Transportation access issues have become commonplace for wheelchair users and individuals with a spinal cord injury or disease. We face transportation access issues that make it harder to show up, be on time, and participate in social and family events.

Accessible transportation issues may be related to rideshare services like Uber or Lyft, or availability and timeliness of accessible taxis, buses, or accessible door-to-door services that can be as much a hindrance as a help.

Transportation Access Is On The Table At United Spinal

United Spinal has been fighting on this front for over 70 years. No matter how numerous and how sweet the victories, there seems to always be yet another set of issues on the horizon that need resolving or an unexpected and bitter setback to deal with.

Recently, United Spinal President James Weisman convened a meeting with our Policy/Advocacy staff and members of United Spinal’s Advocacy Network to discuss transportation access issues. Here’s an inside synopsis:

Jim Weisman, United Spinal’s President and CEO
Discussed the effects of inaccessible peer-to-peer ridesharing services on the roadways in New York City and how this new transportation system is changing transportation and threatening a hard-fought requirement of NYC’s taxi system to be at least 50% wheelchair accessible by 2020. He includes a positive victory for this week, a bill passed to cap new Uber vehicles on the road unless they are accessible: Details Here

Alex Bennewith, Vice President, Government Relations
Briefed the group on developments with the Air Carriers Access Amendments Act and related funding for the FAA. As well as continued dialogue with the Department of Transportation surrounding damage to wheelchairs and accessible roadways. She also discusses United Spinal’s involvement in a wheelchair standards and air travel committee with the Rehabilitation Engineering Society of North America and discusses what the Department of Veterans Affairs is doing with their adapted vehicles program.

Kent Keyser, Public Policy Fellow, Government Relations
Updated the group on the current development and production of autonomous vehicles and the work being done to make sure accessibility features are included from the ground up. He introduces the We Will Ride coalition which is looking for participation from individuals interested in shaping the accessibility future of autonomous vehicles.

Jasey Cardenas, Senior Policy Associate
Brought the group up to speed on the push for accessibility by Amtrak and some of the inaccessibility issues facing wheelchair users who utilize trains, such as new train design, unmanned stations and app accessibility.

For the second half of the conversation, members of our Grassroots Advocacy Network discuss transportation accessibility. Advocate Kelley Simoneaux talks about her Uber ride denial experience and subsequent grassroots advocacy. Karen Roy and Carl McGrew share stories about their transportation frustrations. While network members, Gretchelle Dilán and Gina Schuh, share suggestions for creative local transportation accessibility data collection and improved social media advocacy communication.

As you can see, we have our work cut out for us. You will be hearing more from us on transportation issues as the strategies and tactics are rolled out.