The Government Accountability Office Report 12-594, Students with Disabilities: Better Federal Coordination Could Lessen Challenges in the Transition From High School (July 2012), stated that a major challenge for students with disabilities in transitioning from school to post-school life is limited access to reliable public transportation. Another significant problem is the limited opportunity to learn how to use the transportation that is available, in other words lack of travel training.
Travel training was included in the definition of special education in IDEA 1997 as specially designed instruction. Transportation to and from school and school activities is a related service introduced in the 1975 Education for all Handicapped Children Act. There is confusion among some professionals and parents about the distinction between travel training and transportation that continues into many of the supports and services mentioned in a variety of programs. Transportation is usually considered a service that will transport an individual to and from a program. Travel training is the provision of instructional services and supports to teach an individual how to navigate public spaces and to use public transportation safely and independently. Within school systems, and an increasing number of adult service provider agencies, travel training is short-term, comprehensive individualized instruction in the skills and behaviors necessary for safe and independent travel. It is provided on a one-to-one basis by personnel trained in specific competencies. Travel training typically begins at a student’s home, follows a route to a particular destination, and then ends back at the student’s home. Research has indicated that independent travel and use of available transportation resources increase an individual’s participation in employment, secondary education, community inclusion, and recreation and leisure activities. As a professional who has spent decades providing travel training services to thousands of students with significant disabilities other than blindness I have seen the positive changes in the lives of those who learn to travel. Follow-up surveys conducted years after students graduation provide evidence of continuing use of public transit and parental and individual support for the program. One parent wrote: This is their path to independence and consequently is a confidence builder and builds motivation to go out and lead fuller, more satisfying lives.
The four governmental departments, Education, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Social Security involved in this initiative might think to include funding for research, professional development, and implementation of travel training in the schools. It also makes sense to include a fifth department in their initiative to coordinate among departments for the improvement of transition outcomes for youth with disabilities: Transportation.