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Joy of Mobility: Helping Disabled Persons Move More Freely

The idea of transit equity recognizes that all people have a need for access in our daily lives. At a minimum, we must be able to reach employment, but our mobility needs go far beyond just getting to and from work. This reality is not considered by many mass transportation solutions and is why they fall short of meeting people’s needs. Because access is so important, policymakers believe they must provide solutions for vulnerable populations, including physically disabled persons who are able to drive modified vehicles.

In most cities, social service agencies have programs that are funded through philanthropic and government funds to provide mobility solutions for physically disabled people. But transportation needs are unique to individuals, and a one-size-fits-all approach does not work. Most often the transportation services that work best are individualized or provided in small groups, sometimes with customized vans. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area where On the Road Lending is headquartered, Dallas Area Rapid Transit and social service agencies like Catholic Charities provide van shuttles for disabled individuals. On-demand services may also seem like a solution. We have seen so many of our clients try to make these services work. They come to us after paying hundreds of dollars per month or more and are worn out from trying to rely on what is, effectively, a taxi service as their primary form of transportation. If they have a job that requires them to be out during the day on calls rather than stationed in one place, this option is completely infeasible.

I am the car lady. I own that. I find joy in getting behind the wheel and going where I need and want to go when I want to go. Disabled people are no different. I would argue that they may find driving their own car even more freeing and joyful than the able bodied. And here’s the good news: today’s car manufacturers have made great progress in designing vehicles and adaptations that are more accessible to people with physical disabilities, and On the Road Lending is making those vehicles affordable for our disabled clients who have credit challenges. The Toyota Yaris, Hyundai Sonata, Scion xB, Subaru Forester, Kia Soul and even the Ford Mustang can be great options when equipped with carriers, hand controls, lifts, ramps, power assisted seats, and steering devices. There are many more modifications available today than even a decade ago like adaptive ignition controls, automatic doors, pedal or seat belt extenders, left-foot accelerators, raised roofs or dropped floors.

Smart cars are also making a difference. All drivers are benefitting from today’s intelligent transportation systems that pair in-vehicle telematics with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). According to a Boston Consulting Group analysis, ADAS alone could reduce nearly 30% of traffic accidents and save over $250 billion annually if all cars had these systems on-board.

It’s a myth that working families can’t afford these newer, safer cars. Our creative, innovative financial structures, including a social purpose private equity fund and a unique character-based lending model, have resulted in a loss rate of less than 4%. That’s one-10th the loss rate of subprime lenders. Our end goal is to prove that the joy of mobility is not just for the able bodied and those with higher incomes. One car at a time, we’re bringing the freedom of mobility within reach.