It became a necessity. The doctors told me that after another round of surgeries on my left that I am restricted from bearing any weight on it.
Let me get this out of the way: Access to transportation should be universal. Especially when you are disabled.
Granted, it depends on the level of disability. However, if you have no ability to walk to a bus stop more than half a block away or need assistance with traveling using a device for balance and mobility, transportation options are available to enable people to get to where they are going,
In my case recently, it became a necessity. The doctors told me that after another round of surgeries on my left that I am restricted from bearing any weight on it.
There are options for me. Private transport companies can take you on a point-to-point trip in a van similar to an app-based ride hailing system. Or, the public transport company can take you from door-to-door in a shared van-based bus.
I have used both of these forms of medical transportation or paratransit this year alone. They’re two different experiences.
Back in. March, I had to use a van to get to a doctor’s appointment. These private medical transportation companies are competitive, such as Lyft and Uber. However, they have a specific transportation need to fulfill, especially with those of us who are wheelchair-bound. The vans are outfitted for rear loading of wheelchairs, with an optional side ramp. You got from point A to B without any intermediary stops, unless you request them to do so prior to your trip.
The ride itself is on a one-on-one basis. The driver does their best to give you personal service and attention along the way. Most likely, you would be riding in a converted minivan with a lift and/or ramp. The minivans are either from Stellantis or Toyota. You might a converted full-size Ford Transit, Ram ProMaster or Mercedes-Benz Sprinter that is lift-equipped, as well.
You have to reserve these rides in advance. However, it is smart to price them out before you go. In some cases, pricing is regulated by a governmental body. Sometimes, your insurance could cover the cost – in full or partially – for that trip.
Healthcare provider groups offer these services. Most likely, you may work with a smaller private firm that is dedicated in providing only medical transportation.
The “shared ride’ option is designed on a “dial-a-ride” model. In the Twin Cities, the Metropolitan Council offers Metro Mobility as a separate arm that provides these services at a lower cost. They are usually operated by contract transportation companies with a fleet of cab-chassis cans and a bus body attached. They all come with wheelchair lifts at the passenger side rear area of the vehicle.
In my recent trip to the doctor, I realized that I had access to Metro Mobility for a year. With that service you have to call in to reserve the ride in advance. Rates are based on mileage of the trip. Making this service easier to use is that you can pay with the region’s stored value card system, the Go-To Card.
The service worked out very well. I had help with my wheelchair getting locked in and the ride was sufficient. They even helped me from door-to-door – literally.
However, it is wise to plan your trips to meet realistic times. If you finish early at an appointment, the chance of getting a ride back sooner may not work out to your favor.
I mention the notion of creating universal transportation access. In the USA, that stems from the Americans With Disabilities act, which mandates that proper accommodation is available for disabled people to gain access to buildings and transportation. To meet the needs of a growing population of people who challenged by a disability, this is where Metro Mobility along with similar agencies and transportation companies have to come in.
You can also add mainline public transit agencies to the mix. You will find a wheelchair lift or ramp on any public bus across North America. Most rail services also have easy access for all passengers when available. The disadvantage of these services is that you’re on a fixed route service that may not get you exactly from door-to-door.
As I pointed out before, not everyone has the ability to get to a bus stop that may be a few blocks away without some form of assistance. Which is why you have public transit agencies offering a “dial-a-ride” or “door-to-door” service to augment their transportation offerings at an affordable cost.
Hopefully, using paratransit would not be a habit for me. It is a necessity for those of us who have challenges in transporting ourselves to live our lives.
All photos by Randy Stern