Guest Author - Dean Ingalls
The loss or decline of vision introduces the issue of limited transportation and travel. The loss of vision makes getting around difficult. Sighted people simply get into a vehicle and drive to their destination or use a form of public transportation such as a bus. Visually impaired individuals need to learn how to use public transportation or depend on family or friends for travel. Here are some different methods of travel I have discovered over the years as a visually impaired traveler:
1. Family and Friends:
Family members and friends at first are happy to assist a visually impaired family member but soon realize the job of transporting a visually impaired family member is very demanding and not always simple. In addition, the visually impaired person discovers that Depending on just family and friends for travel limits and restricts the places and times of travel. In addition, you spend a lot of time waiting for a ride. Although, family and friends are willing to help, the visually impaired person should investigate new methods of travel and not depend on family and friends alone.
2. Public Transportation (Buses):
Bus transportation is available in most populated areas. Small towns or rural areas limit the visually impaired because of the lack of a mass transit program. Transportation and travel issues sometimes force the visually disabled to relocate to an area that provides public transportation. Learning to use the public transportation system is one of the skills taught in the training center I attended. Most buses have an area in the front of each bus reserved for people with disabilities or mobility issues. Illinois buses have the reserved area but I discovered that the responsibility for getting off at the correct stop is up to the disabled person. A visually impaired person can obtain help from other passengers or talking and reminding the driver you need help. Bus travel in Urbana, Illinois is one of the best compared to other places I have lived. Illinois provides a program called “
DASH” that allows the elderly/disabled to ride the public buses free of charge if the person completes an application and obtains a “DASH” card.
3. Mass Transit Vans:
Some cities provide vans designated for transporting disabled individuals. The vans carry all forms of disabled or handicapped individuals to a variety of locations or appointments. Completing an application and qualifying for the program is necessary. Once qualified an individual can use the vans to schedule transportation to such places as a job, the grocery store, dinner meetings, and doctor visits or pick up of prescriptions/medicine.
4. Taxi cab program:
Illinois offers a program for the disabled that provides a grant of three hundred dollars, which can be used to pay fifty percent of the cost of a cab ride in each direction. Completion of an application is necessary to qualify for the program. A short form describing the trip must be filled out by both the passenger and driver for each cab ride.
5. Medical Transportation:
All disabled individuals qualifying for Medicare/Medicate are allowed the use of transportation companies for medical appointments. In Illinois, a company called First Transit works with the Medicare transportation program. The company provides transportation and files a claim to the Medicare program for payment.
Transportation for out of town trips:
1. Greyhound Bus:
During my training program for the blind, I was taught how to organize and plan out of town trips using different forms of transportation. My first trip involved the use of a Greyhound bus. Greyhound provides an area for individuals with special needs usually the seats on the first row on either side of the isle. When planning and purchasing the bus ticket a disabled individual needs only to inform the driver of the situation to receive assistance boarding the bus. I enjoy using Greyhound for out of town trips.
2. Amtrak train:
I used Amtrak as a transportation source to travel from Urbana/Champaign, Illinois to Chicago, Illinois on several occasions. The process of obtaining the ticket using the Internet was simple. The employees at the ticket office provided assistance as well as the employees on the train. Assistance was provided during the entire trip including assistance for a cab to my destination in Chicago. I would recommend using Amtrak as a source of travel for all including individuals with special needs.
3. Air Travel:
I have traveled by plane only a few times due to the cost but each trip was completed with only minor difficulties. The most inconvenient part of flying is delays in takeoff time, landing times and layovers between flights.
Although, transportation is a major issue for the visually disabled an individual can with some research, time and effort locate a variety of opportunities for travel without always depending on family and friends.