Disabled residents push for additional transportation funding

Governor Baker included $23 million for transportation for disabled residents in next year's budget.

Disabled Transit
In this Tuesday, April 5, 2016 photo, Sarah Kaplan, of Lynn, Mass., rides an elevator to board a bus outside her place of work, in Boston. Transit systems in major U.S. cities are required by federal law to provide specialized services for disabled passengers. In Boston, the deficit-laden MBTA is considering ways of reducing service for the disabled and outsourcing more of it to taxis and ride-hailing services like Uber. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

BOSTON (WWLP) – Hundreds of disabled residents and advocates lobbied state lawmakers on Monday. Disabled residents said they struggle to find transportation on a daily basis, especially those in wheelchairs.

“They can’t get around, meet their friends or their family, go to work,” Patty Quatieri of Massachusetts Advocates Standing Strong told 22News. “That’s not right.” Which is why more than 200 disabled residents and advocates made their way to the State House to bring awareness to the issues they face, such as employment and transportation challenges.

They’re calling on the state to budget $23-million to fund transportation for young adults with mental and developmental disabilities in fiscal year 2018. Many rely on government supported programs like “The RIDE“, a door-to-door transportation service for mentally or physically disabled residents run by the MBTA.

The Baker administration recently proposed a reduction in service for “The RIDE” to help save $7-million. If service is reduced, the state may modify ride-for-hire programs with companies like Uber and Lyft. The state has improved accessibility to transportation in recent years, but advocates say it fails to reach many people with disabilities, like those in western Massachusetts.

Daniel Shannon, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council, said that access to transportation is not widespread enough. “People in the suburbs, people in western Mass., have difficulty getting to places and the state really needs to come up with ways to address that.”

Governor Baker included $23-million for transportation for disabled residents in his budget for next fiscal year but the budget still has a long way to go before it can be finalized and funds can be distributed.