Individuals with a disability or their caregivers can be provided free transportation for both emergency as well as everyday needs. The goal is to ensure that the client is able to live as independently as possible, so these rides are available to help meet that objective. Transportation for people with a physical or mental disability can be arranged by any of several different non-profit or government backed agencies as noted below.
Some of the resources are coordinated by the government, which can be the county or state where to person lives. However that is not the only option. Many non-profits as well as charities also support low income individuals with a disability by given them a ride using volunteers from the community.
Some of these groups range from Agency on Aging Centers to the Salvation Army. Note while usually a ride may be provided at no cost, some of the transportation that is arranged for the disabled may require a small fee from the client, or they “suggest” a minimal donation be made.
While there are no guarantees to this being available, the disabled can often get a free ride from charitable run Volunteer Driver Programs. These are not mandated to be offered in any community, but rather donations from individuals and local businesses often fund them. In almost all cases, a donation is always requested from the rider. Even a few dollars to help offset the cost of gasoline, mileage, and wear and tear on the car can make a big difference to keeping these programs operating.
Charities will call these Driver Programs different names. The Salvation Army may refer to them as Share a Ride while a faith based church often calls them emergency services. Another major contributor to this service tends to be the National Aging Network, and there are offices in most counties that help both the elderly and disabled. While senior citizens are a main focus, others can apply as well. These will be referred to as the Agency on Aging centers.
The distances covered tend to be much smaller, but maybe a volunteer driver will bring a disabled person to a medical appointment. Or a trip to a meal site for the homebound, ride to a grocery store for shopping or pharmacy to pick up a medication for the disabled are other uses of the Volunteer Driver Programs.
Free transportation is also for disabled veterans. This will be only for medical or dental needs, and volunteers provide the ride. Many local charities are part of the network known as the DAV - Disabled American Veterans and they serve former military members with PTSD or a mental or physical issue.
Volunteers from churches and groups such as Catholic Charities will provide a ride to the Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals or offices. Many volunteers will also sit with the patient while they go through treatment. Users of the DAV rides may have a small donation requested to reimburse the driver, but this is not required.
Individuals with a disability are guaranteed some form of transportation, which is known as Paratransit. The ADA as well as federal government is involved in ensuring this services is available nationwide. The exact make up as well as extent of the programs available will vary widely. Some towns even call it a Dial-a-Ride program.
When it comes to the form of transportation providing the free ride, more urban areas may rely on taxis while rural communities will often outsource the rides to several small, privately owned companies. No matter the mode selected, it needs to be able to get the individual, whether they have a disability or are senior citizens, to the appointment in question.
The assistance is only offered if the resident with a disability can't use the other publicity funded programs. Therefore the applicant to Paratransit can't be able to use, or reach, a local bus line or subway. They will also need to prove that they have done everything possible to use these other government programs.
Different municipalities will use a wide variety of vehicles. Whether it is a small bus used, or taxi type car, then transportation needs to be meet the demands of the client. This means it needs to wheelchair accessible if relevant, or the client can have driver help the person with the disability get in and out of the car. If the disability requires other support, that too will need to be met by the Paratransit service.
More hands on, in depth transportation to both seniors and the disabled is provided by the Independent Transportation Network America. This is a door to door service in which not only will a ride be given to a doctors office or shopping trip, but the driver will also open the car door, help the person get in and out, and the service is much more thorough.
Low income families that are on Medicaid, whether they are disabled or not, can apply for Non-Emergency Medical Transportation Services. An appointment needs to be scheduled well in advance. This will be only for health care needs, such as transportation to a local hospital or doctor office. This is run through each state, but is required per Medicaid regulations.
Wheelchair transportation services are available as well through Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. The bus or taxi used will be equipped for the disabled person. The driver will help them get on the unit, raise or lower the ramp as needed, and safely drive the client to their appointment. Whether the senior is older and on Medicare, or living on SSI disability payments, the wheelchair service will be free to use.
There is not just one place to turn to for assistance. Instead rides for shopping or critical health care needs can be available from one of many different sources. As part as any government mandated services, such as Paratransit or a Wheelchair Accessible program, those are often run by local human or social service offices. Locate public assistance programs by state.
Another source for all disabled and seniors to use, or people on Medicaid, is the Eldercare Locator service. There is a tool free line set up to dial for referrals to transportation programs, and dial 1-800-677-1116, or read more on Eldercare.
Many of the volunteer organizations are run by local charities. There are dozens on places to try for low cost or free transportation, everyone from the Salvation Army to St. Vincent de Paul and many others. Information can be obtained from the search bar at the top of this page. Or anyone with a verified disability seeking a ride can also try the Salvation Army for help.
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