By: Kristen Salkas
Transportation is a hot topic for people with disabilities. People with disabilities often have problems getting around their communities, getting to medical appointments, jobs, school, and to social events. A study done by the Harris Interactive in 2010 reported that 34% of people with disabilities said they had problems getting around, while only 16% of non-disabled people said the same. Latinxs with disabilities often have even more problems getting around. In addition to accessibility barriers, they may not be able to access transportation information if it’s not in their preferred language, and some forms of transportation are not compatible with Latinxs’ cultural preferences. However, we don’t really know a lot about the transportation-related barriers that Latinxs with disabilities experience because there simply isn’t enough research on it!
Latinxs with disabilities experience many of the same barriers to getting around as other people with disabilities. They may not drive or have access to an accessible car. They may not be able to use public transit when it is not accessible. They also may have to rely on getting a ride from others or use a ride share service. The good news is that transit access for people with disabilities is improving! The ADA has done a lot to ensure that more transportation vehicles are accessible and new transportation programs are being created for people with disabilities to increase their community access.
Latinxs with disabilities experience many of the same barriers to getting around as other people of color. People of color, even those without disabilities, report more barriers to getting around compared to whites, and they report relying on public transportation at higher rates. Immigrants in particular experience some unique transportation patterns compared to people born in the US. ). When immigrants first arrive to the US, they tend to rely primarily on public transportation to get around. This is the most economical transportation option, and it usually compliments their choice to live in urban areas near people that share their culture. The longer they live in the US, the more likely they are to begin driving as their primary mode of transportation.
Cultural factors may also affect transit choices. For example, attitudes and beliefs about transportation may influence Latinxs with disabilities’ preference for public transit, getting a ride from a family member, and using more communal modes of transportation. Economic factors might influence these choices as well. Transportation services that incorporate Latinx culture’s emphasis on community and interconnectedness can be a facilitator to getting around. Similarly, providing information about transportation options in languages other than English would also facilitate transportation access, but this is all speculation, as very little research has been done on these topics.
Since there isn’t a lot of research on Latinxs with disabilities and transportation, I want to encourage Latinxs with disabilities to get involved in transportation research! Make your voices heard so that researchers, policymakers, and clinicians can better serve you!
Below is a link to a national survey on transportation. The survey is for people with disabilities and it asks about the ways that they get around. There is an option to take the survey in Spanish. If you are interested, please participate! Thank you!
By: Kristina Lopez
When I was in elementary school I went undiagnosed with Epilepsy for a number of years. No one questioned my “odd” behavior, it was just me being weird. My parents did not know enough about health to question my behavior as illness. I didn’t have health insurance until my WORKING CLASS LATINO father had a job that actually offered health insurance. That job was a result of him being laid off from his full time job of working in asbestos, WITHOUT health insurance. That coincided with my father learning that no, he wasn’t stupid, he had DYSLEXIA. We were on a tailspin of change back then. Dad has a disability, let’s help him. Tuesday and Thursday night classes of supporting him in learning to read. Me, sitting there each class helping him learn so he could rise, yet still lost in a flurry of “feelings” (Read: seizures).
Dad got a job that had health insurance, us: “praise the white people” who gave dad the job. Not realizing that the feeling was only temporary because Dad had to work his ass off for low pay and too many physically draining aspects of a job that ruined his body and spirit.
Dad saw a seizure in effect at grandma’s house, who had to manage care when I was 13 years of age because my parents sent me farther than walking distance to a private Catholic school so in their minds I “would have a fighting chance”. To the doctor’s we go with our amazing health insurance, Doctor says, “She’s faking. Just seeking attention.” Yeah, you know we all want to have a seizure. ER’s, doctors, blood tests, MRI’s, etc later, “Oh, well, she does have epilepsy”
And the school, well they didn’t want to face reality either. They didn’t want drool, headaches, or abnormal things. They definitely didn’t want me to be successful so they dropped all of my grades to get me out of there rather than let me take my finals. They also didn’t want me, in my cheerleading uniform to represent them. Yes, I helped get a power hungry person out of their principalship but it was quickly replaced by a White male 'holier than thou" person. And he made false promises that resulted in ‘you don’t belong here’, ‘you don’t follow the rules’.
Set on the track to make things better. Me: searched every piece of information I could find about seizures, because thank God we finally had a computer. So many tests, misuse of meds, etc later, 5th ER nurse says “I know someone”. “Someone” was a genius white male neurologist who specializes in epilepsy. We go, no run, to him for an answer. More tests, more studies, travel, money later… I’m bald, I have a scar, but it is a new life. I have a new identity, a lesbian, a rebel, a something that doesn’t fit the norm because “who goes bald?”.
But no, I was me. I was the one who couldn’t go back to where she was learning. No one stood with me in the fight because “you are too emotional, he didn’t mean what he said, people don’t judge you, I need to graduate too.”. I was in the newspaper, on TV and in magazines that clearly stated THIS IS WRONG. But, no, I was still “overreacting”. I had to work 10x as hard to get back to where I was. I had to be the bigger person, I was done fighting a broken system, I went somewhere else that accepted me. The somewhere else was public school/night school/college classes/part time job/work study IN ONE YEAR. All to graduate. You could not take my hope, even if you broke my heart. But there was no one with me. For a long time. And everyone back then and today praises the white guy that saved their image.
I WAS THE BIGGER PERSON. I finished on time and went to a college I was told was probably “not a good fit”. I did the work, I got a college degree, I had more surgery, I went to grad school. I did not walk away from a dream. I rose. I rose so high. I went to graduate school where the reality I already lived due to disability was put on blast because of my gender and my race/ethnicity. I did not walk away, I SPOKE, I ORGANIZED, I FOUGHT. I now have so many letters, BA, MS, MA, MSW, PhD yet I have so many more tears. There has been a greater outcome from my past, yes. Yet, who can say that I wouldn’t have been able to get here without the pain?
And now, you are shocked, you can’t understand ‘how this could be’, you want to know ‘what can I do?’, you don’t want me to be emotional. And here I am, sitting wondering how to be responsible for YOUR children and teach them. So understand that I am not there with you right now. I cannot pretend it all away. I need to vent. I need to be pissed. I need to scream that THIS IS NOT OKAY.