Paratransit Services have vastly changed the way individuals with disAbilities get around their hometown, increasing both their freedom and independence to travel where they want, when they want.
What Is Paratransit?
Paratransit is a specialized, door-to-door transport service for people with disabilities who are not able to ride fixed-route public transportation. This may be due to an inability to:
- Board, ride or disembark independently from any readily accessible vehicle on the regular fixed-route system.
- Access existing accessible fixed-route transportation because that transportation is not available at the needed time on that route.
- Get to boarding/alighting locations of regular public transportation.
Typically, paratransit is provided in a demand-responsive mode (i.e., the person with a disAbility must make a telephone call to arrange service).
The passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990 recognized that people with disAbilities have the same rights as other citizens to access services and facilities that are available to the public, including transportation. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is responsible for the enforcement of ADA’s transportation requirements.
Since most true paratransit services are subsidized by federal, state or county governments, or other municipal agencies, users must be able to meet one of the following three eligibility requirements. (Note: Individuals may be eligible for paratransit on the basis of a permanent or temporary disability. The individual must meet one of the three eligibility criteria, whether permanently or for a limited period of time.)
Individuals who are unable, because of a physical or mental impairment, to board, ride or disembark independently from any readily accessible vehicle on the regular fixed-route system. Among others, this category includes people with mental or visual impairments who, as a result of their disability, cannot navigate the system. This means that, if an individual needs an attendant to board, ride or disembark from an accessible fixed-route vehicle (including navigating the system), the individual is eligible for paratransit.
Also eligible are those people with a physical or mental impairment who could use accessible fixed-route transportation, but the accessible fixed-route transportation is not available at the needed time on a particular route (the accessible vehicle is down for maintenance, the lift cannot be deployed, etc.).
Any individual with a specific impairment-related condition that prevents that person from traveling to a boarding location or from a disembarking location on the system. In this case, the impairment must prevent travel to or from a fixed-route stop. Significant inconvenience or difficulty does not form a basis for eligibility under this section. Further, barriers not under control of the public entity providing the fixed-route service (such as distance or weather) do not by themselves form a basis for eligibility under this section. These situations are resolved on a case-by-case basis, determined by evaluating the interaction between the impairment-related condition and the barrier in question.
Again, since most true paratransit services are subsidized, the cost to the rider can be very low, as opposed, for example, to the cost of an accessible commercial taxi or limousine service, which provides door-to-door service but does not qualify as a true paratransit service. It should be noted that Medicare does not pay for transportation services except in the case of emergency.
When you contact a paratransit service through one of the methods outlined below, you should specifically request information about such things as cost per trip, advance notice requirements, scheduling of return transportation, etc.