Getting Information About Getting Around Town
Millions of Americans
huge amounts of time in their cars every day, driving to and from work, school, shopping centers,
' offices, and the
and relatives. Many people don't think twice about jumping in the car and driving to the store to pick up an extra quart of milk or a
of detergent. Some people climb into their
when they get
or upset and just drive around until they calm down. Our entertainers sing about
around in their automobiles—Chuck Berry, Jan and Dean, the Beach Boys, and Lyle Lovett. Our novelists celebrate it—think of Jack Kerouac's Beat classic,
On the Road.
And then of course there are the movies—
Thelma and Louise, Scent of a Woman, Breathless
But there are people in the United States who don't drive—not because they don't want to, for the most part, but because they can't. Some can't drive because the nature of their disabilities is such that it makes driving
. Others can't drive for economic reasons. Seventy percent of people with disabilities who are willing and able to work are unemployed; over a third of Americans with
have incomes below $15,000 a year.
The poverty that so often
them from owning cars and makes it difficult for them to access the jobs that might allow them to do so.
Twenty-five million Americans with disabilities depend on public transit to get where they need to go—to
, doctors' offices, stores, friends'
, places of worship, job interviews, and all the other places that Americans go. The ADA
that public transportation be accessible to people with disabilities, and there has been considerable progress since the ADA took effect in 1992. But the situation is still a problem. According to the present Bush Administration:
Transportation can be a particularly difficult barrier to work for Americans with disabilities. In 1997, the Director of Project Action stated that "access to transportation is often the critical factor in obtaining employment for the nation's 25 million transit dependent people with disabilities." Today the lack of adequate transportation remains a primary
to work for people with disabilities: one-third of people with disabilities report that inadequate transportation is a significant problem.
us to the topic of this chapter. Part of the challenge of access to public transportation is access to information about public transportation,
to information about routes and schedules.
Many public transportation systems publish their route and schedule information on the Web. These schedules are usually— though not always, as we'll see—in the form of HTML
. The WCAG 1.0 defines data tables as those used to "represent logical relationships among data," in this case the relationships among
Most of this chapter is
with specific examples of the way various public transportation systems use HTML tables to make their schedules available and suggested features that can be incorporated to improve accessibility for users with disabilities.
We'll examine schedules published by Capital Metro in Austin, Texas; by the Long Island Rail Road and New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority; and by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority in California, along with passing references to other systems. In each case, we'll be interested not just in the tables
but also in the larger context in which these tables are used to present information about bus routes and schedules. Ultimately, however, we're not concerned about the tables at all: we're concerned about the
quality of the
's experience on the Web
Our only concern as Web developers might be to publish schedule information; by the same token, our riders may be interested in nothing more (or less) than finding out what time a specific bus will reach one specific intersection. We have to remember, though, that each rider is going to have an
when she or he comes to our site. Riders will succeed in finding the information they're looking for or they'll fail. If we do our job well, most riders won't even notice what we've done—they'll merely come to the site, get what they need, and go on about their business. In this chapter, then, our aim is to think about the kinds of experiences riders might have as they try to use the bus schedules published on the Web.