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Rutgers faculty releases report on transportation for individuals on autism spectrum

<p>Dr. Cecilia Feeley, the transportation autism project manager at the Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT), worked on the report.</p>

Dr. Cecilia Feeley, the transportation autism project manager at the Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT), worked on the report.

A recent report released by members of the Rutgers community on people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) shows the lack of access between disability and transportation.

Dr. Cecilia Feeley, transportation autism project manager at the Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT), and Andrea Lubin, a senior research specialist at the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center, were two members involved in this report. They used current information, surveys and focus groups to identify that affordable transportation relies on employment.

“Someone put it to me the other day as affordable living — that they may look at affordable housing or affordable transportation, but you really need that combination of them both to have the quality of life and to have access.” Feeley said. “(Lubin) and I both work with people who don’t have access to transportation.”

There are counties with affordable houses that have issues helping individuals with autism or developmental disorders get access to transportation, Feeley said. Individuals with developmental disabilities do not always have the executive function to plan for making transportation, along with social and communication skills that are not always appropriate or safe.

Lubin said that for disabled adults in New Jersey, walking is the most common mode of transportation. Determining when to cross the street or being too anxious to do so can be difficult for these individuals.

Lubin and Feeley said that the barriers for developmental disabilities or physical and non-developmental disabilities in transportation are still being researched. 

“I think it’s really important to communicate that transportation is really the key to connecting students and all people to where they want and need to go,” Lubin said. “Whether it’s to college, to jobs, to medical trips and even the research (Feeley) and I have done have shown how important recreational trips are. Folks can minimize isolation which occurs to folks with an array of disabilities.”

To combat these barriers, Lubin said there should be travel instruction, familiarization of transit options and better accessibility to public transportation that is not just for physical disabilities. Buses can typically be lowered for those with wheelchairs or other physical impairments, but individuals with developmental disabilities are not offered the same kinds of resources.

In spring 2019, Lubin and Feeley worked with Princeton University to look at focus groups where people with disabilities were able to use an autonomous shuttle to shuttle them around.

One group was visually impaired and did not require a certain interface, while the other group had developmental disabilities required an interface.

“This (autonomous) transit would have training, at least the drivers will or the other people on board. But on Uber or Lyft they don’t have that training. The drivers may have that in their personal life, but not as a trained driver.” Feeley said. 

Lubin said that Rutgers does offer resources for students with disabilities, such as the Graduate School of Psychology Center for Autism Services and the Office of Disability Services. 

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