Senators Urge GAO to Address Accessibility Gaps in Rural & Tribal Services

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On Wednesday, U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging Chairman Bob Casey (D-PA) led a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to address a critical issue. The letter was specifically focused on improving access to rural and tribal transit services for older adults and individuals with disabilities. The implications of this are significant, especially as federal agencies begin distributing tens of billions of dollars for public transportation from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

The main concern is that accessibility gaps exist in these services – this is something that Congress and the federal government are keen to address. The hope is that by identifying and examining these gaps, relevant governmental bodies can work towards eliminating barriers, ultimately making public transportation more accessible for older adults and people with disabilities in rural communities. It’s a step towards greater inclusivity for those who have traditionally been underserved when it comes to public transportation.

Fellow Aging Committee members Senators Mark Kelly (D-AZ), John Fetterman (D-PA), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) joined Chairman Casey in sending the letter.

“Older adults and people with disabilities are more reliant on public transportation to socialize, shop, and access critical services, such as health care… Rural transit that is accessible for older adults and people with disabilities can therefore provide a vital link for maintaining the mobility of those populations. Without transportation options, older adults in rural and tribal communities may not receive medical care and are at risk of social isolation, depression, and malnutrition,” wrote the Senators.

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Roughly one quarter of all older adults, people aged 65 and over, live in rural areas. Due to the substantial population of people with disabilities in these areas, rural communities face unique transportation issues when it comes to aging in place. Unfortunately, older adults in rural areas often outlive their ability to drive, resulting in an increased demand for public transit. To address this growing need, there is a critical necessity to understand how to best support these communities. With careful consideration and implementation of federal, state, and local solutions, transit systems can be improved for populations that have historically been limited in their access to public transportation.

Read the letter here.

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