Reliable transportation makes a massive difference in the quality of life for your loved one. The best disability transportation services allow your parent to keep up with regular doctor appointments, go to work, and engage in community life. Even basic tasks like going to the bank or buying groceries become impossible without affordable wheelchair transportation for individuals with disabilities.
Many seniors rely on readily available transportation, such as attending appointments with a family caregiver or a public bus. Many elderly adults hire special disability transportation services through private companies. These services offer reliability but can cost a lot over time.
Seniors often develop reliable routes to avoid any last-minute surprises or becoming stranded someplace unfamiliar. This can be a big concern if your loved one has dementia or early Alzheimer’s. By keeping to the same routes, your parent can avoid dangerous situations.
For many elderly adults living independently, public transit provides the only transportation they can afford. However, while affordable, public transit can be a challenge for adults with disabilities.
Some challenges of public transit include:
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires public transportation companies to provide complementary paratransit services, which must be available to anyone with a disability that prevents them from using fixed-route service. Additionally, the complementary services must be within ¾ mile of the regular service, offered on the same days and hours as the regular service, and may not charge more than twice their standard rate.
Disabled persons must undergo an application approval process to receive paratransit services. Eligibility requirements vary between organizations.
This door-to-door service can provide an invaluable safety net for those with difficulty accessing other forms of disability transport service, public transit, and other standard options like traveling with a family caregiver.
The Independent Transportation Network America (ITNAmerica) is a nonprofit organization that pairs seniors with drivers, providing door-to-door service. Seniors pay an annual membership fee of about $50 to have 24/7 access to drivers and rides that are “arm through arm, door through door.” Learn more on their website.
Another source for all disabled persons and seniors, or people on Medicaid or Medicare, is the Eldercare Locator service. Visit their website or call their toll-free line at (800) 677-1116 to find free handicapped or wheelchair-accessible transportation programs near you.
Volunteer Driver Programs are organized by local organizations or agencies. Volunteers drive older adults or people with disabilities to a nearby medical appointment, grocery store, or pharmacy. These programs often have different names, but you can check with the Salvation Army or local faith-based communities to learn about your options.
The network for Disabled American Veterans (DAV) provides free transport to VA medical facilities for injured and ill Veterans. The rides are coordinated by Hospital Service Coordinators nationwide, and the vehicles are driven by volunteers. Use the DAV Hospital Service Coordinator Directory to find information or assistance near you.
Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) is available for eligible people with no other means of getting to their medical appointments. These services are required per Medicaid regulations and are operated through each state independently. Contact your local health department for more information.
Being able to care for oneself is directly tied to access to reliable transportation. Unfortunately, public transit, paratransit, and affordable wheelchair transportation may not be available when your loved one needs it. Some elderly adults in need of mobility around their community may opt for the following:
Unfortunately, taking taxis and limousines quickly becomes cost-prohibitive. Family caregivers may feel a financial strain and not have the time or ability to provide all necessary transportation. This leads many elderly adults to cancel appointments or opt for expensive grocery delivery services. Bad weather can make trekking to the grocery store alone dangerous or impossible. It’s essential to take the time to plan options ahead of time.
An autonomous vehicle can drive itself using in-vehicle technologies and sensors, including adaptive cruise control, active steering, anti-lock braking systems, GPS navigation, lasers, and radar. While there is still a lot of progress to be made with this technology, self-driving vehicles may be a possible transportation option for disabled persons. The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund have even created an Accessible Autonomous Vehicles Checklist.
More mobile elderly adults can often use a combination of public transport, private buses, and riding with family to meet most of their needs. Suppose your parent experiences severe mobility issues, requires an assistant to move from one place to another, is in a wheelchair, or has Alzheimer’s. In that case, you will need to work with them to develop a reliable transportation plan. This may involve your parent, family, the DTA, and others.
As a family caregiver, setting up a reliable transportation plan for your loved one will help them take better care of themselves and alleviate unnecessary costs. It’s just one way to show that you care about them.