Improving mobility for seniors and those with disabilities

Improving mobility for seniors and those with disabilities

By Rachel Fichtenbaum 

Rachel Fichtenbaum is a mobility information specialist
at MassMobility. She researches best practices in
community transportation, and disseminates them to
practitioners statewide, providing technical assistance
to help organizations improve mobility.

Finding transportation can be a challenge for seniors
and people with disabilities looking to get to medical
appointments, jobs, or other destinations, especially in
suburban and rural areas. While some require a ride,
walking is also an important mode of travel. Over the
last five years, the state’s MassMobility program – a
joint initiative of the Executive Office of Health and
Human Services and MassDOT – has worked with
transportation providers, human service agencies, and
advocates in all regions of Massachusetts to identify
needs and develop solutions to increase mobility
for seniors, people with disabilities, and low-income
commuters. Improved walkability is a recurring theme of
our conversations and our work.

Walkability facilitates access to transit, getting from
home to the bus route, and then from the bus stop
to the destination. When the members of the Cape
and Islands Regional Coordinating Council reviewed
results of a survey of over 250 transit riders and
potential riders, lack of sidewalks or other infrastructure
along bus routes emerged as the number one barrier
preventing people from using public transit. As a result,
the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority has partnered
with regional planners on a bus stop audit to determine
where improvements may be needed.

Walkability near bus stops is a particularly important
issue for travel trainers, people who teach seniors and
people with disabilities the skills and knowledge they need to ride transit independently and safely. Earlier
this year, travel trainers from around the state convened
for a presentation on intersection design from Meg
Robertson, Director of the Orientation and Mobility
department at the Massachusetts Commission for the
Blind. Using images of Massachusetts intersections to
illustrate her points, Robertson presented an overview
of types of intersections and challenges each type can
present to pedestrians. She emphasized that street
crossing involves a number of choices, and that while
no travel trainer can prevent all danger, risk factors can
be reduced.

Pedestrian safety is also important for people who use
wheelchairs and mobility devices. AGE TRIAD, a group of
public safety officials and senior centers representing
the Berkshire County towns of Alford, Great Barrington,
and Egremont, as well as the local Fairview Hospital,
sponsored a “Be Seen, Be Safe” event at the Great
Barrington Senior Center in July – all attendees received
free, safety-yellow vests. Staff and volunteers gave out
flags for scooters and helped attendees decorate their
scooters with reflective tape. The event was spurred by
a tragic crash in which a driver of an SUV hit a person
using a scooter who was crossing the street from
senior housing to a grocery store in Great Barrington in
2015. The driver said she never saw the pedestrian, so
AGE TRIAD, at the urging of the Great Barrington Chief
of Police William Walsh, decided to conduct a public
awareness campaign to increase pedestrian safety and
visibility. 

To learn more about these or other projects, please visit
MassMobility at www.mass.gov/hst, or subscribe to its
monthly newsletter at www.tinyurl.com/MassMobility

This article was featured in WalkBoston’s printed Winter 2017 newsletter.

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