When you need to head out to work or run to the grocery, you probably absent-mindedly grab your car keys, throw on a jacket, make sure you have your wallet, and head out the door. This routine is engrained into your brain, with the occasional detour when you need to remember to bring something with you or have your kids in tow.
Now imagine that you have a disability that prevents you from driving. Maybe you have vision loss, paralysis, or an intellectual disability that prevents you from this absent-minded routine. How will you get to the grocery store? How will you get to happy hour to meet your friends? To a movie? What about work?
Let’s take a look at the process many individuals with disabilities must navigate just to get from Point A to Point B.
First, what mode of transportation will you use? There are plenty of options: a fixed-route public bus; paratransit; walking or rolling; phoning a friend; or calling a rideshare or taxi.
Next, you will have to consider if the method you want to use is available at the time you need it. In Colorado Springs, the fixed-route public bus and paratransit run roughly from 6:16 am – 9:45 am during the week (with a couple of exemptions), with more limited hours on the weekend. So, you might be restricted if you are going to an evening movie, or an early church service on Sunday.
You’ll also need to consider the route you will take to get to the bus stop. Wheelchair users need to be sure that curb ramps are accessible and that crosswalks are available. Also, you will probably want to check the weather in advance. Managing your way to the bus stop in the rain, while using crutches or a cane, might leave you sopping wet. Not a great look on the way to a job interview.
If you have chosen to hire a taxi or an Uber, you might be keenly aware that some drivers will zip right past you when they see you with your service animal. Although the ADA allows for the use of service animals, it doesn’t stop some drivers from wanting to completely avoid having your dog in their car. In this case, it may take you twice as long to catch a ride.
Of course, whichever option you choose, it will likely take you longer than it would if you were able to absent-mindedly jump in your vehicle and go. Of course, you may be able to catch a ride with a friend, but you are feeling guilty about the number of times you’ve asked for help recently.
Don’t forget that once you reach your location you’ll have to think about the whole process in reverse.
Let’s say your disability is intellectual and you get anxious when you are around strangers. Using a ride share or knowing that there will likely be a person sitting very close to you on the bus could be too much to handle. So, you decide to skip your doctor’s appointment. It’s just not worth it.
Individuals with disabilities throughout the region struggle to integrate into mainstream society because of transportation issues. They miss out on social events, community activities, religious services, and healthcare appointments.
When surveyed…respondents indicated that these factors would help with inclusion. And, at the end of the day, isn’t that what the ADA is all about?