During the last few semesters of college, my disability and chronic illness made it difficult for me to walk to classes on my own. Even with the use of guides and mobility aids, I would often show up to class exhausted, since I had used up all my energy for class on the walk over from my dorm. One of the things that helped tremendously with helping me get to class on time and ready to learn was the disability transportation services offered by my college, so today I’ll be sharing my tips on using disability transportation services in college and how to set up transportation services for classes.
What are disability transportation services?
Disability transportation services allow for students and staff with documented short term or long-term disabilities to have access to door-to-door transportation between their dorm and other buildings on campus as needed. The exact method of transportation varies between colleges- my college uses golf carts driven by student employees.
Each college calls their disability transportation services by a slightly different name, though these services are typically provided through Disability Services and/or the parking and transportation department. Some search terms you can use to find the service for your specific college include the name of the college and one of the following terms:
- Handicap transportation
- Physical access
- Door-to-door transport
- Disability transportation services
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Who can use disability transportation services?
Each college has slightly different requirements for those who can use disability transportation services, but most programs allow students and faculty who meet the following criteria and have supporting documentation:
- Short-term injuries such as a broken leg
- People who use mobility aids such as crutches or a wheelchair
- People with vision loss, inclusive of blind and low vision
- People with medical conditions that make walking difficult
- People who have a disability/handicap parking decal through the Department of Motor Vehicles are often automatically approved with no additional documentation needed
Disability Services files can sometimes be used as documentation to demonstrate the need for disability transportation services, though most forms will require a doctor’s note or similar documentation. In many cases, the same doctor’s note that is used to certify accommodations for Disability Services can be used for getting disability transportation services.
Do students with vision loss need to have a blindness cane to qualify?
Most blind or low vision students who use disability transportation services use either a blindness cane or a guide dog/service animal to navigate their college campus, though there is no requirement for students to use either of these mobility aids as long as they have supporting documentation to qualify for these services. Students are permitted to have their mobility aids with them while using disability transportation services, and guide dogs/service animals are allowed as well.
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How to start receiving services
In order to start receiving disability transportation services, students/faculty will need to do the following:
- Fill out a form with the transportation office at their university or with the disability services office. Some forms can be filled out online and can be submitted prior to the start of the semester
- Attach appropriate documentation to the form. This can be a doctor’s note or scan of handicap parking permit (which is what I used)
- From there, a phone or in-person interview is needed before receiving services so that users can learn how to request rides and become familiar with the service
- After the interview, students will receive a notification if their application was approved or denied. I received approval on the same day as my interview, though the approval process may take up to a week
- Students may need to re-apply for disability transportation services every semester or year, depending on the nature of their disability and college policies
Requesting a ride
There are two different options for requesting disability transportation services in college:
Option 1- Standing Schedule
Users provide disability transportation services with a copy of their schedule and have a standing appointment to get from point A to point B at a certain time each day/week. In this case, I would request a pickup at 12 PM at my dorm (point A) to get to the engineering building (point B) by 12:15 PM for my class. Once the class gets out at 2:45, disability transportation services will pick me up from the engineering building and bring me to the dining hall by 3 PM.
It’s worth noting that students do not have to request disability transportation services for all of their classes if they don’t want to- for example, it might not make sense for me personally to request a ride to a class that is two buildings away from my dorm.
Option 2- Rides On-Demand (sort of)
For users that prefer to request rides as they need them, or for non-recurring meetings or events, they can contact disability transportation services 24-72 hours in advance to schedule a ride from Point A to Point B. Users will typically receive a text once their ride has arrived or when they are on their way.
Users who need to schedule a ride less than 24 hours in advance can contact disability transportation services to see what options are available- priority scheduling is typically given to those with a disability/handicap parking decal through the Department of Motor Vehicles
Other tips for using college disability transportation services
- Check the hours of the disability transportation services, as they often only run during certain times. Plan out schedules with these hours in mind if you rely on them for class
- Disability transportation services may not be available in severe weather (i.e storms or snow). Have a backup plan to get to class or talk to professors about attending remotely if you are unable to get to class.
- Disability transportation services are not the same as ridesharing services where users can get a ride with a few minutes notice. Schedule rides in advance as much as possible
- Some services will only take users to academic buildings, so they will still need to walk or use mobility aids to get to the dining hall or other non-academic places on campus
- If you need accessible transport to off-campus locations, look at disability transportation services for the city/county your college is in or check out ridesharing apps.