Centering Non-Drivers Would Improve Infrastructure for All

Inadequate infrastructure disproportionately harms people with mobility challenges who can't or don't drive, but their needs closely mirror those of all pedestrians.

2 minute read

September 1, 2021, 11:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Chicago ADA Access

Page Light Studios / Shutterstock

A study from Disability Rights Washington that interviewed people with mobility challenges "found that respondents 'overwhelmingly' cited 'the poor condition or absence of sidewalks' as the biggest barrier to getting where they needed to go, followed closely by problems with curb cuts, crosswalks and intersections." Kea Wilson writes that the requests made by the study's respondents "closely resemble the demands of sustainable transportation advocates on the whole." These include "[f]requent and reliable fixed-route transit; zoning changes to make a range of accessible housing options abundant in well-connected neighborhoods; and a revamped planning processes to center the needs of non-drivers."

While the cost of poor infrastructure is disproportionately high for people with mobility challenges, "insufficient infrastructure" harms more than just people with disabilities. "Focusing on non-drivers also allows us to advocate for better transportation access for people who may not be disabled, but who would benefit from better transit and active transportation infrastructure," says Anna Zivarts, director of the Disability Mobility Initiative and a lead author of the report. "Engaging deeply with the experiences of people with disabilities like the ones catalogued in this report is a good starting point for agencies who want to do better by all their residents. But the report authors stress that action is what matters."

The report outlines some key recommendations, including more robust pedestrian networks, more accessible and reliable public transit, incentives for accessible housing near transit and dense urban areas, and legal requirements for inclusion and access.

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