International Encyclopedia of Transportation: Disabled Travelers

Elsevier, International Encyclopedia of Transportation 2021, Pages 359-363
Bryan Matthews


Disability affects a substantial proportion of the world’s population, and it is therefore important to understand issues affecting disabled travelers in order to ensure that the design and delivery of transport systems and services take these issues into account. How one defines ‘disability’ is contested, but the social model of disability is arguably the more useful perspective for the purposes of public policy. Viewing it from a social perspective has the effect of turning attention to how society can adapt and become more inclusive and accessible. This said, it is important to acknowledge the wide range of impairment types and, thereby, the diversity among disabled people, as this has a direct bearing on transport and travel. On average, disabled people travel substantially less than non-disabled people, and this is not simply a reflection of their preferences. Disabled travelers face a range of difficulties when traveling that non-disabled travelers do not face, and this is probably the key reason why trip rates and travel patterns diverge. Thinking within the social model of disability, these difficulties stem from transport systems and services having been designed without regard to how disabled travelers would use them. It is generally acknowledged that the key to tackling problems faced by disabled travelers is to address each of the identified key barriers to accessible travel.