Getting from A to B with a disability, what transport options are available near you and how to choose the ones that work best for you
When you have a disability, travelling can be a little bit more of a challenge to organise and find. No one understands this struggle more than those who live with a disability and those who dedicate their lives to supporting them. Here at ConnectAbility we strive to help our clients be the best, most independent individuals they can be. Specialising in disability care is an immense source of pride to our organisation and the amazing staff who work here. Freedom of travel and movement is a privilege enjoyed by the physically able that is often taken for granted, and finding the right kind of transport when you have a disability can be a real hassle.
Our comprehensive guide to local disabled transport options aims to take the headache out of getting around and make planning an outing, no matter the type, a much easier task.
Private travel options for disabled persons
Some types of outings are predictable and can be planned for easily, affecting the type of transport we might use. But for spontaneous decisions to go somewhere, travelling with a disability can be harder. Luckily, there are a great range of options to consider when you get a hankering to visit a friend or pick up some movie snacks!
For individual travel, taxi services, hire cars, and some ridesharing services where available can be the most private and flexible in getting to your chosen destination. These services offer you the ability to go directly from point A, to point B without needing to make other stops along the way. The availability of these services depends on the availability of special vehicles, and there can sometimes be a wait time involved, but they are still the most flexible form of travel. You also do not need to accommodate the needs of others in terms of travel patterns and timing – you can travel when and where it suits you!
Community and shared travel options for people with a disability
Depending on where you live, and the types of services available in the area, there are a number of community-run services that may be available to help you get around when you need it.
Quite often these community buses and shuttles are provided by health and welfare providers, but they can also sometimes be provided by clubs, pubs, tourist attractions and leisure activity providers – it’s always a great idea to ring the venue and check before paying for a taxi!
ConnectAbility offers it’s eligible clients access to shuttle and car services to make sure you can get not only your household chores done, but also get you to social and self-care appointments.
Public transport options for disabled persons
Public transport can be a great option for planned trips, because they operate on a predictable schedule and timetable. They are also generally well equipped to cater for those with a disability, and their drivers are experienced in helping to get you on and off the vehicles and safely to your destination. The availability of convenient seating and accommodations for those with a disability on public transport has been long acknowledged by the wider community, and access to the right seats and services is generally hassle-free.
The types of public transport that may be available to you depending on your location would include buses, trains and trams. These services provide their schedules, timetables and costs freely online and can be contacted by phone to field specific requests and queries. This makes planning predictable and recurring trips easy!
Using public transport wherever possible is also a potential cost saver, with governments offering concession travel costs to those with a disability and their carers. The Department of Transport NSW has a great website that is easily navigated, and is the best first stop in planning public transport use.
Transport options for disability in our local areas
While we have outlined a number of options that may be available depending on needs and availability – it all depends on your location!
Different areas have varying levels of public transport infrastructure, as well as different community bus and shuttle options. For that reason, listing them in their available locations is a much better snap shot of how you can get yourself where you need to be today.
If you are a carer helping to plan travel with or for a person with disability, the NSW Government provides some great guides and advice on maximising your entitlements and planning well.
Disabled transport in Newcastle, NSW
Newcastle has a well established public transport network that includes buses, trains, ferries and trams in the inner city. It also has a large array of community programs and service providers that offer shuttle and bus services for those with a disability and the elderly. As the largest city in our local area, Newcastle is an important centre for medical and support services. Getting around in Newcastle, as well as getting there from outlying regions is incredibly important for the care and wellbeing of individuals living with disabilities. Aside from healthcare and support services, Newcastle also boasts many more leisure, sports and recreational activities that have disabled access, and accessible programs with Newcastle City Council putting a focus on enabling a more inclusive community. The following is a current list of some of the service providers, both private and public, that help assist those with a disability in travelling.
- Public transport, including trains, buses, ferries and light rail (trams)
- ConnectAbility shuttle and car services
- Mercy Services community shuttle and bus services
- Calvary transport services
- Hunter Multicultural Communities bus services
- Newcastle Taxi Service
- UberWav Service Newcastle
- Adairs Bus & Van services
- Newcastle Limo services
- JC Limousines services
- TransCare Services
Disabled transport in Maitland & Hunter Valley
Maitland residents have a number of options to choose from when wanting to travel, and Maitland has a great public train and bus services available. This is complemented by community bus and shuttle services, taxi services and private operators. Maitland is located between the Upper Hunter region and Newcastle, making it’s transport options exceptionally important as connecting services between regional areas and the city of Newcastle where many important healthcare services are. Some of the transport options available to people with disabilities in the Maitland region include:
- Public transport, including trains and buses
- ConnectAbility shuttle and car services
- Maitland Community Care Services
- Lower Hunter Transport Services
- Ourcare Services
- Maitland Taxi Services
- Taxico Services
- Diggers Maitland Taxi services
- TransCare Services
Disabled transport in Lake Macquarie
The area of Lake Macquarie is vast and partially separated by the Lake itself, making transport throughout the area a little more of a challenge than some other regions.
While Lake Macquarie is partially serviced by a train line running through it on the Central Coast & Newcastle line, bus systems do most of the heavy lifting where public transport is concerned in these areas. For that reason, being connected to some community transport providers and adhering to a stricter travel plan is a necessity for those with a disability needing to travel in these areas regularly. Some of the transport options available in Lake Macquarie include:
- Public transport, including buses and trains
- Lake Macquarie Wheelchair Taxi Service
- Mercy Services community shuttle and bus services
- ConnectAbility shuttle and car services
- Lake Macquarie ‘On Demand’ bus services
- Newcastle Taxi Services
Travelling safely with a disability
If you are travelling alone and you have a disability, there are some extra precautions you should take to make sure you will be safe along the way. Just like anyone else, delays in transport, sudden cancellations in routes and booking mix-ups can be a real hassle, but when you have a disability these occurrences can have a greater impact on your day. While the physically able may be able to wait long periods or make quick alternative arrangements, this is often not the case for those with disabilities who must adhere to tighter time schedules and have less choice in spontaneous travel.
The following points help consider some basic but extremely important things to remember while travelling and contain links where appropriate to extra resources. When you are travelling alone or with a career, you should always:
Let someone know you’re travelling
Whether you have decided to travel on your own, or you have someone like a carer or friend along for the ride – always let someone else know that you’re travelling. It’s incredibly important for your safety that someone knows that you are in a potentially risky situation and will notice if you don’t come home in time. This is true for anyone, regardless of their ability status and there are a myriad of personal safety apps available to utilise that can help automate the process a little. Another option is making sure to share your regular transport schedule with trusted support people, so that you only need to let people know about unplanned or spontaneous trips!
Make a transport Schedule and carry it with you
Everyone who relies on the services of a transport company should have a Transport Schedule or travel plan written down, very similar to that of a monthly calendar. This is not only so that you are able to coordinate your own travel much more easily, but also so that you can share this plan with your support networks. Your Transport Schedule should include other details, such as alternative travel options if a regular one is unavailable, as well as your emergency contact information and important medical details.
Making a Transport Schedule can be challenging when you first start out – but don’t give up! Having one is totally worth the effort, and once it’s set up you will only need to make minor adjustments.
A Transport Schedule will likely look like a normal monthly calendar, with all the dates, times and modes of transport listed. This calendar could be a physical hardcopy that you carry, or a digital one on your phone or tablet depending on your preference. Having all these things listed on your Transport Schedule will help you remember where you need to be on which days, but it’ll also be great for remembering small details such as bus route numbers, train lines and important phone numbers. You can get as detailed as you like with a Transport Schedule, putting in things like which platform you need to get to, the names of workers who you’re familiar with and if there are lifts available – whatever information helps you the most!
Your Transport Schedule should include emergency contact information, in the event that you find yourself stranded or in trouble. You will then be able to show your Transport Schedule to someone (transport worker, or anyone else around) and have them get in contact with this nominated person, in the event that you are unable to. If you have been involved in an accident, having your Transport Schedule on you can help emergency services not only contact your nominated person, but have extra information on your travel that might be helpful to them – such as where or how an injury might have occurred.
Important Medical information
Just like your emergency contact information listed on your Transport Schedule, listing important medical information is also a good idea. While certainly not compulsory, having basic things like heart or lung conditions, regular medications and allergies could help save your life in the event of an emergency.
Alternative travel plan & services
For every important travel event listed on your Transport Schedule, you should always have a ‘Plan B’ listed alongside it. Where life can go wrong, it often does. Having a back up plan can mean you don’t get stranded somewhere potentially for hours, miss important appointments or spend lots of extra money that you weren’t budgeting for. It also means you are putting yourself at less physical risk, and can get on with what you had planned for your day – don’t let an unexpected event ruin your day!
With transport, it is not uncommon for the vehicles to occasionally break down, or for routes to be undergoing road or trackwork’s. These sorts of things can interrupt services, and while transport companies are exceptionally good at providing alternatives – it’s always great to have your own plan. Back up plans might include alternative routes, calling your community transport providers and asking for assistance, or having a few trusted friends and family that may be able to come and get you.
Know your disability transport rights and costs
Disability access and rights
When you’re travelling using public transport or using private services, it’s always important to be aware of your rights. These rights might include things such as access to seats in a certain location, reasonable and expected treatment of your person by operators and other passengers, or access to handrails and lifts.
Information about these rights can be found in the paper Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (latest version) which is currently undergoing it’s third review, due to be submitted to the Attorney General in 2020. You can also have a look at the National Disability Strategy 2010-2020 commissioned by the Department of Social Services, to see where policy and action is headed. Transport NSW has its own Disability Inclusion Action Plan 2018-2022 that is worth reviewing for extra information.
Travel costs and savings
The costs, schemes and subsidies available to those travelling with a disability can be hard to track down, but Transport NSW does very well at collecting them here in one place, laying out accessible travel information and costs and the NDIS does a great job of laying out how much funding you can use for transport services as well. Carer Gateway also lays out the schemes and concessions you could use, along with information on disability parking availability and costs.
When using private services, it is always a good idea to confirm the rates that will be charged before travelling and get a quote in writing where possible. Even when using private services, some of these will accept vouchers or other forms of payment made by your care providers or social security agencies – so don’t forget to check this when booking!
Car or vehicle modifications for disabled persons
It’s possible to explore the option of having a vehicle modified in order to have yourself or a carer operate it. You may have a level of functioning that allows you to operate the vehicle yourself with some modifications, or perhaps you’re a carer looking to accommodate special needs, or make the vehicle wheelchair accessible. NDIS funding may cover parts or all of this process, and information on this can be found here.
There are a number of operators who are licensed to carry out vehicle modifications to the necessary standards and this guide by the NRMA also has some great points to consider when thinking about modifying your vehicle. ConnectAbility already has a list of trusted mobility and aid suppliers, but here we have compiled a list of some installers closest to our region that could make the needed modifications to your vehicle:
- Total Ability
- Epps Engineering & Vehicle Solutions
- Asquith Mobility Solutions
- Adaptacar Bathurst
- Freedom Motors Sydney
- Gilani Engineering
- Safe Travel Solutions
How ConnectAbility can help with your disability transport needs
The amazing staff at ConnectAbility devote their lives to helping and supporting disabled, aged and vulnerable members of our community. They do this not only by providing concrete services to their clients, but also by providing support services that help individuals to create and have power over their own plans.
If you’re the recipient of the NDIS, you will have some access – depending on your level of funding – to a Support Coordinator. A Support Coordinator is a person whose entire job is to coordinate the services in your life, make you more independent and better able to plan the details of your life on your own where possible. They can help you and/or your carer develop a Transport Schedule that works and will check in with you periodically to see if it needs changing or updating as transport services change. They can also help you navigate funding costs for travel and vehicle modifications where appropriate.
ConnectAbility remains committed to providing outstanding service to our clients and will always be here to answer any questions you may have regarding information contained within this article, or on any other topic. Please don’t hesitate to contact us today!