Public transport is rarely an easy experience for anyone with a disability, and if you’re a wheelchair user you may find yourself choosing to stay home! These tips make the journey less stressful when traveling abroad, or in your own neighborhood:
Know that you’re protected by law
It shouldn’t even have to be in law — inclusion should be our default — but in the absence of ideals it’s worth knowing that Federal laws require transportation companies to accommodate people with disabilities. While this doesn’t always translate into reality, it’s an important start. Read the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Urban Mass Transportation Act and The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for more.
Planning is key
Before taking a route, find out which transport options are wheelchair accessible and when they’re scheduled for. If you’re able to book a ride on the bus/train/subway/tram with the operators, do so! It takes the spontaneity out of the experience, but it could be the difference between traveling safely or being stressed by the time you arrive at your destination. Also, find out how to use wheelchair accessible seats safely, and if you’ll need someone to help you get onboard. If your chair is very big and you’re worried it may not fit, consider investing in a portable stair chair like the patented design Mobile Stairlift — you’ll have less trouble navigating ramps and stairs this way, with the help of just one other person.
TIP: If you plan on using the subway, make sure your intended stops are wheelchair accessible!
Keep alternatives as a back-up plan
Access to public transport can be the difference between holding down a job and maintaining a social life. Both are important parts of the rehabilitation process if, for instance, you’ve suffered a recent mobility impairment. That’s why it’s worth building up relationships with local private cab companies or similar, provided they have accessible vehicles! Find a provider you’re comfortable with, and have them on speed dial for whenever you need to get somewhere and the public transport system just won’t play along.
Don’t be put off! Public transport providers are increasingly adapting to make their systems wheelchair accessible and fully inclusive. They want you to use the systems, after all, and are more than willing to make that possible and safe.
Navigating public transport is one of the many challenges you’re likely to face as someone with a mobility impairment. If you or a loved one is adjusting to a recent disability, you’ll find tips and resources to make the journey easier in our Guide to Living Well.