While reliable and accessible transportation can be understood as a direct employment support, it also serves as a connection to other, less obvious, employment supports. Beyond getting to and from work, transportation enables people with disabilities, as well as many other disadvantaged groups such as older and low-income populations, to live independently, find affordable housing, get to medical appointments and connect to other needed services and supports. Transportation access supports day-to-day mobility, thereby assisting individuals in accessing and coordinating all the employment supports necessary to successfully obtain, maintain and advance their employment.       


Click on the map above to see the corresponding policies.

Although fairly simple to understand as a concept, transportation policy in practice can be extremely complex. Multiple public and private agencies provide transportation services that vary significantly in terms of eligibility requirements, scope and duration. Public transportation coverage can vary greatly by geographic location. Some paratransit services are restricted by mileage limits or county/regional boundaries. People with disabilities who live in rural regions, for example, face very different transportation challenges than do those who live in large metropolitan areas.

Furthermore, emerging technologies that provide new mobility options for the public, such as on-demand transportation network companies (TNCs) and autonomous vehicles, can present access challenges for users with disabilities. When they do not adopt disability-inclusive design standards, these technologies provide less than full accessibility.

Despite recent efforts, people with disabilities continue to report challenges in accessing transportation services. According to a 2010 Harris Poll study conducted by the National Organization on Disability, people with disabilities are three times more likely to depend on public transportation than those without disabilities. In addition, 40% of rural areas lack any public transportation services at all, affecting many persons with disabilities for whom public transportation is a personal and employment-related lifeline.

The 2016 report titled Work Matters: A Framework for States on Workforce Development for People with Disabilities identifies strategies that many states are adopting to build the capacity of private sector employers to engage in disability inclusion efforts, including the adoption of policies that incentivize hiring of workers with disabilities and the provision of financial supports and technical assistance.

To facilitate accessible transportation for individuals with disabilities and to support access to the workplace, state policymakers may want to consider the adoption of the following policy options. These options support transportation that is widely available, reliable, affordable and accessible for people with disabilities.


In order to ensure that the transportation needs of individuals with disabilities are met through timely, reliable, accessible and affordable solutions that adequately address both rural and urban transportation requirements, states may want to consider establishing tasks forces, working groups and/or advisory councils to ensure that state and local transportation systems maintain or create coordination strategies to increase transportation accessibility and availability for individuals with disabilities. These entities should elicit participation and input from people with disabilities during decision-making processes.

Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Washington and West Virginia, among other states, have formal policies requiring disability representation on transportation advisory or coordinating councils. Further, Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Missouri and Rhode Island have all passed legislation in recent years that either create new panels or empower existing ones to assess the transportation needs for persons with disabilities. Learn more in the Work Matters Framework


Idaho uses two statewide coordinating council groups to advise the state’s public transportation efforts. The Idaho Interagency Working Group comprises the state Transportation Department and other executive branch agency representatives, with the responsibility to “advise and assist the department in analyzing public transportation needs, identifying areas for coordination, and developing strategies for eliminating procedural and regulatory barriers to coordination at the state level.” The Idaho Public Transportation Advisory Council comprises representatives from wide ranging stakeholder groups.


Through comprehensive planning, coordination and funding efforts, Florida is working to provide reliable and accessible transportation services to its citizens with disabilities and other transportation disadvantaged populations. Florida is demonstrating its commitment to transportation access through disability representation on the seven-member Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged and dedicated transportation funding through the Transportation Disadvantaged Trust Fund. Established in 1998, the Florida commission consists of seven voting members appointed by the Governor. These members represent consumer and community interests, with at least two members being individuals with disabilities who use the transportation disadvantaged system, at least five members who have business expertise, and at least one member who is 65 years or older. These seven members are supported by high-ranking representatives of relevant state agencies, including the Departments of  Transportation, Children and Families, Economic Opportunity, Veterans’ Affairs, Elderly Affairs, the Agency of Health Care Administration and the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, who serve as non-voting advisors to the commission. Combined with the dedicated trust fund, the commission’s efforts ensure individuals with disabilities and other transportation disadvantaged populations have access to statewide transportation that ensures critical inclusion in employment, education and community life. Florida’s coordinated transportation policies and programs have been recognized by the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Human Services as a best practice model, and a 2008 Florida State University study suggested the state received an 835% average return-on-investment for funds invested into transportation programs for disadvantaged populations.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island’s RI H 5241, for example, directs the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority to convene a coordinating council consisting of state agencies responsible for the needs of low-income seniors and people with disabilities, as well as stakeholders deemed appropriate, to inform, develop and implement the federally required Coordinated Public Transit Human Services Transportation Plan. The council also recommends appropriate and sustainable funding of the free-fare program for low-income seniors and individuals with disabilities.


With the proliferation of transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Uber and Lyft, a number of states have enacted non-discrimination and other policies applicable to these companies and people with disabilities. These states include California, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Texas. Learn more in the Work Matters Framework


In Connecticut, CT HB 7126 requires transportation networks (companies that use a digital network to connect TNC riders to drivers to provide prearranged rides) to adopt policies of non-discrimination on the basis of disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, race or sex with respect to riders. The law also requires such companies to provide a chance for riders to indicate whether they need a wheelchair-accessible vehicle. If the company cannot arrange such transport, the company is required to refer the rider to an alternate provider of accessible transportation, if available.


In Pennsylvania, PA S 984 specifies that the digital network used by a TNC to connect drivers and passengers must:

      • Be accessible to customers who are blind, visually impaired, deaf and hard of hearing
      • Transport a service animal for no additional charge when it accompanys a passenger with a disability, unless the driver has a documented medical allergy on file with the TNC
      • Provide passengers with disabilities requiring the use of mobility equipment an opportunity to indicate whether they require a wheelchair-accessible vehicle
      • Facilitate transportation service for passengers who require a wheelchair-accessible vehicle either by connecting the passenger to an available TNC driver or other driver operating a wheelchair-accessible vehicle or by directing the passenger to an alternative provider with the authority and ability to dispatch a wheelchair-accessible vehicle to the passenger


An increasing number of states have begun to take significant action related to autonomous vehicles that may have an impact on people with disabilities. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), as of September 2019, 33 states and Washington, D.C. have enacted legislation or issued executive orders on autonomous/automated/self-driving vehicles. At the federal level, HB 134 (2018), which would have addressed autonomous vehicles, died in Congress.

Several state laws include specific reference to individuals with disabilities. These include laws in Colorado, Washington, D.C., Maine, Nevada and New Hampshire. Learn more in the Work Matters Framework


Colorado’s SB 239 (2019) directs the Department of Transportation to convene and engage in robust consultation with stakeholder groups, including a representative of persons with disabilities, regarding the economic, environmental and transportation system impacts of the adoption of new and emerging technologies and transportation business models.

Colorado’s SB 17-213 (2017) authorizes the testing and use of Level 4 and Level 5 autonomous vehicles, which are autonomous levels that do not requires a human rider be available to take over manual control of the vehicle. Under the terms of the bill:

      • The General Assembly finds that the use of automated driving systems will help people who may have difficulty driving, including people who are elderly and people with disabilities, gain access to goods and services essential for daily life.
      • Local authorities are prohibited from setting different standards for automated driving systems than for human drivers, as the bill declares the regulation of automated driving systems is considered a matter of statewide concern.
      • The use of automated driving systems is authorized if the system is capable of conforming to every state and federal law applying to driving. If not, a person testing a system is required to obtain approval from the Colorado state patrol and the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Nevada’s AB 69 revises existing requirements for the testing or operation of autonomous vehicles, authorizes the use of a fully autonomous vehicle to provide transportation services in certain circumstances, and regulates autonomous vehicle network companies (AVNC). The following provisions relate either directly or indirectly to people with disabilities:

      • AVNCs are prohibited from imposing any additional charge for providing transportation services to a person with a physical disability because of the disability, and they are required to adopt a policy which prohibits discrimination against a passenger or potential passenger on account of disability.
      • AVNCs are required to provide passengers the opportunity to indicate they require transportation in a fully autonomous vehicle that is wheelchair accessible. If the company cannot provide the passenger with transportation services in a fully autonomous vehicle that is wheelchair accessible, the company must direct the passenger to an alternative provider or means of transportation that is wheelchair accessible, if available.
      • The bill states that “no motor vehicle laws or traffic laws of this State shall be construed to require a human driver to operate a fully autonomous vehicle which is being operated by an automated driving system, and that the automated driving system of a fully autonomous vehicle shall, when engaged, be deemed to fulfill any physical acts which would otherwise be required of a human driver except those acts which by their nature can have no application to such a system.”


State and local agencies may want to consider adopting a range of policy options for expanding and improving access to transportation for people with disabilities, including:

      • Partnerships with taxi companies and transportation network companies
      • Regional transportation voucher programs
      • Tax credits for employers that permit telework
      • Vanpool grant programs

Numerous  transit  authorities are considering partnerships with taxis and TNCs to provide supplemental paratransit services, including Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, Washington, D.C.’s Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority.

Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) operates a taxi paratransit pilot study in the hope of increasing service quality to riders and cost-savings to the Boston paratransit program known as The Ride. MBTA recently indicated that TNCs, including Uber and Lyft, will be included in the taxi paratransit initiative, and it anticipates significant cost savings to the paratransit program as a result of the new initiative. Learn more in the Work Matters Framework


Washington state operates a number of strategies to support state transportation access policy. The state distributes millions of dollars on a biennial basis to nonprofit organizations through its State Paratransit/Special Needs Competitive Grant program.  Through its vanpool grant program, Washington has built the largest community vanpool fleet in the country, providing all workers, including people with disabilities, an alternative employment-related transportation option.  


Wyoming addresses statewide and rural transportation access needs for workers with disabilities through regional transportation voucher programs. These regional voucher programs are operated by Wyoming independent living centers, Wyoming Independent Living Rehabilitation and Wyoming Services for Independent Living, with funding support from the state.


 In 2019, California adopted AB1351, which expresses the intent of the Legislature that dial-a-ride and paratransit services are accessible to disabled persons. It is intended that transportation service be provided for employment, education, medical and personal reasons. Transportation for individuals with disabilities is a necessity and allows them to fully participate in our society.