I spend a lot of time here talking about the improvements the Obama Administration's DOT is making to our national roads, railways, and airports. But, our transportation systems are about a lot more than just steel and concrete.
They connect us with our communities and the people we love. They allow us to pursue education, employment, and the experiences that make life worth living. And there's no one who understands that better than, Richard Devylder, DOT's new Senior Advisor for Accessible Transportation.
Richard recently joined us from the California Emergency Management Agency, where he served as a special adviser to the director of the Office for Access and Functional Needs. It's been a pleasure getting to know him and hearing his incredible story.
You see, Richard was born without arms or legs. But he never allowed this disability to limit him. From the age of two, when he first began turning pages in books on his own, his commitment to independence has driven his personal and professional life.
Richard's daily routine isn't all that different from mine or yours. A video produced during his time at the California Department of Rehabilitation shows how he lives on his own, gets to work, and exercises regularly:
In addition to assistive technology, Richard attributes much of his success to the availability of good public transit systems. "Because of public transportation, I was able to go to school, I was able to start building a career--I was able to live independently. Those things wouldn't have happened for me otherwise."
Accessible public transportation isn't the only issue. When you listen to Richard talk about a "sidewalk to nowhere" and the lack of curb cut-outs, you'll see why planning for complete streets is an essential piece of the accessibility puzzle.
Despite the advances we've made over the last two decades, we still have a long way to go before our country is universally accessible. In his new role as Senior Advisor for Accessible Transportation, Richard will make sure that the functional needs of all people are taken into account during transportation planning.
At the 20th anniversary celebration of the Americans with Disabilities Act, he spoke about his priorities for his time at DOT:
According to Richard, he'll have succeeded when accessibility is "no longer a question or a special consideration--it just becomes what we do."
I couldn't agree more. And with Richard leading the charge, the Department of Transportation is committed to making that vision a reality so that all Americans have the same opportunities for living, learning, and earning.