Passengers with disabilities encounter obstacles in everyday commuting

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Despite progress prompted by the Americans with Disabilities Act, public transportation for people with disabilities is still challenging in many places.

The Washington Post‘s Dana Hedgpeth found that, on D.C.’s Metro system, people who rely on wheelchairs, canes and other aids are confronted by broken elevators, narrow walkways, dilapidated platforms, poor lighting and signage.

Metro has a door-to-door shuttle called for those with disabilities called MetroAccess but Hedgpeth says it is more costly, charging based on the time of day and distance a customer travels. One passenger says the service isn’t reliable and forces her to make travel arrangements a day in advance.

The accessibility issues can be downright dangerous at times. Hedgpeth cites cases in which people in wheelchairs have fallen and a blind man fell onto the tracks.

How do people with disabilities in your community get around? Is the system truly useful? Hedgpeth’s article should give you plenty of ideas about what to look for in a transportation system from the perspective of people with disabilities:

  • Can someone sitting in a wheelchair see signs?
  • Are announcements clear for people with impaired hearing?
  • How often are elevators out of service and, when they are broken, what is the alternative?
  • If there is an alternative system for passengers with disabilities, is it affordable? Do people using it face extremely long commutes or wait times?

The National Center on Disability & Journalism has information and a style guide for journalists covering disability issues.

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