As New Jersey has to receive billions of dollars in federal infrastructure funding, lawmakers in Trenton are pushing for new transportation projects to be available for people with disabilities.
The state Senate on Thursday was to consider two bipartisan bills, including one (C-147), which will require the State Department of Transportation to develop an accessibility plan each time streets, highways, or transportation projects are developed or maintained.
The legislation provides for plans to “promote the ability of people diagnosed with autism and people with intellectual disabilities and developmental disabilities to travel independently.”
The second bill, C-146create a state Bureau of Transport Studies, which will contract with colleges and universities to study the mobility needs of people with “physical, sensory, intellectual and developmental disabilities”.
The event is sponsored by State Senator Patrick J. Dignan Jr., a Democrat from Middlesex County who chairs the House Transport Committee, and Senator Christine M. Karada, a Republican representing parts of Bergen, Pasayk, Maurice and Essex counties.
Legislative companions have not yet been introduced in the state assembly, but proponents of accessibility are uniting for these proposals.
“These are extremely important bills,” said Javier Robles, a professor at Rutgers University and organizer of the New Jersey Disability Action Committee. “We saw this during COVID when people couldn’t get it [outside.]”
The Disability Committee published Fr. caustic report in 2020, which accused the state of failing to protect people with disabilities during the health crisis. Its place in his list was occupied by gaps in the transport system, which arise due to lack of anticipation of the needs of vulnerable residents.
Robles stressed the importance of accommodating a variety of disabled people, not just those served by adding a curb curb or ramp to the bus.
New Jersey is a must see a blitz of new public works projects in the coming years as it gets its share of the $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill passed by Congress and President Joe Biden last year.
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The Federal Americans with Disabilities Act already requires that public facilities be accessible, but advocates for the disabled said this is often enforced after the fact. For example, last fall at the AirTrain Rail Link station at Newark Liberty International Airport, a $ 250,000 repair was announced just after years of investigation into ADA violations.
The proposed state legislation, supporters said, would include mobility issues in the early stages of transit project planning.
Amtrak has begun to address the more diverse needs of people with disabilities, said Arlene Romoff of Hackensack, who uses cochlear implants after hearing loss.
The railroad is installing induction cycle technology, which allows hearing-impaired people to better understand the announcements on the train, she said. Port administrations in New York and New Jersey have made similar upgrades to information stands at some of their stations.
“This should be the standard for all trains in New Jersey,” Ramoff said. know when to get off the train ”.
Easterseals New Jersey, which provides programs for 4,000 adults with intelligence and developmental disabilities, has found that “transportation is the biggest challenge” for many customers, said Matt Binder, the group’s advocacy manager from East Brunswick.
“Public transport is a lifeline for many participants in our program,” Binder said. “They sometimes use Uber, but because we serve a vulnerable population, many people enjoy the benefits. So they are really hoping for public transport.
The legislation, Binder hopes, will expand the placement “beyond the classic image of a person in a wheelchair to include people with autism. We need voice commands, signs that are more visible. All this would be a really big improvement. ”
The Robles Committee on Disability, New Jersey Easterseals, and the New Jersey Council for Independent Living support the bills and see them as a step in the right direction, but they all share the criticism.
“None of the bills require contributions from the community of people with disabilities or from established councils such as ours,” said Norman Smith, chairman of the Living Council. “We know that research and policy can be inadvertently canceled without proper input.”
Gene Myers covers disability and mental health for NorthJersey.com and the USA Today Network. To get unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, subscribe or activate your digital account today.