Disability rights, policy reform, advocacy


Dr. Coeli Fitzpatrick


As personal car usage and ownership continue to rise, public transportation usage and access decline. So where does this leave the non-driving population within this shift of transportation dynamics? Within our current transportation systems, a myriad of barriers disproportionately affects individuals with disabilities who are not able to drive cars. A patchwork of numerous funding schemes, stringent regulations that come along with these funding schemes, alongside mismanagement of funds, lack of awareness, and ableist interpretation of federal law collectively contribute to the inadequate transportation options. They are subject to abrupt service interruptions and cancellations, incomplete round-trip assurances due to fluctuating funding, and an extreme difficulty when crossing county lines. Moreover, if someone is not able to advocate for themselves and does not have anybody to do this on their behalf, they would not have guaranteed transportation – further exacerbating the challenge of reaching their destinations. Our current systems do not guarantee that everyone, regardless of ability, is able to get to where they need to go. While this paper focuses on addressing barriers to accessing transportation for individuals with disabilities in Grand Rapids, Michigan and its surrounding townships, the issues and compounding factors that contribute to this phenomenon are systemic, widespread and transcend geographic boundaries.