Planes, trains and automobiles – your transport options

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There are many different modes of transport in the community that you can use, however, not all are accessible and some may only be accessible to people with a specific disability.

For example, a bus with a hydraulic platform may be accessible for a person that uses a wheelchair so that they can be lifted into the vehicle. But if that same bus doesn’t have an audio system that reads out stops and gives audio prompts, it may not be accessible to a person who is blind or needs to hear information to comprehend it.

Understanding what the options for transport are in your community will help you to get around more easily and better plan your travel.

This article also gives suggestions of contacts you can use to find out information about the transport in your community and whether it is accessible to you.

Public transport

Public buses, trains and trams are the most common forms of public transport. These transport options travel on a variety of routes in every city and some towns.

However, the transport availability and variety can differ the further you live outside of metropolitan areas.

As you approach the edges of a city, it is likely only public buses and some trains will be available for regional and rural travel.

Buses, trains and trams should be accessible to people with disability and follow the Federal Government’s Transport Standards.

All three options offer accessible transport in similar ways. These include wide doors, entryways that are level with platforms for easy access, ramps instead of stairs into seated sections of buses or trains, and dedicated spaces for wheelchairs.

For people with limited audio and visual capabilities, public transport can present some challenges.

Bus stations, tram stops, and train platforms are also fitted with tactile paving if you have a vision impairment, and some transport utilises hearing augmentation if you have a hearing impairment.

People with a cognitive disability may also need additional travel supports to aid in perception, comprehension, learning, memory and concentration while using public transport.

You may be able to have support workers funded in a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) plan to help you learn how to use public transport, for example, to travel to work or study.

Private transport

If you can’t use public transport, there are a few other ways to travel around your community, although these may not be available in more regional or remote areas.

You may be able to receive transport funding in your NDIS plan to get around your community if you are unable to access public transport.

In areas where there are less frequent buses and trains or fewer stops to choose from, taxis may be your best choice.

Taxis are a private and comfortable transport method for people who can’t easily access public transport. Often taxis will be able to drive you directly to a location, which may be helpful for you if public transport doesn’t stop close enough to your destination.

Taxi drivers can help you enter and exit the vehicle if you need assistance and have digital technology that shows where you are going as well as how much it will cost.

You may be eligible for subsidised taxi fares through State or Territory based initiatives, or other Government departments such as education.

Wheelchair accessible vehicles are purpose-built vehicles complete with ramps or hydraulic lifts used to move passengers with wheelchairs or scooters safely into the taxi.

You will likely need to book a wheelchair accessible taxi as there are not as many of them as regular taxis and they are in high demand. The booking might also need to be done days in advance, so this option may not always be available when you need it or for spur-of-the-moment trips.

Rideshare companies are also available through apps on your mobile phone to book a vehicle. This system may work better for you if you are unsure of how to get a taxi or have a hearing impairment that would make it difficult for you to call a taxi line.

Some of these rideshare companies also provide special assistance for people with disability. For example, Uber provides ‘assist’ rides for people with disability, which is delivered by experienced drivers.

Modifications can be made to a personal vehicle you own to allow you to drive or to allow you to travel comfortably as a passenger.

You may be able to get NDIS funding to make these modifications, although there are rules around the types of vehicles that can be modified. Talk to your planner or support coordinator to find out your options.

If you are driving but need to park close to your destination because you use a mobility device or can’t walk far, you may be eligible for a disability parking permit.

To get a disability parking permit you must fill out an application form and ask a medical practitioner to complete and sign the relevant sections. The form then needs to be submitted either to your local council or a State/Territory Government body, depending on where you live.

You can read about the details of this process and eligibility criteria in our guide to disability parking permits.

Community or provider transport

Community buses are another great option for people with disability. They are run through councils and community centres with the help of friendly volunteers and some of their vehicles may be wheelchair accessible.

Community buses may be used for programs that you take part in or outings organised by community centres.

Call your local council to find out about community transport in your area.

If you have NDIS-funded programs or supports that are done in a location in the community your provider may also provide you with transport, either individually or on a bus with others in your program.

For example, if you attend a day program your provider might pick you up from home and take you to the site, then drop you home at the end of the day.

Ask your provider what they offer in terms of transport and how this can be included in your NDIS plan.

Long distance travel

For long distance travel, particularly for holidays or work trips to interstate or overseas locations, planes and boats are usually the most comfortable options.

Planes and ferries are required to offer accessible travel options and, in most cases, these should work for you because the Transport Standards still apply.

However, as planes and ferries are usually run by private companies the accessibility options may differ between providers.

Before you book a ticket it is a good idea to read up on the company’s commitment to accessibility.

Find out as much detail as you can about the physical accessibility of the plane or boat and the support that the provider offers through staff.

If you can’t find any information online, call the company directly and ask whether they can support your needs to travel.

You can also read reviews of the provider online to see what the experiences of others have been.

Keep accessibility in mind when you are making your booking as there may be sections of your booking to fill out differently, for example, to ask for assistance to get from the airport entrance onto the plane.

You could also consider hiring an accessible vehicle to travel to your destination, or taking your own modified vehicle, but even with modifications cars and vans, it can become uncomfortable when travelling long distances.

Plan to take regular stops to get out of the vehicle and move around if you are travelling more than two hours in a vehicle to prevent feeling too uncomfortable.

Related content:

Learning to drive with disability
Your questions about transport funding answered
Vehicle modification ideas to fuel your independence