Personal Story

Impact Feature Issue on Meeting Transportation Needs of Youth and Adults with Developmental Disabilities

Reaching Decision Makers: Lessons From Experience

After 30 years of advocacy on behalf of people with disabilities, including myself, it sometimes seems as if all the strategies have been tried and that short of setting my hair on fire there isn’t much I could do to impact the transportation decision-making process. I have come to believe that the primary obstacle faced by people with disabilities is other people’s attitudes. Whether accurate or not, feelings about people with disabilities influence important judgments and decisions. How can one effectively address attitudes? We’ve tried using logic, law, and other strategies but seem to be missing the mark.

Elected officials have to allocate scarce resources to meet conflicting demands for services. They often make decisions based on the most popular and seemingly efficient solution. People with disabilities and their transportation needs do not always meet these criteria. How then do we get their attention and let them know that the transit system is not really meeting our needs?

Like most of us they learn from experience. So this year, we decided to dust off an old strategy that was effective in the 1970s and 80s – involving elected officials in activities that raise awareness about what is unique about living with a disability. Disability Awareness Day in Washington, DC breathed new life into our attempts to influence transportation decision-making, and met with moderate success. Now my question is, what will we do next year?

Contributed by John Hudson, Access for All committee member, Fairfax, Virginia.