Guide to Handicap Transportation

Guide to Handicap Transportation

Types of Handicap Transportation

If you’re handicapped, finding transportation can be difficult when you don’t have access to your own vehicle. The following explains the main types of transportation methods for someone in a wheelchair, including traveling by car, bus, and plane.

Wheelchair-Accessible Van

The main type of transportation for yourself is to get a wheelchair-accessible van. These types of vans have lifts either on the side or back of the van that allow for your wheelchair to get in the van, usually with you in the chair. It makes it easier to get into the vehicle. Some lifts are electronic, especially in newer models, while others are manual and take a little more effort. You can either buy a new wheelchair-accessible van already with lifts and controls, or you can pay a company to convert your van into one that is wheelchair-accessible.

Public Transportation

The public transportation methods includes metro, buses, coasters, and other forms of transportation. Public transportation is a popular method because it is usually easy, convenient and doesn’t cost much. If you simply need to get around to local places, taking the bus is a great option. You should be aware of schedules and that most buses only have space for 1-3 wheelchair-bound passengers. You might want to arrive early to be sure you get to where you’re going on time. Other forms of transportation like trolleys, trams, and coasters also provide handicapped-accessible options.

Airplane or Shuttle

Most airlines will have at least one space for a wheelchair-bound passenger, though they may require it to be a foldable, manual wheelchair. If you have a power chair, call the airline ahead of time to be sure it is allowed. You should also be sure to tell the reservation consultant you need a handicapped space on the airplane. If there is only one wheelchair space on the plane and 2 people who are handicapped, you won’t be able to get on. If you need to travel b shuttle to or from the airport, you should call ahead and make sure they have a space for you. As with airplanes and buses, shuttles have limited handicapped spaces available. You don’t want to miss your plane because you had to take a later shuttle.


The final option for handicap transportation is a taxi. If you are in need of getting a ride by taxi, you will need to find out beforehand if they have handicap-accessible taxis. Many companies will have special vans or trucks that are handicap-accessible with ramps for you to easily get in or out of the taxi.

Public Handicap Transportation

When it comes to transportation, being handicapped can be a big burden. It’s one thing when you have your own wheelchair-accessible van with an automatic lift and easy controls, but when you need to rely on public transportation it gets tricky. In order to accommodate you, different types of public transportation methods offer space for handicapped individuals, though it is usually very limited. The following types of public transportation usually have at least one space for wheelchair-bound passengers. It is much easier to find public handicap transportation in big cities because public transportation in general is easier to find.


The most common type of public transportation for handicap passengers is the city bus. Depending on the size of your city, you may have hundreds of them passing by your street every 15 minutes, or only one every hour or so and not on every major street. Different buses vary by their size, quality, and what accommodations they offer. The majority of city buses offer at least one handicap seat or space for your wheelchair, while many offer the ability to fit 2-4 wheelchair-bound passengers. They usually require adjusting seats reserved for seniors and handicapped passengers, near the front of the bus.


If your city is large, they might also offer the coaster as public transportation. Coasters are usually in big and major cities as a type of metro transportation and are smaller than trains. They go much shorter distances than trains, and usually to different cities within a smaller metro area. For example, San Diego Metro has a coaster going between 5-6 cities back and forth about every hour during the day, up until about 10pm at night. Most coasters offer about the same number of handicapped seats as buses. You should call ahead to be sure they have an adequate number of handicapped spaces.


While less common, another type of public transportation is a trolley or tram. These are only available in certain cities throughout the country but if you’re lucky enough to have one, they might have handicap spaces for wheelchair-bound passengers. However be aware most only have 1-2 maximum spaces as they are quite small and don’t have a lot of space for wheelchair passengers. As with other forms of transportation, do your research beforehand to find out how much space they will have during the time you plan to ride the trolley.

Rental Cars for Handicap Passengers

If you are in a wheelchair but need to rent a car, it can be much more difficult. Even if you aren’t doing the driving, finding a rental car with accessibility can prove challenging. It will take a little luck and possibly a lot of research to find a local rental car company offering a wheelchair accessible van or SUV in your price range. The following offers you the steps you will need to take in order to find a handicap-accessible rental car.

Necessary Equipment

The first thing you will need to know if what type of equipment you will need to make a rental car wheelchair-accessible. This includes understanding how use a lift and controls and find out whether it is manual or automatic. If you are getting the rental car for yourself, you most likely are familiar with accessible equipment. However someone renting a car for someone handicapped may not be familiar with it. Yu will need to know the equipment and terminology when it comes time to call rental car companies.

Do Your Research

Next it is time to find a rental car company offering accessible equipment and vehicles. It may be easier to start your search online as you can use different keywords that will get you fast results. If you know the names of companies nearby, try going to their website or calling them and finding out what wheelchair-accessible vehicles they currently have available. Be sure to get details about the cost and what equipment is included in the vehicle. You may need to do extra research to get one that is affordable as many of them charge additional fees.

Confirm the Details

When it comes time to reserve the rental car, van, or SUV, be sure you confirm the details with the customer service representative. If making the reservation by phone, make sure they confirm the fact that you are renting a wheelchair-accessible vehicle with the type of lift you need. Make sure you have other details correct including the exact location, date and time. This is especially important when you need a special type of vehicle as not all locations will have what you need. Ask if you need a driver’s license to rent a car. Most rental car companies require a valid driver’s license but if you are disabled and plan to be a passenger but are the one renting the vehicle, they might not require a driver’s license but other type of photo ID instead.

Long-Distance Handicap Transportation

If you are handicapped and need to take a long trip, it can be difficult finding appropriate transportation. However, you do have some options when it comes time to get long-distance handicap transportation. This may be due to any number of reasons, but most people needed transportation long distance when not by airplane, will be for medical reasons. Continue reading for more insight into long-distance handicap transportation.

Medical Long-Distance Transportation

Some people may need medical transportation for physical or mental handicaps. This may include needing a ride to and from a private residence, assisted living facility, nursing home, health care facility, hospital, or cancer treatment center. You can find many different transportation companies offer the ability to get transportation for wheelchair-bound passengers. They are usually low in cost or covered by common health insurance companies which make it much less than paying a taxi or finding someone with a wheelchair-accessible van.

Bus Long-Distance Transportation

A more cost effective way to get long-distance transportation as a wheelchair bound individual is by bus. If you need to go on a trip but aren’t interested in flying or taking the train, you could always take a bus such as a Greyhound. They are much less expensive than airplanes and even trains, and most of them have several handicap spaces in the front. When reserving the bus ticket, be sure the bus you plan to take will have space for your wheelchair and any other equipment you have.

Train Long-Distance Transportation

Lastly, you can take the train as long-distance transportation. Trains are much more comfortable than buses or other types of transportation but are still less than airplanes. You also get the added benefit of a more scenic route when taking a train, though it will cost a little more than if you took a public or greyhound bus. Call ahead, as with other types of transportation, so that you can be sure they not only have wheelchair-accessible trains, but also that there is sufficient spade. Since you might be on the train for a long period of time, you should find out what other accommodations they have, such as sufficient space for going to the restroom, dining hall, or other areas of the train. You might need to arrive earlier than other passengers as they might want you to board the train early and get you situated before other passengers.

Airplane and Shuttle Handicap Transportation

Being handicap and having to take a trip can be worrisome when it comes to transportation. While in your own town, you may have a wheelchair-accessible vehicle or access to public transportation, it can be more difficult when it comes time to travel. It is best you do your research before taking any sort of trip to find out what airline has handicap accessibility and if the shuttle taking you to and from the airport accepts wheelchairs.

Traveling by Airplane

It is important to note your rights as a disabled passenger. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Federal Airline Administration (FAA), and Air Carrier Act (ACA) all have requirements of airlines in regards to employees and passengers who have disabilities. One requirement is that all airplanes with 100 or more seats require space for at least one manual wheelchair on the plane. However only one seat might be available on your airplane, so you should always call ahead of time to make the right preparations. Some reservation representatives ask you ahead of time if you need special accommodations and will inform you right away if a seat is available for you. Preparing ahead of time is key when you need to travel by airplane as a handicapped passenger. You will also need to arrive earlier than other passengers. Not only does it take longer to access your terminal, check in and receive your boarding pass, but you will be the first to board the time. Try not to get connecting flights because as the last passenger to exit the plane, you might not have sufficient time to get off one plane and onto the next. You may also be carrying extra luggage if you need medical supplies or special equipment, so prepare for the extra time to check in luggage and extra fees.

Traveling by Shuttle

When you are in need of a shuttle to get to or from the airport, you should also plan ahead of time. Like airplanes, some shuttles only have space for one or two handicapped passengers. This means even fi the shuttle is wheelchair-accessible, there might not be room if you aren’t the only wheelchair-bound passenger on the shuttle. The last thing you want to do is miss your flight because the shuttle you booked didn’t have enough room for you. Always double-check availability when scheduling the shuttle and call ahead of time just to be sure there is plenty of room.

Handicap-Accessible Vans

If you or a family member is currently in a wheelchair, you might need special accommodations when it comes to personal transportation. You have two main options for handicap-accessible vans; converting your own van into one with a wheelchair lift or buying a wheelchair-accessible van already with the lift and controls included. The cost is often what decides between one or the other, as well as the space you have in your personal van and whether or not a built can be included. Some companies selling a wheelchair-accessible van will provide you with more benefits to choosing a new vehicle, while some companies don’t charge as much for van conversions and this ends up being a better option for you. Shop around when looking for a handicap-accessible van until you’re sure you have made the right choice. You don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a van that isn’t working for your family.

Entry Options

Handicap-accessible vans may have different ways for you and your wheelchair to enter the van, including side-entry and rear-entry. Depending on the type of van and your needs, you may prefer one or the other. Rear-entry handicap-accessible vans have their benefits, as if you are parked close to another car in a parking lot, you can still easily enter or exit the van without waiting for another car to move. However side-entry vans are also helpful as there tend to be more lift possibilities. It might help to try a van with each entry option to find out which you prefer.


Handicap-accessible vans will also have a variety of lifts for your wheelchair. Some vans come with the lifts already in place while others may need to be special orders. The two main lifts include scooter lifts and wheelchair lifts. Some companies will be able to modify a traditional van to turn it into a wheelchair-accessible van while others are already included with the handicap-accessible van. You can find under-vehicle lifts, high and low lifts, depending on your needs and preference.

Hand and Driving Control

Another benefit to having a wheelchair-accessible van is that you have premier hand and driving controls. Most models, including older ones, will make it easy for you to get in and out of the van with the controls. The newer the van, the more advanced these controls are going to be. You can either get mechanical or electronic controls for your handicap-accessible van.

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