NCD Report: 9 Key Findings Regarding Public Transportation for People With Disabilities

The National Council on Disability has released a report documenting advances and persisting challenges in transportation for people with disabilities in the last 10 years. “Transportation Update: Where We’ve Gone and What We’ve Learned” also offers recommendations to improve public policy.

The report specifically addresses surface transportation in areas including buses, rail transit, paratransit and all modes of public transportation. Some of the key findings include:

1. Fixed-route bus transit is more widely used than Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) paratransit services. In most areas, two to five times the number of people use bus transit compared to ADA paratransit services. Ongoing challenges in this area include boarding ramps with too steep of a slope, boarding denial to people with disabilities with some bus systems, and stop announcements that are not effective.


2. Rail transit continues to fall behind in offering accessible stations, particularly in the Northeast. The report recommends full-length platform level boarding for people with disabilities.

3. A key issue with ADA paratransit service is on-time performance, including problems with pickups, the time, how long it takes and missed trips. The report offers some strategies for addressing these issues.

4. The “common wheelchair” section was removed from the Department of Transportation’s ADA regulations. However, some challenges remain regarding accommodations for larger, reclining and other wheelchairs.

5. Drivers are sometimes unaware that they need to provide assistance with the use of lifts and ramps. More training is needed in this area.

6. Confusion still exists regarding the use of wheelchair restraints. Often wheelchairs are not properly secured. The report offers guidance on WC19 voluntary standards and clarifies appropriate restraints.

7. Rural areas still have minimal or nonexistent transport services. The report recommends creative strategies, including voucher programs, volunteers, taxicabs, and car ownership, to address the issue.

8. The report identifies bus accessibility as the biggest transportation problem faced by people with disabilities. A study showed that improvements in bus stops that included installing new bus shelters and replacing damaged sidewalks in the Portland, Ore., area yielded a 215-percent increase in lift boardings in just two years.

9. A bill, the Accessible Transportation for All Act (S.2887), was introduced in September of 2014 that would address standard taxi systems and transportation network companies such as Uber, SideCar and Lyft. The bill would ban discrimination, require a national competition to design an accessible taxi vehicle and would increase availability of accessible taxis.

The report offers recommendations for improvements in public transportation in 11 key areas. General recommendations include increasing ADA compliance among transportation providers, improving enforcement of ADA standards by federal agencies, involving Congress to ensure proper implementation of ADA standards, and disseminating the best practices outlined in the report to transit agencies.

Download the complete report HERE.

About the Author

Elisha Bury is the editor of The Mobility Project. She can be reached at