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Access and Mobility for All Summit

Remarks Prepared for Delivery by
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao
Disability Access and Mobility for All Summit
Washington, DC
Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Good afternoon!

I’m delighted to welcome you to the Department’s 2019 Access and Mobility for All Summit.  This is a great day, and a big step forward in providing equal access to mobility for all Americans, especially for older adults, people with disabilities, and low-income communities.

Let me thank our very special guests:  Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, and Congressman Cathy McMorris Rogers.  Let me also welcome Neil Romano, President of the National Council on Disability; David Capozzi, Executive Director of the U.S. Access Board; Kelly Buckland, Executive Director of the National Council on Independent Living, and Maria Town, President and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities. And many thanks to the senior leaders from across the government who are participating in this summit today. 

And last but not least, let me thank Acting DOT Deputy Secretary and General Counsel Steve Bradbury, FTA Acting Administrator Jane Williams, Federal Highways Administrator Nicole Nason, and Acting NHTSA Administrator James Owens for participating today.  And many thanks to the OST and Policy team, who worked so hard to put this summit together with their modal partners.

As many of you know, I previously served as U.S. Secretary of Labor. Then, as now, I believed strongly in promoting a culture of inclusiveness and advancing the mission of hiring of workers with disabilities.   So I directed the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect employment data on persons with disabilities, as part of the monthly Current Population Survey. This helped the Labor Department gain a better understanding of the labor market experience of people with disabilities.  And it helped us understand how to better serve people with disabilities who want to fully participate in the workforce.

And I launched the Secretary’s New Freedom Initiative Awards. These major awards recognized individuals and employers whose exemplary efforts broke down barriers to employment for Americans with disabilities.

Today, we have another opportunity to make a difference for this and other traditionally underserved communities. 

When President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act  thirty years ago, few could envision the revolutionary transportation technologies being developed today.  Innovations like autonomous vehicles and peer-to-peer service platforms have the potential to transform the lives of those once dependent on others for mobility.  People with disabilities and older adults now have a real shot at realizing the vision of a new era in which “every man, woman, and child with a disability can now pass through once-closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence, and freedom.”  That’s why we’re here today—to ensure that the revolutionary new technologies being developed will help create a more inclusive transportation system for everyone.

The three pillars of the Department’s approach to mobility access and inclusion are:

  1. Engage with new vehicle technologies,
  2. increasing mobility services; and,
  3. helping to make inclusive transportation options more affordable.

So let me share with you five major initiatives the Department is undertaking to help make inclusive transportation a reality.

As a first step, we’ve jump-started the federal government’s inter agency access and mobility process.  The Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility has met at the senior level for the first time in 10 years, and adopted a strategic plan.  The plan was published today at 12:30 PM on the DOT website: transportation.gov/Accessibility.  As we speak, eleven federal agencies are hard at work on recommendations to improve accessibility and inclusion, which will be submitted to the President on September 30, 2020. 

Second, the Department has ramped up its investment in accessibility research over the past two fiscal years by 50 %.   These investments are key to incentivizing the development of new accessibility and mobility solutions.

Let me share just one story of how these investments are impacting everyday lives. In Iowa, a new volunteer-based rural transit service is improving the quality of life for residents like Vernon.  He relies on this life-saving service to reach dialysis appointments at a regional medical center far from his home.

Third, I’m pleased to announce an exciting new DOT initiative: the first-ever Complete Trip Deployment Program. It’s a planned $40 million DOT commitment, over four years, to help communities develop comprehensive, seamless and efficient transportation solutions to increase mobility access.  The goal is to enable people to travel independently from one point to another, regardless of the number of connections, transfers or modes of transportation.  The program focuses on holistic approaches that create more choices and better access for older adults, people with disabilities and underserved communities in rural and small urban areas.

Later this year, the Department will begin holding pre-solicitation workshops to help stakeholders learn about the Complete Trip Deployment Program.  All are welcome!  The Department will provide updates on this opportunity at Transportation.gov/Accessibility. 

Fourth, I’m pleased to announce the Department’s first-ever Inclusive Design Challenge.   The Department will award $5 million in prizes for the development of innovative new solutions that increase the availability-- and decrease cost of-- technologies that improve the accessibility of light-duty passenger vehicles. A special focus of this program will be attracting the best and brightest talent in academia and the private sector to work together on fully-inclusive AV designs that can be deployed in the marketplace at reasonable cost.  The challenge will proceed in 3 phases:  a Request for Funding Proposal will be published by the end of this year—so stay tuned for that announcement.  Semi-finalists will be chosen in June 2020.  And the final award winners will be announced in April 2021.

And as our fifth initiative, today I’m announcing $3.5 million in funding opportunities for state transit agencies to implement the Mobility for All Pilot Program.  This FTA-led program will help communities identify gaps in current transit services, and provide accessibility solutions for underserved populations, especially in rural and small urban areas.  Applications will be evaluated by January 2020, and awardees selected by April 2020.  You can find everything you need to know to apply at transit.dot.gov.

So as you can see, this is an exciting time for transportation mobility and access. The Department is your partner.  We are committed to doing everything possible to raise public awareness about these issues, invest in new research, and incentivize the development and deployment of inclusive, affordable new transportation technologies.  It’s inspiring to see so many people here today committed to these same goals.  By working together, we can help ensure that the dream of a new era of freedom, inclusion and mobility becomes a reality.  So, thank you for coming today, and for joining us in these ground-breaking efforts to make a real difference for our country.

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Updated: Tuesday, October 29, 2019
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