In cases involving continued discrimination, disability lawyers have made the point that freedom of movement is essential in making sure that such individuals are gainfully employed. Access to public transportation can abrogate the need for continued public assistance in financial terms.
Legislators, too, have recognized access to transportation as a necessary prerequisite to obtaining work. A Harris poll cited by Senator Durenberger noted that, "three of ten disabled persons stated that lack of transportation was a reason why they had no employment. Transportation, he concluded, was 'essential if a person is to seek and maintain a job.'"
The Public Works and Transportation Committee of the United States House of Representatives further concluded with the observation that work contributed to individuals' sense of self-esteem and belonging through, "most of all, taking pride in a job well done."
Unfortunately, as studies have shown compliance with the Act's high ideals has not always been easy or universal. In her twenty city study, "Local Government Implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act: Factors Affecting Statutory Compliance," Jacqueline Vaughn Switzer concluded that, "vague legislative language, a lack of enforcement, and varying levels of citizen participation have often led to the duplication of effort and noncompliance with the statute."
The act is; therefore, plagued with many of the same difficulties as other federally-mandated attempts to ameliorate the conditions of different classes of individuals. Given such observations, it is easy to see how the intent of the Act can be sabotaged or undermined; its provisions dismissed as too cumbersome or expensive - another case of government is the problem and not the solution. Another study by Moss, Johnson, and Ullman looked into the more specific problems of compliance, particularly as they affected different classes of the disabled. Though concerns had been raised that those suffering from psychiatric disabilities had been more frequently discriminated against than those with physical impairment, Moss, Johnson, and Ullman concluded that there was little difference in rates of non-compliance.
The findings show at least that those charged with implementing the law's provisions understand that the definition of disability extends to a wide range of conditions.
Equal access to services readily available to the general public continues to be a cause of complaint from the disabled. Cathy a. Hinton conducted a study in regard to local government compliance and, among other findings, reported that these same authorities continued to cite financial cost as a major obstacle. Full access is delayed, often years at a time, because local authorities are,
Spreading out the costs and putting the expenses of architectural and transportation accessibility modifications into annual capital budgets over a number of years. This situation of "extended implementation" may help explain why the effectiveness of Title II (public sector) is perceived less favorably than that of Title IV (telecommunications) and why a majority of respondents perceived that accessibility had not improved in regard to Title II issues.
The last reason underscores the differing perspectives of those who manage public funds and programs and, who are not themselves disabled. That these officials and organizations choose to prioritize telecommunications over transportation is interesting, and reflects possible continued prejudices in regard to the real needs and capabilities of the mentally and physically disabled. Those charged with the implementation of Americans with Disabilities appear frequently to take the attitude that their judgment is best in regards to disabled persons "right to know," as well as in regard to what such persons actually require. Frank and Bellini surveyed physically and impaired women - the blind, the deaf, and those in wheelchairs - to gauge their access to information about services available to the disabled. Their study yielded six themes that continue to afflict the disabled:
Betrayal and Broken Trust
Multiplicity of Barriers
Fear of Retaliation
Problems with Technology and the Concept of Print
Successful Means of Acquiring Accommodation
Each one these ideas, in and of itself, speaks volumes about the need to continue to study the implications of the Americans with Disabilities Act on the very individuals whom it is supposed to help. The themes point up the continued lack of understanding - and even outright - prejudice that comes with attempts at compliance. On a fundamental level, many in officialdom, and among the public, do not appear to comprehend the real needs of the disabled. They do not begin to see how ill-informed many of those in need are, not because they are unaware that there is some sort of help available, but because they cannot obtain anything like adequate or detailed information about the kinds of facilities that work for them. To a visually-impaired man, woman, or child, the availability of printed information on transit access is next to useless. At best it contributes to their continued dependence on other individuals who must translate for them, while at worst it keeps them largely or wholly ignorant of the real opportunities that await them.
It is the intention of the researcher to explore more deeply into the real difficulties of those who must use America's public transportation networks, and who are in some way physically or mentally disabled. The researcher would like to understand what these individuals expect from the Americans with Disabilities Act, what they believe they are receiving now, and how they would like these offerings improved. Furthermore, it is necessary to discover to what extent disabled persons are able to find out more about what can be done to help them live lives that are equal n term so of opportunity to those of other Americans, especially in regard to the ways in which access to transportation contributes to or limits those opportunities.
Method of Research
The following study consisted of a combination of qualitative and quantitative research that was conducted among physically and mentally disabled individuals in a major American city. The individuals concerned were surveyed in a regard to their usage of various forms of public transportation including a city bus system and a subway system. Some research was also conducted into the use of taxicabs which, for the purposes of this research, can be considered yet another form of "public" transportation, as it the vehicles used are neither owned nor operated by those riding in them, and are available for hire at will by the general public. All of these forms of public transportation share, in addition, the common fact their usage is to a considerable extent regulated by public law and government policy. A considerable amount of research was also gathered from outside sources, including primarily public libraries, with special reference to previously conducted surveys on similar topics. This information was used to supplement and to back up the actual survey and aided in the understanding of it, and the formulating of conclusions.
The Survey instrument consisted of a questionnaire containing of twenty questions regarding public transportation use. The questions were broken down into sections on bus, subway, and taxi accessibility and ease of use. There were five questions in each of these sections, each of which was essentially repeated in regard to the particular form of transportation involved. A fourth section attempted to gauge respondents' attitudes in regard to the availability of information on any or all of these public transportation services. Questions were multiple choice with respondents giving their opinion in a range from "strongly disagree" to "strongly agree."
The survey questionnaire was distributed to a total of 201 men and women, all of whom possessed some form of physical or mental disability. 63 of these individuals responded. These respondents were broken down into the following four categories:
Blind or Severely Visually Impaired
Deaf or Severely Hearing Impaired
Must Use Wheelchairs
Mentally Impaired Unable to Drive
Respondents were selected beforehand through organizations that deal with persons afflicted with these disabilities, the organizations being asked to distribute the questionnaires to those of their members who use public transportation. The category of individuals defined as Mentally Impaired Unable to Drive consisted of individuals whose mental impairment made it in some way unsafe for them to operate a vehicle on their own and who were thus compelled to use public transportation as a common way of getting around.
Additional Respondent Information
Respondents were fairly even distributed among men and women. All were adults and represented various levels of education and came from a range of ethnic and racial backgrounds. Most were employed, and their careers reflected a variety of different economic and educational levels. All in all, the sample was reasonably representative of the population of this particular American city as determined form the most recently available demographic information.
As the survey instrument consisted of printed questionnaires, those individuals classed as Blind or Severely Visually Impaired were assisted by persons at their respective organizations who read the questionnaires to them. Those persons classed…