Transportation - Where's My Ride

A big part of gaining independence is transportation, or how you get to the places you need and want to go. People with disabilities have many transportation choices such as getting a driver's license, public transportation, and private services. The right option depends on your desires and abilities.

Driver's Education/License

People with disabilities who are interested in driving can sign up for driver's education classes (both written and behind the wheel) to get a driver's license. Many accommodations can be made to teaching vehicles depending on the nature of a person’s disability:
  • Physical Disability – Driver’s education varies from state to state, but youth with a disabilities who are in high school may be able to sign up for the classroom part of driver's education as they would for any other high school course. Contact the school counselor or the school district before registering for the class to find out if an adapted vehicle is needed and available for the student. Extra time may be needed for the instructor to teach the student adaptive driving.
  • Cognitive/Learning/Developmental Disability – For a young adult with this type of disability, contact a private driving school. You can find these listed online.
State driver's license agencies may provide more information about options for getting a driver's license.
Local organizations may be able to provide adaptive driving equipment. See Assistive Technology Equipment (see NM providers [512]) services providers in our database.

Adapted Motor Vehicles

New technology gives many people with disabilities the chance to drive or be transported in their own vehicles with adaptive devices.
Some examples are:
  • Wheelchair lifts and ramps
  • Hand controls
  • Modified seating
  • Steering aids
A driving rehabilitation specialist can tell you if it is possible to successfully adapt your vehicle. To find a specialist in your area, go to The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists.
A qualified vehicle modification dealer installs the devices suggested for your car. This dealer is not the same as the dealer that sold you your vehicle. For the Consumer Guide to purchasing wheelchair accessible vehicles and equipment from the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association, go to National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA).
For more information on adapting motor vehicles and how to pay for it, go to Adapting Motor Vehicles for People with Disabilities.

Public Transportation

Transportation services allow people with disabilities to live independently within their communities by providing accessible public options. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that new public buses and rail vehicles (such as subway cars and light rail trains) be accessible to people in wheelchairs. Many new fixed route buses have wheelchair lifts or ramps. Buses must also have at least two seating spaces inside for securing wheelchairs. People who are able to use the fixed route bus service should use this option whenever possible.
For people who cannot use fixed route bus services, many city transit agencies provide what is known as "paratransit" for eligible travelers. Paratransit services typically use vans or mini-buses equipped with wheelchair lifts or ramps. These vehicles usually do not follow fixed schedules, but instead allow you to call and schedule a pick-up wherever you are. Disability alone does not determine paratransit eligibility; the decision is based on the applicant's functional ability to use a fixed route bus. Establishing eligibility requires an application that describes the passenger's disability and explains why she is not able to use regular transit, along with the signature of a health care professional.
In some cases, use of the specialized transportation services may limit you from using other public transportation services with funding from Medicaid. Check with your Medicaid eligibility worker to find out if Medicaid will pay for both services. Medicaid may have a contract with a designated service.

Non-Emergency Medical Transportation

Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) allows patients who are not able to travel on their own due to medical conditions to travel safely for local trips or long distances. NEMT can be provided by ground or air, depending on the patient's needs. Sometimes, patients who are stable but not able to travel by conventional means are required to use non-emergency medical transportation due to oxygen requirements, mobility issues, or for ease and comfort.
For a directory of NEMT providers in your state, go to Access Travel Center.

Non-Emergency Medical Transportation for Medicaid Beneficiaries

States are required to make NEMT available to Medicaid beneficiaries to make sure they can access medically necessary services. Most states cover NEMT to enable Medicaid beneficiaries to get covered medical services from local providers and from hospitals and clinics outside their area. Some states have a prior approval process or may limit the number of trips allowed per month. Many states contract with local agencies to coordinate services.
For a summary of your state's Medicaid NEMT eligibility requirements and coverage, go to Medicaid Benefits: Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT).

Private Transportation

Many taxi companies provide accessible vehicles. Some taxi companies may require you to schedule rides in advance and may charge additional fees. Call your local taxi companies for more details.
Private companies may also provide accessible transportation services. See all Disability Related Transportation (see NM providers [176]) services providers in our database and see all Transportation, General (see NM providers [24]) services providers in our database.

Air Travel

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in air travel by requiring U.S. airlines and foreign airlines that provide flights to or from the United States to offer accessible facilities, accommodations, and other services to passengers with disabilities.
However, unlike most forms of transportation, many aspects of air travel are not covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 (ACAA) is a civil rights law that requires some accessibility for people with disabilities, but not the same level of access that is required on bus and rail services by the ADA. For example, under the ACAA, a person who uses a wheelchair or mobility device is required to transfer to an airplane seat instead of riding in their personal device. Also, while new safety videos shown on airplanes must be open-captioned, captions are not required on video entertainment during the flight.
The ADA and its Accessibility Guidelines do apply to airports and airport services. For a step by step guide to air travel with a disability, go to Flying with a Disability.
Airlines generally provide accommodations for people with disabilities, including transporting your wheelchair or providing wheelchair service in the airport. Before you buy a ticket, call the airlines and ask about their services, rules, and restrictions. When you buy a ticket, let the airline know what assistance you will need. Some airlines require you to make arrangements within the week before your flight. When you go through security screening at the airport, let the screener know if you will need assistance.
The US Department of Transportation provides information and hosts a Toll Free Hotline for air travelers with disabilities. Hotline Duty Officers provide general information about the rights of air travelers with disabilities. For information about the rights of persons with disabilities in air travel, or for help in resolving disability-related air travel problems, visit the web site at http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/hotline.htm, or call the Hotline at: 1-800-778-4838.

Resources

Information & Support

For Parents and Patients

Wheelchair Accessible Hotels
Searchable listing of wheelchair accessible hotels worldwide. Online services only.

Services for Patients & Families in New Mexico (NM)

For services not listed above, browse our Services categories or search our database.

* number of provider listings may vary by how states categorize services, whether providers are listed by organization or individual, how services are organized in the state, and other factors; Nationwide (NW) providers are generally limited to web-based services, provider locator services, and organizations that serve children from across the nation.

Authors & Reviewers

Initial publication: December 2005; last update/revision: July 2020
Current Authors and Reviewers:
Contributing Authors: Gina Pola-Money
Alfred N. Romeo, RN, PhD
Reviewer: Tina Persels
Funding: Thank you to the Utah Medical Home Young Adult Advisory Committee for reviewing this section.
Authoring history
2014: update: Tina PerselsCA; Shena McAuliffe, MFAR
2005: first version: Robin PrattCA; Barbara Ward, RN BSCA; Joyce DolcourtCA; Kristine FergusonCA; Teresa Such-Neibar, DOCA; Lynn Foxx PeaseCA; Helen PostCA; Roz WelchCA
AAuthor; CAContributing Author; SASenior Author; RReviewer