Planning journeys, staying updated on waiting times, knowing the right spot to get off, and correcting actions in times of disruption or delays — using public transport systems requires having access to certain information to reach your desired destination. While these things are commonplace for us, these tasks are far too complicated for travelers living with disabilities, whether sensory, motor, or intellectual.
Crutches, wheelchairs, strollers, heavy luggage, and poor balance — all these factors are affecting the mobility of public transport users. Thus, it’s safe to say that transportation is a major barrier for persons with disabilities, considering that most of them refuse to leave their homes because of their inability to get around. While reasons vary, access to public transportation raises significant issues for disabled persons.
Around the world, people with disabilities can’t work, vote, attend healthcare appointments, or enjoy independence all because of poor enforcement and inadequate funding of transportation facilities. In Singapore, the Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT) has launched initiatives to support handicapped commuters or those with special needs. They have trained staff to handle these commuters and provided transportation tools to help them navigate transport hubs.
Tech solutions for transportation accessibility
Daily transport comes with various unpleasant surprises from broken elevators, slippery floors, malfunctioning escalators, and road constructions. Thus, planning is a critical step for people with disabilities before heading outside.
Most websites or smartphone applications allow users to find accessible places and receive real-time information about the level of accessibility of certain infrastructures. Some cities, such as London, Toronto, and Chicago, provide a trip planner to their users to update what to expect before setting out on a journey.
Affordable ridership fees
In most urban areas, persons with disabilities coming from homeless or low-income families depend on public transportation to get around the local area. One reason is the lack of access or inability to afford personal vehicles and other transport modes, such as Uber. Although the cost of public transportation is already cheap for privileged individuals, many are still struggling to pay the passenger fee.
Inability to access public transportation has widespread consequences on the affected individual. These actions will always involve certain challenges, from finding and keeping a job, accessing government services, and buying goods and services.
Several cities around the world are offering affordable transit pass systems for homeless and low-income riders. Others offer discounts as long as they have sufficient evidence that their income is below the specified amount.
Making public transport more inclusive through affordable passes and discounted rides for persons with disabilities will open more opportunities for them and help improve their socio-economic status.
Accessible public transport vehicles
Every public transportation has a unique physical infrastructure that poses a certain challenge for people with disabilities. For example, subways are a nice option, but going down the stairs is difficult for those using a wheelchair. Buses are also a good fit, but they aren’t designed to accommodate people with special needs. Meanwhile, some taxi drivers are avoiding riders with disabilities to avoid delays. In other words, taking public transport is an overwhelming and stressful undertaking for those with disabilities.
To address issues in public transit, paratransit offers an alternative transportation method. Paratransit serves as a community transport service for people with disabilities, including their caregivers and family members who cannot use traditional public transport, such as trains or buses. This means the vehicle comes equipped with accessible seating areas and is available simultaneously as regular transit.
Paratransit offers plenty of benefits to people with disabilities: independent living, improved efficiency, real-time and on-demand transportation, increased transit services for disabled individuals, advanced mobility, and a lesser burden in navigating urban cities and local communities.
Along with increasing demand for more accessible public transportation, the extension of paratransit services should also be considered to accommodate more disabled individuals.
Every transit rider has unique needs, particularly disabled ones. Some require extra support when riding the train, taxi, bus, or private car. For this reason, public transport providers should provide training for their drivers and staff to provide efficient service for commuters with varying needs. These include passengers with disabilities or anyone who might need extra help. Attentive service should be a critical part of making public transportation widely accessible for different riders.
Now is the perfect time for public transportation providers to reevaluate the factors that affect transport accessibility among people with disabilities. Having a disability or special need shouldn’t keep people from getting around places they want to be, and providing them with the services and tools they need will cause fewer difficulties and stress for daily commuters.