Transportation and the Handicapped - Transportation Essay Example




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For many who are able bodied, many people would avail of the convenieince of takin public transporation in geeting around or getting to our destinations. Taking the subway or the bus poses no problems for us who aree able bodied. But what about those who are handicapped? Most public trnsporation systems were built with those who are not handicapped in mind, but can we say that one of the foremost concerns for system builders are the handicapped?



















Transportation for the Handicapped: A Handicapped Transportation System?

As earlier stated, most of us who are able bodied do not find any problem with public transportation means. Most of the systems seem to revolve around speed and the efficiency of

transporting people to their destinations in the shortest amount of time. From public buses to airliners, public transportation works on the basis of speed. But what if the persons availing of the public transport system cannot move fast due to some temporary or permanent disability? How does the law treat them in the availment of public transportation?

History of federal laws

The history of protection for the rights of the disabled finds its moorings in the 14th amendment of the United States Constitution, or the equal protection clause (School Transportation, 2008). Under this provision in the fundamental law of the United States, the State, that is, the American government, will not enact any statute or ordinance that will infringe or impair the exercise thereof of any right that is guaranteed protection in the Constitution (Find Law, 2008). In fact, one of the more prominent issues surrounding the development of urban mass transport systems is the issue of convenience of the elderly and accessibility of handicapped individuals (Theodore Poister, 1982). But the right of the disabled to access to public transportation was not one issue that just sprung overnight.

When did it start?

One of the more interesting developments in the 1970’s was the emergence of the rights of the disabled and other attendant concerns on the surface of the national political agenda (Journal of Health Politics, 1987). In an abrupt motion, the United States Congress crafted and adopted Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act (Health and Politics, 1987). Other laws that were passed at this time were the Handicapped Children Education Act, Developmental Disabilities Act, and the Institutionalized Persons Civil Rights law (Health and Politics, 1987). Federal and state authorities alike pushed for “mainstreaming” initiatives and  “deinstutionalization” (Health and Politics, 1987). Wheelchair ramps also became more visible on the sidewalks and road ways (Health and Politics, 1987).

Why all the sudden blue of activity? If one were to look at the era, there was no sudden cataclysmic event to jump start the disabled rights movement (Health and Politics, 1987). What can be said that a major stimulus in the rise of the disabled rights movement was the tactics of the advocates of the movement, taking their orientation and philosophy from the civil rights movement in the 1960’s (Health and Politics, 1987). in the 1990’s, the onset started with the enactment of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (Health and Politics, 1987). The movement’s activities culminated with the adoption of the re-enacted Developmental Disabilities Assistance and the 2000 Bill of Rights (Alliance for Transportation Rights Institute).

In 1973, one of the first legislated acts on the protection of the rights of the disabled was passed by the United States Congress (Colorado State University, 2006). The 1973 Rehabilitation Act was the first act of Congress which sought to address the guarantee in the Constitution of equal access for disabled persons by the elimination of hindrances in the areas such as architectural, transport and employment (Colorado, 2006). But before this Act as adopted by the Congress, other vital laws were passed by the legislature (Colorado, 2006). In 1970, Congress passed the 1964 Urban Mass Transportation Act (Nation Master, 2005), which specifically provides for the deliberate incorporation into the design of mass transport systems for features designed to give better access to disabled individuals (Colorado, 2006), and the 1968 Architectural Barriers Act (United States Access Board), enacted for the purpose of providing access to disabled persons to Federally-owned or leased establishments (Colorado, 2006).

This section of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act that seeks to guard the rights of qualified individuals from being discriminated upon on the bedrock that they are simply disabled (United States Department of Health and Human Services). Also, the Act also bans the practice of barring and confuting any disabled individual from receiving and enjoying any benefit that may be afforded any able-bodied individual (Health and Human Services).  It is enshrined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that the State is banned from enforcing discriminatory policies on the basis of an individuals’ disability in the availment of access to services and rights such as fair employment, telecommunications, transportation facilities, commercial areas, and other benefits that other able bodied individuals can enjoy and have access to (United States Department of Justice-Civil Rights Division-Disability Rights Section, 2006). In addition to the above stated definition of a disabled person, an individual can avail of the protection of the ambit of the ADA if one is indeed falling under that definition as stipulated above or one has a relationship with a disabled person (United States Department of Justice, 2006).

Title 2 of the American with Disabilities Act specifically deals with the provisions to be made with regard to people with disabilities using public transportation (United States Department of Justice, 2006).  The provision further expands on the ambit of Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act (United States Department of Justice, 2006). Under the Title, the ban on discrimination is further expanded to provide coverage to every part of a local, state, or to any other local government entity, disregarding any and all restrictions in terms of funding from the Federal government or the size of that government entity (Alliance). Such entities are to make what is termed under the law as reasonable modification (Alliance).

Under Title 26, subsection (a) of United States public law 190, the expense for the purpose is termed as “architectural and transportation barrier removal expenses” (Cornell Law University). These can be defined as the removal of any structure with the designed purpose of making any establishment or vehicle used in public transport owned or leased by taxpayers to be more accessible to the disabled or to elderly individuals (Cornell). The ADA orders state and local authorities to afford people equal opportunities at the enjoyment and availment of all programs, benefits and services of the government (Alliance). This is inclusive of all transportation systems (Alliance).

Development of the Disabled rights issue

In the area of delivery of services to the handicapped, the crux of the matter lies in the implementation and system of delivery to the concerned sector (Poister, 1972). Points of discussion in the disabled individuals access to the public transport system is the viability of the main options as to whether the main initiative should center around the alteration of the current public transport system more accessible to handicapped individuals as to completely making another transport system just for the availment of handicapped individuals (Poister, 1972). However, discussion of the issue has been demurred by the arguments posed by different sectors involved in the issue, as to the attainment and listing of goals and objectives  (Poister, 1972). This seeming disputation in turns finds its moorings in the dearth of a collective base of opinion as to its treatment, whether as a civil rights issue or a concern in the transportation sector (Poister, 1972).
Who are the Handicapped?

But lest we forget and discuss more of the issues, let us first define who among the population of the United States can fall under the definition of handicapped. In the definition of who are handicapped, these individuals can be defined as those that because of a certain illness or injury cannot without aid of specialized mechanisms or special features incorporated into the design and framework of mass transport systems are not able to fully utilize these said systems as people possessing able bodies (Robert Patrelli, 1976). The definition above also includes the elderly in its consideration of disables persons (Patrelli, 1976). It must also be noted that the definition is inclusive of individuals possessing congenital defects and by virtue of age cannot fully utilize mass transport systems (Patrelli, 1976). In the definition of the ADA, a person can be defined as disabled if the person is physically or mentally incapacitated that poses a significant restraint on the persons’ ability to partake in life’s everyday activities (United States Department of Justice, 2006).

The definition can also be inclusive of a person who has a record of such impairment and those that are seen as possessing as having the same (United States Department of Justice, 2006). But in the provisions of the ADA, the law does not specifically name all the disabilities (United States Department of Justice, 2006). In the case of the 1964 Urban Mass Transport Act, the law allocated $ 375 million for the construction of major urban rail facilities under the aegis of public or private concerns by matching the allocation of public (Nation Master, 2005). Likewise, under the ambit of the law, an additional supplement of $ 12 billion was allocated for the purpose of “fund matching” (Nation Master, 2005).

While the laws were considered at the time as a major investment policy of the government, many critics of the law were more focused on the inequities inherent in the new statute (Nation Master, 2005). Questions on the context of the jurisdiction, whether the law fell under the ambit of transportation authorities, on the local level or the Federal level (Nation Master, 2005). Also cited was the seeming “matching  funds” mechanism of the law (Nation Master, 2005). They noted that in the new law, there would be an equal split among the government and the local authorities in the allocation of funds (Nation Master, 2005). In the building of new roads, the share would be 80 percent to be shouldered by the Federal government, and the remaining 20 percent would be allocated by the local authorities (Nation Master, 2005).

Disabled Persons: Statistics in the United States

Estimates of the number of Americans with disabilities roughly range from 25 to about 49 million people (Chart book on Disability in the United States, 1996). Data from the National Health Interview Survey puts that amount to affect 19.4 percent of people who are not confined in institutions in the United States (Chart book, 1996).              That number would equate to one in every five Americans with a disability (Chart book, 1996). Half of that number or roughly 25 million Americans have severe disabilities (Chart book, 1996).

In the chart, it is shown that out of the number of Americans with disabilities, 15 percent or 37.7 million Americans are afflicted with conditions that limit their activities (Chart book, 1996). Out of this number, 11.5 million are unable to partake in any large activity; 14.3 million are limited in what kind of activivity they can participate in, and 11.9 million are restrained in their minor activities (Chart book, 1996).

Effectivity of the laws

It is noted that the movement for the recognition for the upliftment of the cause of the rights of the disabled would not have had enough impetus save for the recognition of the society of the abuse that was being done to many other sectors (Colorado, 2006). But the movement still is not considered as mainstream as the civil rights in the 1960’s (Colorado, 2006). It is recognized however that the significance of the issue of transport facilities available for the use of disabled individuals still remains on the national policy agenda (Alice Rivlin, 1981).


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Chart book on the Disability in the United States. (1996). Disability in the United States.          Retrieved November 24, 2008, f rom

Colorado State University. (2006). Resources for disabled students- a brief history of     legislation. Retrieved November 24, 20088 from

Cornell University Law School. (n.d.). §190. Expenditures to remove architectural and   transportation barriers to the handicapped and elderly. Retrieved November 24, 2008,   from   —-000-.html

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