Words I Wheel By

Exploring disability issues and making sense of my lived experiences with my disability.

Flat Tire in Florida: A Call to Expand Accessible Transportation Options


This past weekend, I traveled to Florida with my parents for my boyfriend’s brother’s wedding. As is my mother’s usual style, our flight was booked well in advance, as was our source of transportation for the weekend: a wheelchair accessible rental van. When we left on Friday morning, we figured we had everything set for a fully accessible and enjoyable weekend. All was going swimmingly until we arrived in Florida to an apologetic voice mail from the man who was supposed to be driving our rental van to us, explaining that he was stuck waiting for roadside assistance for a flat tire. Of course, things happen, and the incident was entirely not the driver’s fault. However, while I was waiting in the airport for three hours for the van to show up, it occurred to me in the midst of my frustration that I was literally stuck at the airport.

We rented the van from what I’m pretty sure is one of the only, if not the only place in the entire state of Florida that provides accessible vehicle rentals. Both my mother and I use wheelchairs, and the rental van was our only option to get around. Though I had my manual wheelchair, my mother brought her power wheelchair that cannot be folded, precluding us from even thinking about trying to hail a taxi. Neither of us can climb onto a bus or a shuttle, and the hotel was much too far away to even think of walking and rolling there. No matter how much we tried to brainstorm, we realized there were simply no other means of accessible transportation for us to get from the airport to our hotel. In the end, my parents and I were completely frazzled and over an hour and a half late to the rehearsal dinner.

Now, in the scheme of life, I realize that this flat tire incident is nothing serious compared to the myriad other things that could have gone wrong. And on the whole, the weekend was fantastic and the wedding was beyond beautiful. But the tire debacle raises an important issue about the major lack of accessible transportation options available to disabled people. Accessible taxis and buses are generally about as common as a leprechaun riding a unicorn, and the vast majority of private transportation companies do not offer any accessible services. There is no reason only a few companies should have a monopoly on providing accessible vehicles. This causes vehicle rental rates for disabled people to be sky high – up to more than twice the cost of renting a non-adaptive vehicle – which is tough for a population that already faces tons of extra expenses. It is unfair that no matter where I go, my options for transportation are so significantly limited because of my disability. The fact that accessible means of transportation are so hard to come by seems to strongly imply that disabled people are still perceived as shut-ins who simply don’t need convenient ways to get anywhere because they must rarely leave their houses. But, it’s the 21st century, and disability doesn’t make people home-bound lepers. Considering that the Americans with Disabilities Act has been in effect for just over 23 years, I’d say its more than time for America’s transportation services to get it together and provide equal access for everyone.

Do you have a story about an accessible transportation mishap? Or perhaps a story about successful accessible transportation experiences?  I’d love for you to share them!

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Author: Emily Ladau

Emily Ladau is a passionate disability rights activist and digital communications consultant whose career began at the age of 10, when she appeared on several episodes of Sesame Street to educate children about her life with a physical disability. A native of Long Island, New York, Emily graduated with a B.A. in English from Adelphi University in 2013. She is dedicated to harnessing the powers of communication and social media as tools for people of all abilities to become informed and engaged about disability and social justice issues. Emily works for Concepts, Inc. supporting key U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy initiatives. She is also the Editor in Chief of the Rooted in Rights Blog, a platform focused on disability rights issues. Additionally, Emily runs an independent business, Social Justice Media Services, through which she manages online presence and communications for multiple disability-related organizations. Emily maintains a blog, Words I Wheel By, and her writing has been published on websites including The New York Times, The Daily Beast, Salon, Vice, and Huffington Post. Alongside her work as a writer, Emily has spoken before numerous audiences, ranging from a panel about the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act at the U.S. Department of Education, to the occupational therapy program at New York University. All of Emily’s activism is driven by her firm belief that if we want the world to be accessible to people with all types of disabilities, we must make ideas and concepts surrounding disability accessible to the world.

2 thoughts on “Flat Tire in Florida: A Call to Expand Accessible Transportation Options

  1. I found your blog via Tumblr via the “disability rights” tag (my blogs are at RamblingJustice.Wordpress.com and at AndreaShettle.Tumblr.com). I think I’ve seen you in Twitter, yes? (I’m @AShettle) I’ll be looking forward to your post tomorrow on the CRPD! Together we will get it ratified!

    • So great to connect with a passionate advocate for the CRPD! I don’t believe we actually had the opportunity to meet, but I have seen you before because I was an AAPD intern this summer! I follow you on twitter and I’ve just followed both of your blogs!

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