simply too difficult for many individuals with disabilities to access public transportation in their communities,” said Congresswoman 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.

"Lack of access to convenient transportation remains one of the biggest barriers to employment, community integration, and healthcare for people who are blind or have low vision,” said Chief Public Policy and Research Officer at the American Foundation for the Blind Stephanie Enyart. “The DATA bill takes several important steps to eliminate this barrier. For example, many paratransit agencies require riders to schedule separate rides for every stop and to wait a long time between each ride. The paratransit pilot should encourage transit agencies to find ways to make paratransit a more convenient and effective transportation option. The American Foundation for the Blind is appreciative of the tools this bill provides for improving our transportation systems for people with disabilities."

In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, public transit agencies are required to provide complimentary individualized ride service to people with disabilities. Under current systems, nearly each leg of a paratransit trip must be scheduled independently with varying waiting times which severely limit flexibility for riders. In the proposed “one-stop” model, riders would be 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.

“President and CEO of United Spinal Association, Vincenzo Piscopo, as a wheelchair user himself, is grateful for the leadership of Congressman Langevin and Congresswoman Titus on championing accessible transportation for the disability community,” said Vice President, Government Relations for the United Spinal Association Alexandra Bennewith. “United Spinal’s goal is to build an inclusive world where people with disabilities can be anyone, go anywhere, and achieve anything.  This bill will help us reach that goal.”

The legislation also streamlines the manner that accessibility complaints or concerns are communicated to the FTA. Presently, individuals who have faced discrimination based on disability and want to report it need to navigate the FTA’s website and mail in a hardcopy form. Under this 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 $450 million for fiscal year 2022 to more than $506 million by 2026.

The legislation also mandates that the Secretary of Transportation establish 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:

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

 

Full text of bill.