Helping people of all abilities get to work

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Here in the central Puget Sound region, people with disabilities make up 11% of the population and they’re an important part of our region and workforce.

Compared to the general population, people with disabilities are more likely to have low incomes or be unemployed. In 2019, about one in three people living with a disability had low income (32%), compared to one in five (20%) in the region’s general population.

The unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 8% compared to 4% for the population overall.

More than a quarter of people with disabilities also identify as people of color (27%). People with disabilities who are also people of color have low incomes (42%) at a higher rate than the regional average of 34%.

PSRC does transportation planning work, such as the Coordinated Mobility Plan, to help improve access to jobs and services for people living with disabilities. We also support specialized transportation projects through our funding work.

While doing outreach for the latest Coordinated Mobility Plan, staff heard a need for more ADA-accessible infrastructure, such as complete sidewalks and wheelchair-accessible curb ramps. Lack of accessible infrastructure was cited as the main barrier to using transit or other transportation for work, school, medical appointments and other services.

Respondents also said they needed shorter travel times on public transit and expanded service hours. Evenings and weekends—especially Sundays—were listed as critical times when service is limited.

People with disabilities are eligible for ADA paratransit services from transit agencies, but not all areas of the region are covered by this service. ADA paratransit ridership decreased 4% between 2014 and 2019, while overall transit ridership increased 9%.

Most people with disabilities are also eligible for Regional Reduced Fare Permit (RRFP). Regional ORCA card data indicates ridership by people with disabilities decreased 29% between 2014 and 2019.

PSRC takes part in the WSDOT Consolidated Grants program, which helps improve transportation for people with mobility challenges and for residents in transportation-disadvantaged areas. Staff work with PSRC’s Special Needs Transportation Committee to identify grant projects that will help fill gaps in the transit network and expand mobility options for people with special transportation needs. WSDOT Consolidated Grants applications are due October 27. Contact Jean Kim for more information.