METRO Board Meeting
Thursday, January 24, 2019
Remarks as prepared by Oni Blair, Executive Director of LINK Houston

Good Morning Chair Patman and METRO Board members:

My name is Oni Blair, and I’m the Executive Director of LINK Houston, which advocates for equity in transit. Today, LINK Houston stands as an ally with people from across the METRO service area to address a key element of an equitable public transit network – accessibility.

I do not have a disability … yet. Statistically, I will likely encounter some form of disability, especially as I age. By 2045 more than 820,000 residents of Harris County will have a disability. Even today, more than 320,000 people in the METRO service area have a disability.

METRO has identified universal accessibility as a priority. First, I want to acknowledge METRO’s efforts so far:

  • Development of customer service policies and guidelines for operator and dispatch staff, which promote the dignity and respect for all riders;
  • Launch of the Bluetooth beacon system to aid blind or low-vision riders in locating bus stops and in navigating transit centers; and
  • Community engagement through METROLift Advisory Committee, METRO Accessibility Taskforce, and METRO-hosted Community Leader Luncheons.

While these are meaningful steps, we are asking METRO to do more. Why? Accessibility impacts people who use wheelchairs, white canes, or service animals. Accessibility impacts people with an injury from playing sports or a crash. Accessibility impacts people with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, whose mobility and vision may differ every day. Accessibility impacts people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, such as people with autism, who need to navigate systems and instructions. Accessibility impacts people who are deaf or have trouble speaking due to a stroke. Accessibility impacts people who use transit for all purposes, people who sometimes find themselves with limited mobility, like a parent with a small child in a stroller or carrier or a person loaded down by groceries.

Today, you will hear members speaking from their own experiences on park-and-ride, rail, local bus, and METROLift. We share a set of objectives we are asking METRO to incorporate into its operations now, as well as Moving Forward:

  • Detailed information about modifications to sidewalks, streets, and bus stops, in collaboration with other stakeholders, so transit is accessible and navigable for all persons;
  • Equipping bus shelters to sufficiently cover and protect riders in inclement weather – especially people who use wheelchairs;
  • Expanding ADA training for all operators and certifying proficiency in the facilitation of on- and off-boarding with mechanized ramps, securing riders and their equipment, and standardized procedures for managing incidents involving riders with a disability and those who accompany them;
  • Increasing involvement of riders with a disability in community task forces to plan and implement bus, light rail, and METROLift service improvements; and
  • Ensuring full compatibility of METRO’s public-facing information with assistive technologies, including web content and fully accessible PDF documents.

We encourage the Board to consider the personal accounts of today’s speakers as METRO moves ahead to realize universal accessibility. Thank you.

LINK Houston
April 8, 2019