When it comes time to get around town – big city or small – when using a mobility product, it’s often the ”getting around” part that’s difficult for those who don’t drive. After all, if you use a wheelchair or scooter, calling a cab isn’t that simple. So, from old standbys to cutting-edge transit, what are the current accessible transportation options available?
Fixed-Route Public Transit
Although not the hippest mode of transportation, fixed-route public buses and trains still provide reliable accessible transportation. Since the 1980s, and ultimately the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), all are required to be accessible. This means buses have lifts (or ramps) and trains and their stations are accessible. What’s more, routine riders with disabilities and seniors can get discount cards, making public transit phenomenally affordable. Yes, public transit has historically had service issues, such as a bus with a broken lift or a train station with an out-of-order elevator. However, overall in today’s age, public transit proves a remarkably reliable and affordable way to get around town.
Began in the 1970s in larger cities and solidified by the ADA, paratransit is federally-mandated transportation for those with disabilities nationwide. Typically run at the county level, paratransit are the smaller, accessible vans you’ll see in addition to fixed-route buses. Paratransit is an on-demand service that provides door-to-door service (though some services may limit the types of occasions and times they’re used – for example, medical appointments, but not social engagements). Most, however, are a very flexible and extremely convenient way to get around town. To use paratransit, you must register, then rides cost on average $2.50 per one-way trip. Some paratransits require 24-hour notice to book a ride, while others are on call. Each paratransit system is a little different in policies, so check with your local paratransit for its protocols.
More and more cities have accessible cabs, and despite taking a while to get up to speed post ADA, they’re more readily available than ever. In fact, both New York City and Chicago both have direct accessible dispatch, where by phone, online or via a smartphone app, you can call a cab. This writer has personally used the NYC accessible taxi app, Wow Taxi, and has rarely waited more than 15 minutes for a cab. With that said, some cities are dramatically better than others, where in Las Vegas accessible cabs are everywhere, but impossible to get in Nashville. Therefore, always strive to confirm a city’s taxi situation if traveling there, as one still can’t assume 100% coverage nationwide.
There has been controversy surrounding app-based ride services and accessibility. Namely, they initially claimed that since each driver is a private party, the drivers and companies were exempt from the ADA. Somewhat understandably, it is hard to find private parties with accessible vehicles to sign up as drivers. However, it was ultimately determined that the companies, as commercial entities, had to comply with reasonable ADA accommodations. As a result, accessible services are available in many cities. In some cities, Uber has contracted with taxi companies; in other cities, it’s based on the availability of private accessible vehicles and drivers. Lyft hasn’t contracted with taxi companies, but instead works with non- emergency transport partners. Due to this wide variation, some cities are dramatically better than others. Nevertheless, in the big cities, working their way out, these services are getting better.
For those traveling within the U.S., Super Shuttle is a fantastic airport-to-hotel accessible shuttle service. Super Shuttle has locations at most major airports, and is extremely reliable. You do need to make reservations, but upon doing so, Super Shuttle makes accessible travel tremendously more convenient.
Get Out There
The gift of mobility technology is that it allows us to live full, socially-inclusive lives. Let us use our mobility to access the many means of transportation to get us where we ultimately seek to go.