Communities Making Accessible Transportation: How We Can Work Together

Easterseals Accessible Transportation

By Jeremy Johnson-Miller

“How did you get here today?”

For many, this may never be a second thought, but for others, it is a daily reminder of the extra planning and reliance of others needed to get where they need to go. Many disabled people understand this well – whether it’s figuring out accessible public transit routes (Does this station have a working elevator? Does this bus route get me close to where I need to go?) or wondering if you will encounter ableism on your journey (Will a taxi pass me by when they see I use a wheelchair? Will people question my service animal?).

Even when someone reaches their destination, they may still encounter obstacles in their travel. A crack or broken sidewalk may not hinder someone who is not disabled, but for others it could mean they can’t use that route and must go blocks out of their way or even into the street to bypass the damaged pathways.

Transportation offers independence for people with disabilities, allowing them to get to school, work and social activities, but when one of these connections fails, it can disrupt their entire day or week.

Throughout my career, I met some amazing people who let me learn about life from their perspective.

Jeremy standing next to his aunt, and both standing beside a bus.

Jeremy and Aunt Nancy

My passion for transportation started at an early age; my aunt Nancy had poor eyesight that barred her from driving, but that did not stop her from living a full life — she passed that life skill along to me. I would meet her downtown during summer breaks for lunch, picking out a book at the library and, of course, ice cream.

Michelle lives downtown and works several blocks away and uses a motorized wheelchair to traverse the city, but in the winter or during construction season, the path of travel is often blocked or unsafe. Michelle uses the phrase “the sidewalks are my roads” when speaking to city leaders about the importance of sidewalks for her to thrive, and if those fail, she is unable to succeed.

Immanuel lives and works along a bus route, but also values social life beyond work. Immanuel has used a wheelchair his entire life, but because of the limited hours of operation for transportation, he often says, “it’s like I am a 30-year-old with a curfew.” The bus does not operate after 10pm and they cannot go to a late movie or stay out late with friends.

Jeremy kneeling next to Michelle who is using a wheelchair

Jeremy and Michelle

These are only a few stories from my 10-plus years working in transportation, but I have a motivation to keep going, nonetheless. People like Michelle and Immanuel, and of course Aunt Nancy, make me want to keep learning and showing up for those who cannot.

Part of my job at Easterseals is sharing ways all of us can make a difference in accessible transportation.

Here are a few actionable items:

  • The work we can do starts off with being aware of our surroundings and making sure there is adequate space for everyone to navigate walkways or paths.
  • If you notice obstacles blocking a sidewalk, driveway, or building entrance, find the appropriate person to move them.
  • If you are a business owner, make sure your signage or furniture is not blocking a path.
  • Notice an elevator is out of order? Tell the building staff, even if you don’t need the elevator.
  • During snow season, make sure your sidewalks are shoveled.
  • Attend town meetings to advocate for safe crosswalks and paths of travel.

Working for an organization like Easterseals has allowed me to put that knowledge into action and continue to create an accessible world for all. Easterseals offers vital resources like customized training and technical expertise on the Americans with Disabilities Act for transportation providers; develops resources to support organizations in their efforts to connect with transportation and mobility services in their community; and identifies organizations in your state, region, or local community that could connect you to the most appropriate transportation services and support the development of coordinated transportation networks.

To make safer, more accessible communities, we must plan transit alongside the disability community. They are the experts on their needs — we can connect with them to advocate and get the attention of government and transit officials. This is and should be a community effort as it benefits all of us to have accessible public transportation options.

To learn more about the Easterseals Transportation Group and what we are doing to create more equitable access to services and settings that everyone should be able to enjoy, visit our website.

Jeremy Johnson-Miller is the Communications Manager for the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center (NADTC) at Easterseals, a federally recognized technical assistance center funded by the Federal Transit Administration, focused on ADA accessibility for older adults and people with disabilities across the country. Jeremy coordinates the release of publications and reports from NADTC, also conducting training and group facilitation for transportation agencies and state DOTs across the country. Prior to joining Easterseals, Jeremy served as Mobility Programs Administrator at Iowa DOT Public Transit Bureau for 6.5 years, providing guidance and oversight of state and federally funded grant programs, also overseeing outreach and collaboration with communities and other state departments within Iowa. Jeremy holds a bachelors in Geography from the University of Iowa and is a Certified Public Manager from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.


Comments may not reflect Easterseals' policies or positions.

Comments are closed.