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ACL Programs Support Transportation Accessibility for Older Adults and People with Disabilities

Guest Blogger – Victoria Wright, Program Manager, Transit Planning for All Project, U.S. Administration for Community Living (ACL).


The Administration for Community Living (ACL) focuses on maximizing the independence, well-being, and health of older adults, people with disabilities across the lifespan, and their families and caregivers. ACL’s vision for all people, regardless of age and disability, is to live with dignity, make their own choices, and participate fully in society. We know that for many older adults and people with disabilities, this vision of community living depends on accessible and reliable transportation options.

ACL funds a number of national aging and disability networks that provide direct services as well as technical assistance and resource centers that work to strengthen program and foster collaboration and cross-sector partnerships. Here are a few examples of grantees who we hope can serve as partners and resources.

Making transit planning more inclusive

Woman in power wheelchair at planning meeting

Photo Credit: NADTC

Transit Planning 4 All (TP4A) is a technical assistance center managed by the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) and funded by ACL since 2013. TP4A believes people with disabilities and older adults should be active participants in the design and implementation of coordinated transportation systems. TP4A has funded community teams that include people with disabilities, older adults, and transportation providers that demonstrate how to listen to and act on the ideas of people with disabilities and older adults in order to ensure that mobility services are truly responsive to the needs of these individuals.

A few examples of demonstrated strategies include:

  • installing communication devices in buses to enable people who communicate non-verbally to communicate with bus drivers
  • sensitivity training for drivers that transport people to and from dialysis appointments
  • working collaboratively with people who are blind or have low vision on wayfinding in metro stations.

TP4A is currently supporting inclusive Mobility on Demand (MOD) projects in Seattle, Flagstaff, and Atlanta that can serve as models that other communities can replicate. Their website includes technical assistance resources to support additional community teams as they engage in inclusive transportation planning and seek to make their transportation systems and services more responsive to the people they serve. TP4A also develops and disseminates news, information and resources including best practices, case studies, research, and a Transportation Planning 4 All Guide.

Assistive Technology Solutions to Increase Access to Transportation

Assistive Technology Act Programs and the Assistive Technology Act Technical Assistance and Training Center (AT3) work to increase access to, and acquisition of, assistive technology (AT). AT Act Programs in every state and territory offer device demonstrations and loans, financing, and device recycling/reuse.

AT is constantly evolving and supports opportunities for people to live independently at home and engage in their communitiesemploymenteducation and using transportation services . For example, individuals who use power chairs frequently require a lift-equipped vehicle since their mobility equipment cannot fold and fit in a trunk. AT can also make vehicles operable by persons with gross motor disabilities and simple AT gadgets can make getting in and out of automobiles easier. Transportation-related AT solutions include:

  • lift-equipped vans,
  • car seats with specialized supports,
  • spinner knobs or foam grips for accessible steering,
  • hand controls for driving without pedals,
  • tie-down systems for wheelchairs to use lift-equipped school buses,
  • gadgets to assist with entering and exiting an automobile (ie: swivel seat, handy bar),
  • portable transfer slings for airline travel, and
  • lightweight transport wheelchairs.

To learn more, contact AT3 or your state AT program.

Making Systems More Person-Centered

The National Center on Advancing Person-Centered Practices and Systems (NCAPPS) is a national technical assistance center funded by ACL and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and administered by HSRI. Person-centered approaches ensure that a person with a disability is listened to, placed at the center of decision-making, and supported in maintaining a life that’s meaningful to them. NCAPPS is helping states, tribes, and territories to transform their service and support systems to implement U.S. Department of Health and Human Services policy on person-centered thinking, planning, and practices, regardless of funding source.

Increasing Transportation Options for People with Paralysis

The National Paralysis Resource Center operated by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation offers quality of life grants to nonprofit organizations and programs that provide accessible transportation opportunities helping people living with any type of paralysis to access needed services in their communities. Projects have included providing transportation to wellness services, cultural activities, after-school programs, and recreational opportunities. Funds have been used to expand or enhance voucher programs, or to provide driver training programs to help individuals living with paralysis learn how to drive and increase their independence and transportation options. As of April 2022, 44 organizations in 30 states have been awarded transportation grants, totaling $922,022. Learn more about these grants for non-profits.

Making the ADA’s Vision a Reality

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) National Network provides free technical assistance to the public on questions related to rights and responsibilities under the ADA, including resources on transportation. The network includes 10 Regional ADA Centers each of which focus on their region’s unique needs.

In addition, the ADA Participatory Action Research Consortium (ADA PARC) provides transportation-related data on the experiences of people with and without disabilities as part of their community participation indicators, which are community features and policies that support people with disabilities to participate in the community.  Community leaders have used ADA PARC-generated maps to make investments in improving sidewalks, installing wheelchair charging stations, and making other improvements to enable people with disabilities to more easily access and use public transportation systems.

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