What Older Adults can Learn about Alternate Transportation from People with Disabilities

Older woman with a cane sitting at a bus stop.

The CDC reports approximately 2-in-5 adults 65 years of age and older have a disability. Disabilities acquired as we age include those affecting hearing, vision, cognition, or mobility – all of which may also impact our ability to drive safely.  July 26th marks the 32nd anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.

In recognition of the ADA anniversary, ChORUS talked with Anthony to see what older adults who acquire a disability might learn from someone with that lived experience.  Anthony is 32 years old and lives outside of Washington, DC.  He has a full-time job, is getting married in October, and is very active in the community – he is not a stay-at-home guy.  Anthony also uses a wheelchair, having lived with his disability since birth, and was happy to share some of his experiences with alternate transportation to help those aging into a situation where they may no longer be able to drive.

How long have you relied on alternate transportation to remain mobile and active in your community?

Forever – I have lived in the D.C. area for 7-8 years.  One of the reasons I stayed after graduate school was because of the accessibility of the public transportation.  Prior to living in D.C., I lived in Central Massachusetts and relied on friends and family to drive. 

Did relying on others for transportation make you feel more dependent or more social? 

A little of both – it can be annoying to ask people for rides, but it is also a good way to stay connected. I could get licensed for and obtain an adaptive vehicle but I made a conscious decision that I didn’t like driving that much and my family and friends never complained about it.   

What kind of alternate transportation have you used?  Do you use primarily public transportation or have you used other types of transportation supports?

I rely primarily on public transportation – the D.C. metro system, Uber, and Lyft.  In Massachusetts, I had enough people to get a ride and a friend’s mom drove for a medical transportation service.  I also signed up for Metro Access in D.C.  Metro Access is a paratransit system I can access when needed.

Do you have any tips for older adults who might be reluctant to rely on alternate transportation?

All new things can be scary but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth doing.  You have to find what works for you and there are a lot of options.  Making the choice not to drive wasn’t easy but if I wasn’t going to feel safe driving, I needed to find other ways.  Learning how to use what is available in your community is important – you aren’t losing anything except maybe some time and you might be gaining because you will be able to do so many other things.  Everyone’s experience is their own so there isn’t one solution I can recommend.  All I can say is do this for you – learn this new skill for you.  It’s not a matter of losing mobility – it’s about finding a different way of doing something.