Paving the Way for Inclusion: Addressing Gaps in Measuring Disability within Transportation Data Systems

BACKGROUND In 2023, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 44 million Americans lived with some form of disability, including visual, hearing, mobility, and cognitive disabilities. The current methods for collecting mobility data on people with disabilities are inadequate for planning and delivering inclusive and equitable mobility options. The public transportation industry needs to be able to access usable and shareable data that accounts for diversity across multiple dimensions of disability. There are three primary limitations in identifying people with disabilities and their travel experiences and preferences using current national and local datasets: Characteristics: lack of measurement reflecting diverse types of disability. The exclusion of metrics accounting for the diversity in the disability community leads to a critical gap in transportation’s ability to make informed, data-driven decisions. Environment: lack of data on the intersection between environment and travel behavior. Environmental barriers, policies, and resources impact mobility for individuals with disabilities. The industry lacks this information in consistent and shareable formats. Methods: lack of alignment between research questions, survey designs, and data needs. Current research methods present numerous challenges for understanding the disability experience, for example, measuring only trips taken, focusing on paratransit trips, or limiting data collection to a cross-sectional research design. OBJECTIVE  The objective of this research is to develop a guide for designing and implementing national and local data collection systems that accurately measure the travel experiences of people with disabilities. The outcome of this research will enable the transportation industry to collect and use this data to improve service provision and mobility options for people with disabilities.   The guide should address strategies to: Strengthen methods for collecting mobility data on people with disabilities, including ways to disaggregate data by meaningful subgroups. Align research, design, and data needs to address mobility data needs and patterns of people with disabilities and produce actionable insights for the industry, including transit agencies, human services organizations, and policymakers. Suggest inclusive measurement criteria beyond travel-limiting medical conditions to capture the full spectrum of disabilities, ensuring inclusivity and representation. RESEARCH PLAN Proposers are asked to develop and present a detailed research approach for accomplishing the project objective. The work proposed must be divided into tasks and proposers must describe the work proposed in each task. Proposers are expected to present a research plan that can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time. Proposals shall: (1) present the proposer’s current thinking in sufficient detail to demonstrate their understanding of the issues and the soundness of their approach to meet the research objective, (2) identify data and data sources that may be used to undertake this research, and (3) propose the format(s) of the final research product(s). The research plan should employ a Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) approach. The research should include, at a minimum: Stakeholder analysis. Conduct a holistic stakeholder analysis that includes users, caregivers, advocates, service providers, technology partners, regulatory agencies, and data experts. Built environmental scan. Complete a built environmental scan to include the data systems pertaining to persons with disabilities. Identify any other data collection sources that could be mined or modified to track needs, travel experiences, preferences, and use patterns. Needs assessment. Conduct a needs assessment to identify knowledge gaps in commonly used data systems (e.g., the American Community Survey and National Household Travel Survey) as well as those not typically used (e.g., the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Labor, Health Resources and Services Administration, and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Common Performance Reporting) around disability questions, environmental challenges, and barriers for people with disabilities. Data dictionary. Create a data dictionary that develops a taxonomy to describe disabilities and how they impact mobility, and to similarly classify and measure the specific characteristics of barriers to mobility for individuals with specific disabilities. Data analysis plan. Develop a data analysis plan to incorporate the qualitative and quantitative data from the built environmental scan and needs assessment. The research plan shall be divided into tasks, detailing the proposed work. The research plan shall describe appropriate deliverables which represent key project milestones, including: An amplified research plan that responds to comments provided by the project panel at the contractor selection meeting. The research plan should: Describe how people with disabilities are included in this research project, as aligned with CBPR principles. Consider applicable local, state, and federal laws, and guidance published by the U.S. Access Board. Consider how anecdotal experience can be incorporated into data collection and introduce questions and metrics that account for the diversity in the disability community, including physical, sensory, cognitive, invisible, and age-related disabilities. Demonstrate knowledge of related domestic and international literature and of completed and ongoing research relevant to this research project. Support the development of standards for improved accessibility in transit service delivery, communications, vehicles, and infrastructure. Monthly and quarterly progress reports detailing activities by task, upcoming task activities, and issues. An interim report that includes results from completed tasks (at a minimum, the stakeholder analysis, build environmental scan, and needs assessment) and a plan for completing the remaining tasks. A panel meeting after submission of the interim report. The panel meeting will take place in Washington, DC, after the expenditure of about 40 to 50 percent of the project budget. A technical memorandum titled “Implementation of Research Findings and Products”. A draft report and final report. The final deliverable should include a guide that addresses this research project’s objective and CBPR and provides a template that can be customized to capture information about diversity in the disability community. The report’s recommendations should consider accessibility and usability, including interoperability with assistive technologies, plain language, and recommendations for alternative formats of data collection. To the extent possible, proposers should develop a plan for allowing public transportation agencies to review and validate the guide’s contents. A slide deck that adheres to World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) open web platform standards and presents the research findings and conclusions that may be used in webinars.   Note: The research plan may include additional deliverables and additional panel meetings via Microsoft Teams.


  • English


  • Funding: $300000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project B-54

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Transit Cooperative Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC    20001

    Federal Transit Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Schoby, Jamaal

  • Start Date: 20240515
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01902055
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project B-54
  • Files: TRB, RIP
  • Created Date: Dec 13 2023 12:03PM