AFB commends the Department for developing an accessibility strategic plan. People who are blind and have low vision face tremendous barriers to transportation to the point that transportation is regularly identified as one of the top three barriers to unemployment. People who are blind must contend with a lack of service, lack of vehicle accessibility, inconvenient services areas and arrival times, and discrimination. Investments in accessible transportation and a commitment to proliferating alternative transportation modes are critical to ensuring equity across employment, education, healthcare, social activities, and more.
Overall, we encourage the department to focus more on the impacts of the pandemic that will continue to affect people with disabilities over the next five years. Changes to transportation have affected access to jobs and the community; decreased accessibility of vehicles; and increased fear and uncertainty. DOT, states, and planning organizations should examine ways to promote access for people with disabilities in transportation recovery. AFB will release a report on the pandemic's impact on people who are blind, and the effects were summarized in two blogs for NADTC: https://www.nadtc.org/news/blog/flattening-inaccessibility-part-1/ and https://www.nadtc.org/news/blog/flattening-inaccessibility-part-2/
We also encourage DOT to increase the focus on research into transportation for people with disabilities. Among other programs, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics should conduct more studies that evaluate transportation impacts and opportunities for people with disabilities and consider using definitions of disabilities that compare to other statistics produced by the US Census Bureau, in addition to transportation-specific disability questions. In addition, making accessibility a key consideration in every research project funded by DOT would advance opportunities by leaps and bounds for people with disabilities.