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1. Public Transportation and 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. To learn about public transportation services in your local community (and even overseas), visit the American Public Transportation Association online. All public transit systems that provide fixed-route bus and rail service in the United States are required to offer“complementary paratransit” service (usually vans or small buses) for people with disabilities. The Amputee Coalition’s factsheet, “What Is Paratransit?,” details eligibility requirements, costs and how to find a ride. In addition, public transportation services usually offer discounted fares for seniors and people with disabilities. You can also search for transportation services through the Taxicab, Limousine and Paratransit Association’s “Find a Ride” tool.
2. Travel Training, also known as Travel Instruction programs, are a valuable way for people with disabilities to learn how to travel safely and independently using public transportation, such as buses or trains. Programs are generally offered through schools, human service organizations or transit agencies. Through these courses, you can work with a trainer one-on-one or as part of a group to practice skills, such as boarding and exiting a bus in a wheelchair or navigating the train station with a service animal. For instance, SEPTA (the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority) offers anAccessible Travel Center, which features a full-size replica of a SEPTA bus, as well as mock subway and rail platforms. Although the following resources (A Guide to Travel Training and Considerations for Selecting and Hiring Travel Trainers: A Compilation of Resources) are more appropriate for educators, both include helpful information about the definition of travel instruction, key points to consider and suggested lesson plans. Check with your state or local transit agency for more information on travel training programs in your community.
3. Buying a Car has obvious advantages, but owning one can be difficult when you are on a fixed or limited income. Fortunately, there are a few financial assistance programs that help low income individuals buy or repair a vehicle. But first, ask yourself this question: “How Much Can You Afford to Spend?” Once you’ve considered your options, reach out to your local Independent Living Center orCommunity Action Agency to learn about programs for which you may be eligible. JobLinks, an initiative managed by the Community Transportation Association (CTAA), offers a state-by-state list ofvehicle loan and donation programs, along with their eligibility requirements, terms and conditions, and contact information. The Federal Trade Commission also has a helpful online guide to “Understanding Vehicle Financing,” which includes what to do if you experience financial problems.
4. Vehicle Modification. For many people with disabilities, the ability to continue driving translates to independence. If you have recently acquired a disability, a driving assessment is crucial. Based on an evaluation of your physical and cognitive skills, recommendations for adaptive driving equipment may be made. Contact your state Assistive Technology Center for more information. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a helpful resource, Adapting Motor Vehicles for People with Disabilities, which details the process of selecting and installing assistive devices for drivers with disabilities. Car Talk’s Special Needs Zone includes a great list of resources on finding a driver rehabilitation specialist, adaptive devices and vehicles, and insurance and financial assistance. In addition, several major automobile manufacturers have Vehicle Modification Programs that will reimburse you, up to $1,000 in some cases, for installing adaptive driving equipment on your vehicle. Check with your car manufacturer for more information.
5. Transportation Benefits at Work. Studies show that employers who provide transportation benefits for their workforce also gain rewards in other ways, such as attracting and retaining workers, supporting public transit and increasing customer access to goods and services. Plus, it’s a great way to help employees receive tax-savings. The Transportation to Work: A Toolkit for the Business Community, an online resource from CTAA, offers companies information on how to build a simple, cost-effective transportation program that’s good for their employees and businesses. The Toolkit provides information on topics such as tax incentives, ridesharing and vanpools, green transportation and supporting employees with disabilities.
6. Rural Transportation. Lack of transportation remains the number one issue for people with disabilities living in rural areas, affecting their ability to get to work, go to medical appointments and complete other activities of daily living. In fact, fixing the transportation problem is the primary focus of the National Rural Transit Assistance Program, a federally-funded center that distributes training materials, provides technical assistance and peer support to transit providers. So if you need a ride, where can you find information about rural transportation programs in your community? Contact yourstate 2-1-1, Community Action Agency or local public transportation service to learn about options that are available. You can also use the Eldercare Locator or talk to one of the site’s information specialists toll-free at 1-800-677-1116. Lastly, call the National Transit Hotline at 1-800-527-8279 for the names of local transit providers that receive federal money to provide transportation for seniors and people with disabilities.
7. Providing Transportation Services. Access to safe and reliable transportation is vital for people with disabilities and seniors who want to live independently in their communities; and there is certainly no shortage of resources for current or aspiring transportation service providers. Easter Seals' Project ACTION offers numerous resources, as well as training and technical assistance, to help transit providers increase mobility for people with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act. ItsInitiatives web page highlights current partner projects and best practices in accessible transportation.United We Ride provides a transportation-coordination and planning self-assessment tool, technical assistance and other resources to help state and local agencies succeed in serving those with special needs. CTAA’s Community Transportation Assistance Program provides training and support to transportation professionals interested in making community services accessible to all citizens through safe and affordable transportation services. In addition, the National Center on Senior Transportation (NCST) gathers and shares best practices for transportation providers, as well as information covering a range of topics from assisted transportation to older driver safety. In addition to its e-Learning trainings and free resources and publications, professionals or organizations may contact NCST for information or technical assistance by calling 1-866-528-NCST (6278) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
8. Summer Car Safety. Schools will be letting out soon, and families across the United States will hit the road for summer vacation. But before you leave, make sure you “summerize" your car. For example, prepare your cooling system for scorching temperatures, make sure your air conditioner is working well and check your brakes. DMV.org has a variety of how-to guides on car maintenance and other topics, such as how to change a tire, prepare an emergency kit or save on gas. You should also read the Montana Department of Transportation’s guide, “Focus on Safety – Cool Tips for a Safe Summer Trip.” In addition, the NHTSA has an interactive series of summer driving tips covering multiple stages of your journey. (Download a PDF version in English or Spanish.)
9. 180-Days around the World. Perhaps your summer plans include a trip across the country or around the world. Whether traveling by plane, train or automobile, long-distance travel requires you to think ahead and plan accordingly. In her guest blog published last October, Emily Buchanan detailed important things people with disabilities should consider before, during and after long-distance air travel, such as what kind of assistance you might need and how to ask for help ahead of time. The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recommends passengers with disabilities complete a TSA Notification Card and call the TSA Cares helpline toll-free at 1-855-787-2227 for information about the screening process. In addition, the Amputee Coalition offers a very thorough factsheet on “Travel Information for People with Disabilities,” which addresses travel by airplanes, trains, buses, cruises or automobiles.
10. Driving as You Age. One important aspect of driving is knowing when it is time to temporarily or permanently put down your car keys. NCST’s publication on older driver safety and transition advises individuals to evaluate how changes in vision, hearing, flexibility and strength may affect their driving skills and what steps can be taken to ensure their ongoing safety. The AARP lists 10 warning signsthat indicate when a person may need to limit or stop driving, including repeatedly almost crashing, getting lost or responding slowly to traffic situations. If you need to speak to a loved one or friend about their driving skills, take AARP’s free online seminar, “We Need to Talk,” which includes information from The Hartford and the MIT AgeLab on how to guide these sensitive discussions.
You can also read Disability.Blog or Disability.gov’s Guide to Transportation to learn about helpful programs in your community.
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