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March 18, 2022

Accessible Transportation for Seniors and People with Disabilities

by Korrea Johnston

goDCgo is here to support sustainable transportation needs for all DC commuters and residents, regardless of age, ability, or income. In addition to providing complimentary resources about the alternative travel options available in the District, we have information on affordable, easily-accessible programs that can break down transportation barriers and help those with special mobility needs get to/from their communities and around the city. From adaptive vehicles, to shared rides, to the Metro, there’s no limit to where you can go.

 

Dockless Scooters

You may already be familiar with Lime’s dockless bikes and scooters, but the company has also recently launched Lime Able — a FREE adaptive vehicle program designed for riders with unique ability needs. This is a great option if you are uncomfortable or unable to utilize regular electric bikes or scooters or require storage capabilities to carry vital medical equipment like a cane, braces, or oxygen tank. For a $5 refundable deposit, you can reserve a vehicle for up to 24 hours that will be delivered directly to your home or another location of your choosing. Reservation requests must be submitted online or through the Lime app at least 24 hours in advance of your desired delivery date.

 

Rideshare

Lyft is connecting communities by providing reliable transportation access that meets essential needs through its LyftUp initiative. If eligible, you could receive FREE and/or discounted rides to job interviews and trainings for better opportunities, local grocery stores for healthy foods, shelter and community services for emergency relief, financial assistance appointments, and more. Mobility options vary by access program.

 

WMATA/Metro

All of Metro’s vehicles are accessible including Metrorail stations, rail cars, and Metrobuses. Metro stations have the following amenities:

  • Reserved parking spaces for vehicles with DMV/MVA handicapped permits or license plates.
  • Directional signage for wheelchair-accessible entrances and elevators.
  • Information on station pylons in Braille and raised alphabet.
  • Wheelchair-accessible fare vending machines with lower panels and an option for audio instructions.
  • Bumpy tiles to alert customers who are blind or have low vision that they are near the edge of the platform.
  • Extra-wide faregates for customers who use wheelchairs, scooters, and other mobility devices.

All rail cars have gap reducers for safer wheelchair access, barriers between rail cars so customers who are blind or have low vision do not mistake this space for entry/exit doors, priority seating for people with disabilities and senior citizens, and wheelchair-accessible emergency intercoms that include instructions in Braille and raised alphabet.

All buses in the Metro fleet have priority seating for senior citizens and people with disabilities, two wheelchair securement areas, and the ability to kneel or lower to make it easier to get on and off the bus. You can also request to use the lift or low floor ramp.  

MetroAccess Paratransit

MetroAccess is a shared, door-to-door, paratransit service for people whose disability prevents them from using the regular Metrobus or Metrorail. Rides are offered for any trip within three-quarter (3/4) miles of regularly serviced Metrobus and Metrorail areas, during the same hours of operation.

To be eligible, you must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Have a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and be unable to utilize the Metrobus and Metrorail some or all of the time as a result of your disability.
  • Need to use a ramp or wheelchair lift to board or exit a public transit vehicle, but an accessible vehicle is not being used at the time, date, and on the route you would travel. All Metrobuses are wheelchair accessible, however.
  • Be unable to travel to/from a bus stop or rail station due to a disability, or an accessible pathway to a bus stop or rail station is not available.

To apply, you must complete an application and get it certified by a health care professional. Applications are available online, or you can submit a request by calling 202-962-2700 and selecting option 1 or TTY 202-962-2033, or emailing eligibility@wmata.com. You can also send a written request to the Transit Accessibility Center at 600 Fifth Street NW, Washington, DC 20001.

Once your application is complete, call the Transit Accessibility Center at 202-962-2700 and select option 5 to speak with a specialist, at which time you’ll schedule an in-person interview and functional assessment appointment to determine your eligibility. DO NOT mail or fax the application. During the appointment, your independent travel skills and ability to use public transportation will be evaluated, including the ability to walk or travel a measured distance.

Abilities-Ride

Abilities-Ride is a safe, easy, and flexible alternative for MetroAccess customers. The program allows you to take some of your trips with local taxicabs, sedan and van companies, and national transportation network companies at a FREE or discounted price. Wheelchair-accessible vehicles are available for customers who require use of a ramp or lift-equipped vehicle. However, Abilities-Ride providers only offer curb-to-curb service, not door-to-door like MetroAccess, nor are drivers required to carry bags or luggage.

If you choose to join the Abilities-Ride program, you will continue to call MetroAccess to make trip reservations. MetroAccess will decide whether your trip will be moved to one of the Abilities-Ride providers or remain with MetroAccess. For more information, call 202-281-8984.

Reduced Fare Programs

Seniors and qualified customers with disabilities can ride public transit at a discounted rate through Metro’s Reduced Fare Programs. Senior SmarTrip® cards and Reduced Fare SmarTrip® photo ID cards can be used to pay Metrobus and Metrorail fares, buy a 7-Day regional pass, and pay half the peak fare on Metrorail. Reduced Fare SmarTrip® photo ID cards are issued on a walk-in basis at the Transit Accessibility Center located at 600 Fifth Street NW, Washington, DC 20001. A card will be issued the same day if you meet the eligibility criteria.

To be eligible, you must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Be at least 65 years old. You will automatically qualify for a Senior SmarTrip® card whether or not you have a disability. Present a valid photo ID with proof of age at any Metro sales office, commuter store, or other selected retail outlets.
  • Be under age 65 and receive Medicare (not Medicaid). You will automatically qualify for a Reduced Fare SmarTrip® card. Bring a government-issued photo ID and a valid Medicare card to the Transit Accessibility Center.
  • Be under age 65 and have a qualifying disability. You will have to submit a Reduced Fare Program for People with Disabilities application signed by a licensed medical professional. If you’re unable to download the online form, you can request an application by calling 202-962-2700 and selecting option 1 or TTY 202-962-2033, or emailing eligibility@wmata.com. The original certified application is required. Copies, faxes, and applications more than 60 days old will NOT be accepted. 
  • Be a veteran who has been granted a 60% or greater disability rating by the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA). You will have to complete part A of the Reduced Fare Program for People with Disabilities application. Certification from a licensed medical professional is not required, but you will need to bring a valid photo ID and the original letter of disability notification issued by the DVA, a downloaded letter from the DVA website, or a DD Form 2765, Uniformed Services ID Card for 100% disabled veterans.


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