The following letter was sent to U.S. Senators on the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and the Commerce, Science, and Transportation committees on July 23, 2021.

Dear Senator :

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) writes in support of the Disability Access to Transportation Act (S. 2038) and urges you to cosponsor this legislation. AFB is a national nonprofit advocating for a world of no limits for people who are blind or have low vision in the areas of education, employment, and aging. Transportation and technology are cross-cutting issues that impact each of AFB’s primary focus areas.

There are more than 7 million people who are blind or have low vision in the US, according to the American Community Survey. Additionally, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics estimates that 25.5 million people in the US have “self-reported travel-limiting disabilities.” Transportation is consistently cited by people who are blind or have low vision as a primary barrier to employment and full community engagement. Silverman, Bell and Mendez (2019) report that 79% of legally blind adult survey respondents experienced negative impacts on their employment due to transportation challenges. They also found that 30% of nonworking respondents cited a lack of reliable transportation as a primary reason for not working. Additionally, Crudden, McDonnall, and Hierholzer (2015) conducted a study of blind and low vision people, 38% of whom had turned down a job because of transportation concerns. Finally, the Project VISITOR study conducted by AFB found that 25% of older adults with vision loss who were urban residents planned to move and cited a desire for more walkable neighborhoods as a primary reason for moving.

In addition, the experiences of blind and low vision adults during the COVID-19 pandemic have clearly demonstrated the importance of transportation access for food security, health, and employment. 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 more equitable and convenient transportation as the pandemic subsides.

The Disability Access to Transportation Act would create a one-stop paratransit pilot program, enforceable standards for public right of way accessibility, improvements to the Federal Transit Administration's complaint reporting process, a program to incorporate disability accessibility data in transportation planning, and increased funding for Section 5310 programs.

These improvements would increase the accessibility and effectiveness of our transportation systems. For example, a one-stop paratransit pilot program would enable agencies to provide a single stop for riders of ADA complementary paratransit services to carry out necessary daily activities that can typically be accomplished within a few minutes but which a rider may not be able to easily schedule in advance. These trips include, but are not limited to, stopping at ATMs, dropping off children at daycare, or picking up medicine at a pharmacy. Paratransit riders generally must schedule rides at least a day in advance and often have to allow more time between trips than is convenient to avoid missing a connection. These inconveniences become much more serious if a parent, for example, misses a ride to work or a patient can not pick up their prescriptions on time.

On behalf of AFB, we encourage you to cosponsor this bill to improve transportation access for people with disabilities and promote independent living in our communities. The House of Representatives has included some provisions of this bill in its surface transportation reauthorization. We encourage the Senate to move this bill forward. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to Sarah Malaier, Senior Public Policy and Research Advisor.

Stephanie Enyart
Chief Public Policy and Research Officer