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Accessible Transportation: Options and Challenges For Disabled Individuals

Hunter Kelch on accessible transportation

Ready to ride!

Wheelchair users face the challenge of finding accessible transportation on a daily basis. Lack of accessible transportation can create many hardships, such as isolation and lack of opportunity. Recently, I have had to face this challenge.

As many of my readers know, the wheelchair lift in my van became unsafe for use in February 2017.  At times I felt like I was under house arrest!  It was hard to encourage others to come roll with me without a set of wheels.  However, the hardships opened doors to other options of accessible transportation.  Sadly, I found that each of these options had it’s own set of challenges and limitations.


Public Transportation

Disabled individuals in my hometown have the option of using the Metro Ride.  Metro Ride has equipped all of the buses with ramps to provide accessibility for all riders. Seniors and disabled riders can purchase monthly passes for only $19/mo.  This is an inexpensive option for accessible transportation.

Disabled individuals will find scheduling limitations when using the Metro Ride. The buses only run during the weekdays, with the routes ending at 6:30 pm. Additionally, the Metro Ride buses do not operate on holidays.  Most community events and activities occur in the evenings or on the weekends. As a result, individuals who rely on public transportation miss out on these opportunities.

Paratransit Service

The bus service in my town also offers a paratransit service.  This smaller, accessible bus service provides origin to destination transportation.  This accessible service is a safer option for individuals with disabilities, especially in the winter months.  The cost is only $2.25 one way.  However, a caregiver rides for free.  Guests of the disabled rider also only pay $2.25 each way.

I found there are several limitations to the paratransit service.  Disabled individuals must go through an approval process which can take up to 21 days. However, my approval only took a week.  Disabled Riders must schedule the bus at least 24 hours before pick up.  The paratransit buses run on the same schedule as the regular city buses, so evenings and weekends are not an option.  Additionally, they must set a pick up time when scheduling. This can definitely limit a socializing experience.

Non-Emergency Medical Transportation

The State of Wisconsin provides free accessible transportation for medical appointments through Medicaid.  This is a valuable program and allows for travel outside of the state, as well.  I have used this program for my appointments in and out of town. Individuals with disabilities can schedule these rides by phone or on-line.

The limitations of this option for accessible transportation is scheduling.  Riders must schedule this service at least two days in advance.  They can schedule an open pick-up time though. Individuals with disabilities can use this service for medical related appointments only.

I remember going to Madison via this service.  We had to leave very early in the morning and did not get back until the evening. I was unable to stop for a meal, as food and drinks were not allowed in the van. It was a very long day!

Accessible Taxi Service

The final option available to me is an accessible taxi.

In my town, All American Taxi provides an accessible van taxi for disabled individuals.  Although they recommend scheduling ahead of time, you can call on the spur of the moment and cross your fingers.  The taxi service is available 7 days a week and around the clock.

There is a heavy price to pay for this service, however. Individuals with disabilities will need to cough up $36 for a 2.6 mile ride.  That does not even include the tip! Taking the All American Taxi to attend a Wisconsin Woodchucks game takes $72 out of my already tapped out wallet!  Adding in a tip, I would have to pay 1/10 of my monthly income to travel 5.2 miles!  This is really not a feasible option for individuals with disabilities living on a fixed income.

Mr Burek, Operations Manager for WATS

Personally, I am grateful for these challenges I have faced recently.  My path has crossed with some wonderful people. Through this struggle I have discovered other forms of accessible transportation.  I know that I am able to get to my appointments and other places within town. Additionally, this experience allowed me to rediscover Wausau.  My mom and I did a lot of walking around town and we plan on continuing to do that!

Peace statue in Wausau

Access to accessible transportation is a struggle for so many individuals with disabilities.  The past few months gave me a small taste of these difficulties.  Far too many individuals with disabilities do not have the options I do.

More attention needs to be placed on the isolation of those with limited transportation options.  While I am fortunate to live in a city with accessible buses, the schedule limitations prevent those with physical disabilities from participating in social activities. Disabilities should not hamper an individual from enjoying life, this goes for all areas, including transportation.  Accessible taxi companies should not take advantage of individuals with disabilities.  I understand that there is more cost involved in providing accessible transportation.  However, no one should ever have to pay $80 to go 5 miles.

I would like to end this blog on a positive note.  This past week another option opened up for me…drumroll please…I HAVE A NEW ACCESSIBLE VEHICLE!!!  To keep you in suspense, I will save that story for my next blog!

Until next time, Keep Rollin’ and Keep Smilin’!


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