It’s no secret that paratransit services do not meet the needs of the disability community on a regular day. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not go far enough as far as the required service area and that can have a significant impact on disabled people trying to live an independent life. What do I mean by Paratransit? When the ADA was passed, it addressed the issue of a lack of accessible buses at the time. The ADA requires that all public transit agencies that provide a fixed-route service must also provide “complementary paratransit” for disabled people who are unable to use the fixed-route bus or rail service because of their disability. Paratransit was specifically defined as a civil right.
Though out of date, the ADA goes into specifics in regards to how the paratransit service must run. The most widely known characteristic of paratransit service is that the service itself must be provided within ¾ of a mile of a bus route or rail station at the same time the fixed-route bus would run. The fare of service must also run for no more than twice the regular fixed-route fare. The service works fairly well in densely populated areas, but the real trouble comes into
play for disabled people who live in more rural areas. Folks in rural communities, may have to figure out transportation to a destination that is within the service area so that they would be able to then use the paratransit service. But this begs the question, where does this leave disabled folk who are unable to travel to a destination within the service area? Does this mean that they are left behind without a way to access groceries, doctor’s office, family members? Unfortunately, yes, in many cases that is exactly what that means.
For some towns, there is not an abundance of bus stops or bus routes which means that the “complementary paratransit” service doesn’t come into play here. No bus stops or route, no paratransit service area. This means that if one doesn’t have walking privilege, they may be forced to be homebound. This impacts a person’s ability to socialize, work, or even seek medical attention.
Transportation is a huge part of the independence of an individual and aside from paratransit or the bus, the disability community has limited options for rural areas. In a time where paratransit is even more limited than it already is, transportation systems are doing a disservice to the disability community. We don’t deserve to be forced at home because of a lack of accessible transportation options. Call your legislators and ask them what they will do to increase options for accessible travel in your area. Then contact your local independent living centers to ask how you can participate in transportation advocacy!