- By Laurie Watanabe
- Aug 01, 2022
SOUP FOR LUNCH: DEPOSITPHOTOS.COM/RIXIPIX
The week this issue went to press, the Department of Transportation (DOT)
held a virtual public meeting on the July 26 anniversary of the signing of
the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The agenda included accessibility
updates on traveling by plane, train, buses, and
autonomous vehicles, and was led by Sec. Pete Buttigieg.
The meeting was at lunchtime, so I figured I could
watch it while I ate. I brought a bowl of soup to my
desk. I expected a meeting full of easy statements such
as “Discrimination is bad, and accessibility is good.” I
thought the meeting was more about optics on the ADA’s
anniversary than about meaningful conversation.
Buttigieg kicked off the meeting by noting that the ADA
“expanded rights for one in four people in our country” —
which, while an important statistic, was along the lines of
what I’d anticipated hearing.
“It’s worth remembering,” Buttigieg continued, “that at the time it was
being debated, the ADA faced a great deal of opposition. The U.S. Chamber
of Commerce said it would have ‘a disastrous impact on many small businesses
struggling to survive,’” though today, he added, “It’s hard to imagine
life without the ADA.”
Then came the statement that made me put down my spoon.
Buttigieg: “No one should have to choose between dehydrating themselves
and avoiding air travel altogether.”
Me: “How does he know about dehydration? How does he know that?!?”
Avoiding food and drink prior to and while flying is a common, if risky,
strategy by passengers unable to access airplane lavatories. It’s well known
in this industry, but not something that should be noticeable to casual
onlookers. So how did Buttigieg know?
Well, someone probably told him. Maybe it came through a staffer; maybe
he heard directly from a person who uses a wheelchair and has intentionally
and dangerously dehydrated before flying. Someone in the know said something,
and that message got to the Secretary of the DOT.
My ignored soup turned cold. The meeting was that encouraging.
On Sept. 14, NCART and NRRTS are hosting a virtual Congressional Fly-In.
Participants will be grouped into teams by state and will meet via videoconference
with legislators and/or their staffers. Registration is free, and training
will be provided, so you’ll get talking points and the opportunity to practice
them with your state delegation.
What Buttigieg said in that DOT meeting is proof our message is being
heard. But we cannot know which meeting, which e-mail, which letter or
phone call will be the one that makes a difference. The best we can do as
an industry is to keep the drumbeat constant. Professional, approachable,
Register now: 2022-virtual-crt-congressional.constantcontactsites.com.
This article originally appeared in the Jul/Aug 2022 issue of Mobility Management.
Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at email@example.com.