Autistic adults face a range of unique barriers to accessing their communities via cars and/or public transport. Previous studies report that learning to drive can be difficult, and that using public transport can be filled with anxiety for autistic adults. Indeed, car and public transport access and use are associated with greater quality of life. This study sought to explore these factors for autistic adults, compared to non-autistic adults, using a large national sample.Methods
Data are from wave one of the Australian Longitudinal Study of Autism in Adulthood. Descriptive statistics and inferential analyses were used to describe and explore associations between community mobility, quality of life, employment status and educational attainment. Regression models were used to determine if community mobility use and access were predictors of quality of life, employment and education.Results
Autistic adults self-reported less accessibility to both public transport and driving to meet their community mobility needs and were less likely to use a car or public transport. Further, autistic adults reported significantly lower self-rated quality of life, were less likely to be employed and were less likely to have completed further education. Notably, although public transport or car access are not predictors of employment and educational outcomes, such access improves quality of life, but in different ways when compared to non-autistic adults. By contrast, public transport use is a predictor of better educational outcomes, and public transport and car use are predictors of both.Conclusions
More nuanced attention to autistic people's individual perspectives and their experiences will help better develop ways to more intuitively define and measure both access and use in a meaningful manner. Qualitative studies are needed to explore why access does not always equate to use. The needs of autistic people should be considered by a range of policies impacting community environments, such as urban and public transport design, training of police and transit authorities and emergency response.