Most people don't give it a second thought. Getting around the city via public transportation is no big deal, right? Or is it?
Thousands of Southern Californians with disabilities face the often times overlooked challenge of riding a city bus. For many, boarding the vehicle or even getting to a designated bus stop requires great will and determination.
When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990, the new law required the implementation of a paratransit service for individuals whose disabilities prevent them from using traditional public transportation systems. So in March 1994, Access Services Incorporated was born.
"We have 70,000 registered riders and make about 7,000 rides a day," said Alan Cantrell, executive director of Access Services, a federally funded and operated curb-to-curb transit system developed to serve the transportation needs of people with disabilities in Los Angeles County.
Most individuals who cannot board, ride or get off a regular public bus due to a disability are eligible for this service, said Cantrell.
According to the Access Services website, their primary goal is to provide "paratransit services for people with disabilities who are unable to use public fixed route transportation systems and to coordinate various paratransit operators within Los Angeles County to provide efficient and cost effective paratransit services."
A one-way trip can cost between $1.80 and $2.70 depending on the distance traveled. Because Access Services is a shared ride service, riders should allow plenty of time to reach his or her destination. Passengers are often picked up or dropped off while others are on board.
Se Habla Español
Not only does Access Services offer door-to-door transportation for people with disabilities, but also relies on a bilingual staff to assist Spanish-speaking riders. "At each call-taker site there are bilingual people, and also at pick-up sites there are people there to help," Cantrell explained.
Applying for Access Services
Only registered riders may use the Access Services transportation system.
That person must apply for certification and once the requested information is received, Access Services arranges an interview with a medical evaluator who determines if the applicant is eligible.
Once approved, riders must make a reservation for pick up 24 hours before the scheduled trip, and because Access Services doesn't prioritize trips, riders can use the service for shopping, medical appointments, visiting family or for any other reason.
"It's one of the few examples that I'm aware of where you can travel 30 or 40 miles without having to transfer," Cantrell pointed out, which for individuals with disabilities is important since it makes getting around that much easier and safer.
With a fleet of small buses and mini-vans, Access Services operates 7 days a week in most parts of Los Angeles County.
To receive an application call 1-800-827-0829.
More information about Access Services can be found online at http://www.asila.org.