Definition: Defining the Meaning of Paratransit
Paratransit is recognized in North America as special transportation services for people with disabilities, often provided as a supplement to fixed-route bus and rail systems by public transit agencies. Paratransit services may vary considerably on the degree of flexibility they provide their customers. At their simplest they may consist of a taxi or small bus that will run along a more or less defined route and then stop to pick up or discharge passengers on request. At the other end of the spectrum, fully demand responsive transport, the most flexible paratransit systems offer on-demand call-up door-to-door service from any origin to any destination in a service area.
Both private and public entities are subject to accessibility laws and they address not only vehicles, but also stations. Transportation is a vital link that allows people with disabilities to enjoy and participate in the many aspects of society, including work, commerce and leisure activities. Both Federal and State law address transportation specifying that no entity shall discriminate against an individual with a disability in connection with the provision of transportation service.
Private hire vehicles are also a vital link in the accessible transport chain and, although disabled people are reported to travel a third less often than the public in general, they use disability transport services on average 67% more often.
Some Voluntary Welfare Organizations (VWO) provide private transport services for both their members and the public. The service provides transport for persons with disabilities to hospital visits, work, etc.
In the U.S. Paratransit is a service operated in some areas in which individuals who are unable to independently use the regular transit system (because of a physical or mental impairment) are picked up and dropped off at their destinations.
If you live away from a major city or town or want real freedom about when and how you travel, using your own car may be the best option for you. This, of course, means thinking about if you want to, or can, drive again. An advantage of a modified car is that people who do not require the modifications can also drive it. This is because all modifications have to be removable or not restrictive of other drivers.
In the United States, private transportation companies often provide paratransit service in cities and metropolitan areas under contract to local public transportation agencies. Veolia Transport, First Transit and MV Transportation are among the largest private contractors of paratransit services in the United States and Canada.
Mobility Accessible Technology
There are many examples of different aids (accessible technology) that help people with disabilities to get around. Some vans are specially designed so that people who use wheelchairs can access and operate them. Many GPS/computer applications are now available to help people with (and without) cognitive disabilities avoid getting lost. Other devices can give directions by voice to help people with visual impairments. One clever application for the iPhone maps the entire New York City subway system, listing handicap-accessible locations. The maps can be enlarged for people with visual impairments. Interactive voice response systems and web-based initiatives are the next technology innovation anticipated for Paratransit services. There are many types of accessible technology, and some research is usually needed to find the best affordable technology for any given situation.