WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 10, 2021)—The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and the American Council of the Blind (ACB) applaud Representatives Jim Langevin and Dina Titus for reintroducing the Disability Access to Transportation Act (DATA) as H.R. 1697, which would expand and improve transportation, especially paratransit programs, for people with disabilities. The bill was originally introduced in the 116th Congress and included in the House surface transportation legislation in July 2020.
AFB and ACB public policy staff advocated together for the DATA bill before, during, and after the bill’s original introduction in 2020. ACB and AFB together met with members of Congress, including Representative Langevin, to raise specific concerns about paratransit services.
“Equal access to transportation persisted as a barrier to full inclusion for people with disabilities well before the COVID-19 pandemic,” said ACB Executive Director Eric Bridges. “The American Council of the Blind and our nationwide membership applauds Rep. Langevin for his thoughtful approach to enable all Americans to get up and get moving toward greater independence, and we urge the swift passage of the DATA Act.”
"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 Stephanie Enyart, Chief Public Policy and Research Officer at AFB. “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. AFB is appreciative of the tools this bill provides for improving our transportation systems for people with disabilities."
Having few affordable, efficient transportation options inhibits the job opportunities available to people who are blind or have low vision. At present, over half of working-age blind and low vision adults are not in the labor market, compared to only a quarter of Americans without disabilities. These individuals consistently identify transportation as one of the biggest barriers to obtaining employment, accepting jobs that are offered to them, or remaining employed.
In addition, the experiences of blind and low vision adults during the COVID-19 pandemic has clearly demonstrated the importance of transportation access for food security, health, and education. Sixty-eight percent of respondents to the Flatten Inaccessibility study expressed concerns about access to transportation. The DATA bill looks to the future by expanding opportunities for equitable and convenient transportation recovery as the pandemic subsides.
AFB staff worked closely with Congressman Langevin’s staff to provide information and feedback on the establishment of a one-stop paratransit pilot program, and ACB members lent their many voices of support during this year’s Legislative Seminar to ensure the bill would be reintroduced.
Under the paratransit pilot program, a rider would be allowed one stop for such purposes as dropping off children at childcare, picking-up subscriptions, or using an ATM. Because paratransit agencies are not federally required to schedule rides less than 90 minutes apart, paratransit riders must spend inordinate amounts of time to accomplish simple but necessary errands. The time burden may prevent people with disabilities from getting to work on time or traveling frequently in their community, and alternatives to paratransit may be inaccessible or prohibitively expensive.
In addition to the paratransit pilot, the bill also addresses other systemic transportation barriers affecting people with disabilities:
• The requirement to implement minimum standards for pedestrian facilities in the public right-of-way, including shared use paths, would eliminate physical barriers in sidewalk and other pedestrian infrastructure design.
• The increase in funding for the Section 5310 grants would expand opportunities to provide transportation services for people with disabilities and older adults.
• Improving Americans with Disabilities Act complaint reporting would ensure people with disabilities can easily report discrimination and facilitate the Department of Transportation taking action to resolve outstanding issues.
• The accessibility data pilot program would improve transportation planning by measuring existing transportation access for people with disabilities and evaluating the result of changes to the transportation system.
AFB and ACB are strongly committed to improving transportation access for blind and low vision Americans. We thank Representatives Langevin and Titus for introducing this bill and urge swift passage.
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About the American Council of the Blind
The American Council of the Blind is a national grassroots consumer organization representing Americans who are blind and visually impaired. With more than 65 affiliates, ACB strives to increase the independence, security, equality of opportunity, and to improve quality of life for all blind and visually impaired people. Together, we make a bright future. Learn more by visiting www.acb.org.
About the American Foundation for the Blind
Founded in 1921, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that creates a world of no limits for people who are blind or visually impaired. AFB mobilizes leaders, advances understanding, and champions impactful policies and practices using research and data. AFB is proud to steward the Helen Keller Archive, maintain and expand the digital collection, and honor the more than 40 years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB. Visit: https://www.afb.org/