Public Transportation and the DeafBlind Traveler

Logos of the CTA, PACE, MetraRail and RTA agencies

At the April LeCOBDA meeting, a lively discussion was held about the current state of public transportation and the DeafBlind traveler.  Without a dbout, we rely on public transit to get around and perform everday life tasks including getting to work, going shopping, visiting family and friends, and going to events such as our own LeCOBDA meetings.

But is public transportation truly accessible for the DeafBlind traveler?  When we travel, are our communication needs being met?  Are we receiving proper information about where we are going and how to get there?  Are the bus stop signs and signs within subway and train stations easily readable?  If we lose our bearings, are we able to quickly get back on track?

In the Chicagoland area, public transportation is overseen by four important agencies:

  • CTA – Chicago Transit Authority — Serving buses and subways within the city limits
  • PACE – Suburban transit Authority — Serving buses beyond the Chicago city limits.  These include Cook County, DuPage County,
  • MetraRail – Commuter Rail line — Serving points between suburbs and downtown Chicago
  • RTA – Regional Transportation Authority –

All public transit can be divided into two major categories:

  • Fixed Route – These are established routes, usually by number or color, that run on a scheduled basis.  They can include buses, subways, and commuter trains
  • Paratransit – Is a service that provides door-to-door transportation for individuals who are unable to use fixed routes due to a personal disability.

We are highly motivated to begin a dialogue with the various agencies serving the Chicagoland area about how to improve services for DeafBlind travelers, and also to acknowledge things that work well currently.   This means it is time to include YOU in the discussion.

One of the most common complains we hear is communication.   When awaiting Paratransit service, there is no way to notify the DeafBlind traveler about arrival times except via phone call.  When interacting with persons working for Paratransit, there is room for improvement on how we can communicate face-to-face with each other.

But what about those of you who use fixed route transportation and do not rely on Paratransit?  We agree that sometimes it is more convenient to use fixed route buses and trains rather than use Paratransit.    Are there things that could be improved?  Would better signs make things easier?  Or how about a unique shaped pole to recognize a bus stop versus another street sign pole?

Communication cards would also be useful.  These cards are used often in other regions where DeafBlind people live.    What kind of information would you feel is most useful on a communication card to indicate your direction?

And have you ever had any negative experiences?   All these ideas and experiences are important to hear about.  It is time that we, as a community, get involved in shaping the direction of public transportation where we live, work and socialize.

Please feel free to the below comment section to begin the dialogue, or if you feel there is a private matter, you can send an email to  This is your chance to make a difference!


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