A central goal of the President’s New Freedom Initiative is the full participation of people with disabilities in all areas of society. Access to transportation is critical to achieve this goal. People with mental illnesses require reliable transportation to work, access services, shop, learn, worship, volunteer, and make and socialize with friends, as does everybody. However, too many mental health service consumers have unmet transportation needs due to significant barriers that exist in urban, suburban, and rural areas. These barriers can be described as the 5 A’s (Adapted from the Beverly Foundation, 2004):
1 . Affordability. In addition to their mental disability, many mental health consumers face the disabling effects of poverty. Those who rely on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or other income supports often cannot afford to own a car or even to use public transportation regularly.
2 . Accessibility. Public transit is becoming more accessible to people with physical disabilities, but many people with mental and other hidden disorders continue to have a difficult time using transit systems. Even specialized transportation programs present difficulties, such as advance scheduling requirements, that limit users’ ability to get where they need to go and the freedom to do so as they choose.
3 . Applicability. In many communities, programs abound for people with unmet transportation needs, but too often, mental health consumers are not eligible. Other programs, for which they are eligible, are available only for limited purposes.
4 . Availability. Some communities offer few if any transportation solutions; many rural communities have no public transit. In other communities, public transit schedules greatly limit when and where people can travel.
5 . Awareness. Many mental health consumers do not know about the transportation opportunities that are available or how to use them.