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Job Seekers and Employees with Disabilities Need Better Accessible Transportation Technology

Filed in Disabilities By on January 28, 2016

man who uses a wheelchair getting onto a bus

In the 25 years since the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we have lived through a technological revolution. We have seen technology empower people with disabilities in all aspects of life. This is especially true in the workplace, as the tremendous advance of technology has been the great equalizer for people with disabilities who are employees or job seekers. The department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy has focused on promoting universal design in information technology, and on increasing the availability of accessible technology for use in the workplace.

But technology isn’t just important at work; it’s essential to getting to work. The best employment program is of little help if people cannot access reliable, independent and affordable transportation. The recent innovation in wayfinding and other technologies has greatly enhanced the ability of millions of Americans with mobility challenges to get to and from their jobs − but we aren’t done yet.

Our colleagues at the Department of Transportation recently created an exciting new program known as the Accessible Transportation Technology Research Initiative, known as ATTRI. ATTRI focuses on research to improve the mobility of people with disabilities through the use of intelligent transportation, such as driverless cars and wearable technology for pedestrians.

to gather new and innovative ideas to help transform the future of transportation, particularly as it relates to employment, ODEP and ATTRI are currently co-hosting an online dialogue focused on the future generation of accessible transportation solutions. We would love to hear your ideas!  Register for the dialogue at TransportationInnovationChallenge.ePolicyWorks.org/.

We’ll also be co-hosting a Twitter chat on Monday, Feb. 1, from 2-3 p.m. ET to discuss the current state of accessible transportation, accessible transportation experiences and what improvements must be made. Use the hashtag #ePWchat to join.

And on Tuesday, Feb. 2, from 1-2:30 p.m. ET, DOT will host a public webinar on accessible transportation technologies, including a discussion of the upcoming State of the Practice and Innovation reports as well as the Assessment of Relevant Research, which will include recommendations regarding key opportunities on emerging technologies. To register, please visit http://www.itsa.org/attristateofthepracticewebinar.

This initiative is going to help people like a Labor Department employee named Diana, who has cerebral palsy. Diana is smart, analytical and incredibly efficient, but her disability limits her mobility and dexterity. Like most of us, Diana’s workplace productivity is dependent upon technology, but even a short memo would take her hours to put together on a regular keyboard. Give her a typical telephone, and an important caller would likely hang up before she could answer it.

But with voice-activated software and hands-free telephones – both modest investments – such difficulties have become a thing of the past for her. That is increasingly becoming the case for her transportation needs, as well. She depends on real-time alerts to let her know when there is an elevator outage at her metro stop; she takes advantage of automated, multi-modal trip planning when she needs to leave town for business-related trips; and she uses GPS technology to get to local work meetings. Diana, of course, benefits from the technology, but – just as importantly – so do we as her employer.

As a nation, we have to recognize that there are tens of thousands of Dianas out there, but many are still not able to get to work and be productive there because the technology simply doesn’t exist yet. That’s why we need you. We are proud to partner with DOT to advance the role of technology in the employment of people with disabilities.

Jennifer Sheehy is the deputy assistant secretary for disability employment policy

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Comments (7)

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  1. Joyce Hughes says:

    I would like to have a part time job like 15-20 hours and I am disabled permanently. Where can I find a job that would suit my capabilities. I have metastatic breast cancer advanced stage 4 . 2 hip replacement surgery and right humerus replacement surgery I can be a test monitor, or clerical telephone operator. I finished college. I cannot do heavy lifting my right arm have lymphadematous. I just needed help. Please help me.

    A
    breast cancer

    • John Schweitzer says:

      The Administration for Community Living (ACL) received funding for the Senior Community Services Employment Program in 2015. Each state received an allocation to employ part-time individuals who
      were 55+ with a priority given to rural and persons with a disability.

      Check with your local Council on Aging, for possible job openings. Your Vocational Rehabilitation office
      closest to your Council on Aging, and dwelling would be a great place to get assistance with employment.

      Good hunting,

      Dr. John

  2. John Schweitzer says:

    This is what I’ve been ‘preaching’ for the past several years! Great stuff, indeed!

  3. Joan Schrader says:

    I own a small company and employ people with disabilities. I have interviewed several that I would have hired except that they simply could not get to the work site. They lost the job because of transportation. It is very frustrating because the public bus system comes within 1 mile of the worksite. Literally “going the extra mile” would make all the difference in being able to hire an individual with a disability. That one mile is not safe to walk as it is on a steep, winding, incline with no sidewalks and little to no shoulder.

    If the barriers of transit jurisdiction could simply be overcome for those with disabilities, it would go a long way to secure jobs for individuals with disabilities. While new technology is vital and ATTRI is very promising, the people I would have hired only needed to be able to travel one more mile.

    • John Schweitzer says:

      You are right on target! The former program Job Access Reverse Commute (JARC) seemed to be tailored for helping non-driver job-seekers. Our problem in Louisiana has been that the very parishes (our word for county) which need the services the most, do not have the tax-base to meet the 50% matching formula.

      I believe that the 5310 program providers would need a shift in their business model to perceive that “ride-sharing” would be an enhancement to their thinly-stretched budgets. One way would be consider networking their vehicles and viewing the increase in ridership as an incentive, rather than as an encroachment on their primary service population (elderly-disabled).

      We have such a project underway connecting businesses along Highway 51 between Hammond, La and Tangipahoa Parish.
      I’m hopeful that with more .508 applications (Uber-assist and Lyft-type communications linking vehicles with operators in real-time and the ability to track individual’s travel purpose-and-reimbursement accountability) the future of urban-rural connections will result in access to jobs for non-driving job-seekers.

  4. Barbara Butz says:

    Absolutely a necessary next step. Transportation is key to allowing people with disabilities to secure and keep employment.
    This study is so important. We also need to work on related, out-dated policies on the Medicaid side that accept wheelchairs and scooters that are not made to “go out of the house”….while working at home is an option, the mobility transportation devices are available here and now and these related pieces should be updated.

    Barbara Butz

  5. Karin Packard says:

    Being in an area with little public transportation (and that which exists runs only until 5:30 p.m.) makes getting to/from a job difficult. The routes are established and a 5 minute drive can take up to 4 bus changes and over an hour. A “smart car” that drives itself sounds great but most individuals with disabilities would not be in any position to have the funds to secure one – and with the need for medical assistance capping monetary resources at $2,000 and the ABLE act being a bit away, this would not be a viable solution.