RTA’s Kristen Salkas Wins Fellowship to Help Disability Community

We are pleased to announce that the RTA’s own Kristen Salkas, a Mobility Outreach Coordinator, has received the prestigious Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship from the US Federal Highway Administration. This program awards fellowships to students pursuing degrees in transportation-related disciplines. It aims to advance the transportation workforce by helping attract the nation’s brightest minds to the field of transportation, encouraging future transportation professionals to seek advanced degrees, and helping retain top talent in the U.S. transportation industry.  Anyone who knows or who has worked with Kristen has seen her passion and enthusiasm for her work.

She’s our guest blogger today and talks about how her fellowship will help her research on removing obstacles Latinos with disabilities face in accessing transit. Thanks Kristen and Congratulations!

What exactly does disability have to do with transportation? And how does all that relate to Latino riders? It’s all a whole lot more connected than you might think!

While often overlooked by people who work in the disability field, transportation does play a dominant role in the lives of people with disabilities. Without public transportation, millions of people with disabilities would not be able to participate fully in their communities by getting to health care appointments, getting to school or their jobs, or even being able to run errands or go shopping.

As a Spanish-speaker, I have found that my work in educating about public transportation services is even more imperative for Latinos, who may experience transportation barriers because of language and citizenship barriers. Add disability to this mix, and you have a group of people that currently experiences compounded barriers to public transportation, even right here in Chicago. Therefore, I made it my goal to work toward eliminating the specific transportation barriers that Latinos with disabilities experience.

Apparently, the Federal Highway Administration agrees that this work is important, because they awarded me with a national fellowship carry out my research with this group! I will use the funds to support my dissertation project, which involves doing focus groups on transportation barriers and community participation with Latinos with disabilities in Chicago and the suburbs. I’m going to meet with Latinos with disabilities in groups and have them talk about how they get around and any problems they experience when using public transportation.

I’m very grateful for this opportunity to carry out this important work! I hope to finish the project by the end of the year, and I’ll be more than happy to share my findings in publications, reports, and presentations, especially with my colleagues here at the RTA.