Job Seekers and Employees with Disabilities Need Better Accessible Transportation Technology

A man in a wheelchair gets on a bus.

Editor’s Note: This blog was cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Labor’s blog.

In the 25 years since the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we have lived through a technological revolution. We have seen technology empower people with disabilities in all aspects of life. This is especially true in the workplace, as the tremendous advance of technology has been the great equalizer for people with disabilities who are employees or job seekers. The department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy has focused on promoting universal design in information technology, and on increasing the availability of accessible technology for use in the workplace.

But technology isn’t just important at work; it’s essential to getting to work. The best employment program is of little help if people cannot access reliable, independent and affordable transportation. The recent innovation in wayfinding and other technologies has greatly enhanced the ability of millions of Americans with mobility challenges to get to and from their jobs − but we aren’t done yet.

Our colleagues at the Department of Transportation recently created an exciting new program known as the Accessible Transportation Technology Research Initiative, known as ATTRI. ATTRI focuses on research to improve the mobility of people with disabilities through the use of intelligent transportation, such as driverless cars and wearable technology for pedestrians.

to gather new and innovative ideas to help transform the future of transportation, particularly as it relates to employment, ODEP and ATTRI are currently co-hosting an online dialogue focused on the future generation of accessible transportation solutions. We would love to hear your ideas!  Register for the dialogue at TransportationInnovationChallenge.ePolicyWorks.org/.

We’ll also be co-hosting a Twitter chat on Monday, Feb. 1, from 2-3 p.m. ET to discuss the current state of accessible transportation, accessible transportation experiences and what improvements must be made. Use the hashtag #ePWchat to join.

And on Tuesday, Feb. 2, from 1-2:30 p.m. ET, DOT will host a public webinar on accessible transportation technologies, including a discussion of the upcoming State of the Practice and Innovation reports as well as the Assessment of Relevant Research, which will include recommendations regarding key opportunities on emerging technologies. To register, please visit http://www.itsa.org/attristateofthepracticewebinar.

This initiative is going to help people like a Labor Department employee named Diana, who has cerebral palsy. Diana is smart, analytical and incredibly efficient, but her disability limits her mobility and dexterity. Like most of us, Diana’s workplace productivity is dependent upon technology, but even a short memo would take her hours to put together on a regular keyboard. Give her a typical telephone, and an important caller would likely hang up before she could answer it.

But with voice-activated software and hands-free telephones – both modest investments – such difficulties have become a thing of the past for her. That is increasingly becoming the case for her transportation needs, as well. She depends on real-time alerts to let her know when there is an elevator outage at her metro stop; she takes advantage of automated, multi-modal trip planning when she needs to leave town for business-related trips; and she uses GPS technology to get to local work meetings. Diana, of course, benefits from the technology, but – just as importantly – so do we as her employer.

As a nation, we have to recognize that there are tens of thousands of Dianas out there, but many are still not able to get to work and be productive there because the technology simply doesn’t exist yet. That’s why we need you. We are proud to partner with DOT to advance the role of technology in the employment of people with disabilities.

Jennifer Sheehy is the deputy assistant secretary for disability employment policy

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We’re Looking for Success Stories: Tell Us How Disability.gov Has Helped You

A sunny forest path through the trees.

By the Disability.gov Team

For the last 12 years, Disability.gov has been a trusted source for important disability-related information from the federal government, your state government and local organizations. We strive to provide information about what matters most to you – such as employment, benefits, where to find resources in your community and more.

Whether you’re a jobseeker with a disability or a caregiver to an aging parent, a student with a disability moving into the workforce or a couple searching for an accessible home, chances are you’ll have some questions along the way. Wherever you are in life’s journey, having access to the right information is key and Disability.gov is here to guide you to the right tools and resources.

If you found just what you were looking for on Disability.gov to lead you on a path to success, solve a problem or reach a goal, we want to hear from you! Share your stories with us about the Disability.gov resources you used and what you have achieved using them so we can celebrate together.

If you’re interested in telling your story, please email it to disability@dol.gov along with your first name and the state where you live. Remember to include “Disability.gov Success Story” in the subject line of your email. Please note that Disability.gov cannot provide monetary compensation for submissions.

We look forward to hearing your success stories!

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Working from Home: An Inside Perspective

Paula Reuben Vieillet, President and Founder, Employment Options Inc.

By Guest Blogger Paula Reuben Vieillet, President and Founder, Employment Options Inc.

It is no secret that work-at-home jobs offer unique opportunities for job seekers with disabilities and other challenges. After all, it is an “accommodation-ready” environment with no travel or fashion costs.

That being said, it is still working at home and that can seem daunting. We asked two of our long-term work-at-home clients, Qiana from New York and Mary from Colorado, to answer a few important questions to get an insider’s perspective.

How did you handle the transition of going back to work and it being at home?

“The transition to work-at-home was a smooth one. It was actually the route that I wanted to take for a long time. I already had a home office set up. I just had to get a few items depending on the qualifications for different jobs.” (Qiana)

“I handled the transition very well. I had an office in my home already that I shared with my husband so it was perfect to make that mostly my own. I had always worked part-time in the past, so telling family and friends was not a big deal. They were all happy that I was working again.” (Mary)

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Inclusion in Action: Giving Riders a Voice in Transportation Planning and Making Dialysis Less Stressful

A colorful pink, yellow and white car.

By Eric Weakly, Program Specialist, Administration for Community Living and Rik Opstelten, Program Manager, Federal Transit Administration

Dialysis patients generally receive treatment several times per week, and missing a session can have real health consequences. Unfortunately, getting to treatment can be a challenge, and programs that try to address the problem often do not understand the unique needs of these patients. This can create as many problems as the program seeks to resolve. For many dialysis patients, rides that do not show up and waiting hours to go home are familiar experiences.

As Troyce Crucchiola, a dialysis patient in Portland, OR describes it, “our lives are so much about hurrying up to wait.”

Often the problem is a disconnect between those developing and running the program and the consumers who are using it.

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I Resolve to Believe You

Sherri Connell, Model

By Wayne Connell, Founder and President, Invisible Disabilities Association (IDA)

“But you LOOK good.”

“You just want attention.”

“But you don’t LOOK sick.”

Another year dawns upon us and, of course, I need to make at least one resolution. The good news is that I know I can keep this one. I resolve to believe you! I resolve to listen and acknowledge the pain and illness you live with daily even though your symptoms might be invisible.

For me, the opposite of believing is prejudice. How many times have we been frustrated and impatient as we wait for the person in the cross walk at the store? They seem to walk slowly and we are in a hurry. Why can’t they speed it up? Maybe they are in chronic pain or have other illnesses or injuries we can’t see. I say that we should err on the side of caution and belief first, not suspicion and prejudice.

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