Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Distinct Transportation-Challenged Populations and their Particular Needs

These reports discussed below are listed in Tappy Grams, a monthly roundup of research papers about transportation and human services. Subscribe at the Tappy page.

A new report on senior services discusses cutbacks and increased requests for assistance, with older adults in great need of transportation. Older Americans Act: Preliminary Observations on Services Requested by Seniors and Challenges in Providing Assistance also identified home-delivered meals and information and referral as very much in demand.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) report also examines cutbacks in service due to the economic downturn and lack of funding. "Some state and local officials said they provided less service to individuals so that more could get some amount of assistance."

The need for transportation services was found all along the urban to rural spectrum, with urban older adults preferring specialized service to public transit. Though the report does not examine why this is the case, perhaps for frail individuals the issue might or might not involve the ride on public transit, but rather the daunting task of quickly crossing streets and navigating crowded stations and locations along the way to a bus or rail stop. GAO's "past work has found that mass transit options may pose scheduling and accessibility challenges for seniors" the report notes.

GAO states that the increase in demand for services is due to higher numbers of eligible older adults and people aging in place. According to the report, anecdotal information suggests that the needs are greater than the demand for services.

Travel Assistance Technology for People with Cognitive Disabilities

For those who are interested in user-friendly and individualized technology to support the use of transit by people with cognitive disabilities, the Travel Assistance Device (TAD) Deployment to Transit Agencies, a report of the National Center for Transit Research offers a detailed examination of TAD for individual users who ride transit in different places. Technological potential and glitches were discussed.

The study assessed three individuals with moderate mental retardation and whether TAD supported those individuals sufficiently to allow them to travel independently. The answer is yes, given the parameters of the study. The report is frank in its analysis of the limitations of the study's conclusions, among other issues the problem of extrapolating the applicability of a study done with people with a specific disability who had previously received travel training to people with other types of cognitive disabilities who had not received similar training.

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