Inclusive Planning Guide Phase 1. Explore


Understanding where you are makes it easier to work towards inclusion.

Thoughtful African American male employee in glasses sits at desk.

Assessment Before Planning

The key question is: “Where are you starting from?” It is important to have a clear picture – a baseline – of where you’re beginning; what inclusive practices are already in place and what transportation needs will be addressed by the initiative. A baseline assessment, at a minimum, should answer the following questions:

  1. What transportation needs exist in the community?
  2. What needs do participants identify as most important to address?
  3. How inclusive is transportation planning now and how does it identify transportation priorities?

The assessment process can include gathering information from a wide range of participants, partners and stakeholders, and should include people or partner organizations committed to being involved. If possible, include those whose interest in the initiative is limited, but who will be impacted by the work to be undertaken.

Information gathering methods, like surveys, public forums, interviews, focus groups and others are ideal during this phase of the project.

The Transit Planning for All team has developed the Pathway to Inclusion to help communities asses their current level of inclusion and develop methods to improve inclusive practices.

Examples from the Field

At its first grant steering committee meeting, Clovernook (Cincinnati, OH) provided Pathway to Inclusion training so the steering committee members would have a consistent understanding of the Pathway. The training PowerPoint including Braille format/copies so it would be accessible to participants with visual impairments.

Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments (Albany, OR) identified barriers/needs/problems with current and historic outreach efforts at the beginning of their grant.

Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission (Montpelier, VT) used a community meeting to develop a list of barriers that older adults and people with disabilities have with the existing transit system and the potential changes that paratransit would bring.

Perception Versus Reality

Many organization leaders feel they are using an inclusive approach, but that doesn’t mean they are. Do different populations of transportation-challenged individuals, especially older adults and people with disabilities, feel included in conversations and initiatives involving transportation?

These are some in-depth questions to ask:

  • Do participants (people with disabilities and older adults) feel included?
  • If meetings are open and advertised, do participants attend?
  • Is the meeting being held in a time and place in which they can participate?
  • Is a meeting the best type of forum for being fully inclusive?
  • Can inclusive public participation be accomplished at community events or venues or via social media?
  • If participants attend, are their opinions sought?
  • If their opinions are sought, do those running the meeting take the time to ensure that what they are hearing is what the participants intended?
  • Are surveys conducted to determine if participants are satisfied with inclusion or if they feel their voices are heard?
  • Is there a system in place to track whether participant suggestions are vetted and implemented?
  • Do participants share in the decision-making process? Do participants play leadership roles in your organization or partnership efforts?

Honesty Is the Best Policy

To assess the degree of inclusiveness in your transportation planning efforts, engage in candid discussions involving people with disabilities and older adults using questions such as those listed on this page to create an open and honest dialogue. Remember that different programs and partner organizations may be at different levels of inclusiveness.

Examples from the Field

Boulder County Mobility for All (Boulder, CO) M4A conducted phone surveys of participants interested in joining the steering committee and used the results of those interviews to determine the times and locations to hold steering committee meetings. Some participants referred us to community organizations that could help with recruitment of a diverse group of individuals.

Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments (Albany, OR) asked participants about the best places to reach them in their communities insure they will continue to be engaged.

Easterseals of Massachusetts (Worchester, MA) steering committee agreed to some basic operating procedures including voting for items by consensus vote and agreeing to a form to submit focus/survey ideas and costs.

Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital (Ashland, VA) established meeting locations that are conducive to travel for all participants is challenging. Steering committee members decided to rotate meeting locations each month and offer call-in and webinar options as necessary.