Laura Saltzman

Senior Policy Analyst – Transportation

Access Living fights for equitable access to transportation for people with disabilities

Young woman in headscarf smiles as she uses a wheelchair lift to get off of a train.
An Access Living advocate uses a wheelchair lift to get off of the train on her way to a rally in Springfield, Illinois.

Access to transportation has been a critical advocacy issue for activists since the beginning of the disability rights movement. Access to transit is essential for people with disabilities to live independently – to secure work, to access healthcare, to get groceries, to go about their daily lives and- and to live in and build community.

It is also a civil right.

[Have you encountered access issues on public transportation in Illinois? Tell our policy team about it.]

Despite over 30 years under the Americans with Disabilities Act, parity in transportation remains unrealized for many people with disabilities. Even cities with comparatively robust public transportation and paratransit options fail to fully meet the needs of the disability community, particularly when considering psychiatric, intellectual, developmental, chronic pain, or non-apparent disabilities in their accessibility planning.

Because of these persistent chasms in parity and its unchanging important to independence for people with disabilities, access to all past, present, and future forms of transportation remains an important area of Access Living’s advocacy, lobbying, and litigation efforts.

Disability rights group Access Living and others call for transit ambassadors on CTA

Our Current Transportation Policy Work

  • Access Living supports and protects the rights of people with disabilities to use public and private transportation on an equal basis with non-disabled people.
  • Access Living envisions a completely integrated and universally accessible transit system, not just in Chicago, but everywhere, so disabled people have the same options and level of access and no matter where they go.
  • We communicate with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) on a range of disability issues, including disaster planning.
  • We continue to hold the CTA accountable to its All Stations Accessibility Program, a plan that calls for all remaining inaccessible rail stations to be made accessible in the next 20 years. 
  • We work with multiple organizations at the national level in support of the All Stations Accessibility Act, currently in the infrastructure bill. While similar in name to the City of Chicago program, this is a piece of federal legislation that would provide grants to retrofit rail stations so that would meet accessibility needs. The program is currently set for $1.75 billion over five years but we hope to continue to advocate to strengthen this program if/when it is passed.
  • We support the establishment of a transit ambassador program under the Chicago Transit Authority.
  • We work with the Transportation Equity Network to get equitable and accessible transportation.

Transportation Committees and Coalitions

Access Living wants the disability community represented where decisions are being made, whether by City, State, and Federal bodies or by partner organizations. To that end, Access Living is in coalition with numerous grassroots organizations and our staff members sit on a variety of advisory boards, including:

  • Chicago Transit Authority
  • Regional Transit Authority
  • Air Carrier Access Act working group
  • Transportation Equity Network
  • Equity Oriented Transit Development (eTOD) – City of Chicago
A woman using an electric scooter rides a lift to get onto a bus.
A woman using a mobility scooter rides a lift to board a Chicago bus.

Our community organizing around transportation issues

Several of Access Living’s community organizing groups, including Power to the People (PTP) and Disability Rights Action Coalition for Housing (DRACH) address transportation issues as they arise. Visit their group pages to learn more.

Our policy team wants to hear about Illinois transportation accessibility issues! Tell us about issues you encounter here.