Welcome back to the Disabled Travelers blog! Don’t look now, but this could be shaping up as an especially hectic year for those planning to travel for winter holidays or New Years. Airlines are often backed up, and inclement weather might be a nuisance. But remember that disabled travel doesn’t have to be limited to air and sea. Plenty of handicapped travelers are finding ways to get around with accessibility-enhanced trains, buses, and charters. In the U.S., these can sometimes be the “forgotten” travel options, so I’d like to talk about the latest in wheelchair travel “on wheels.”
There are a lot of small, regional bus lines and relatively few companies with national scope here in the United States. The situation is reversed in Europe, where buses are a way of life and wheelchair access is often a basic feature. Greyhound Buses is one of the great national lines, and it’s very clear and forthright on its policies for disabled travel. Handicapped travelers are more than welcome, as are service animals – but there are some combined weight and maximum height requirements for wheelchairs, so be sure to check them out. Greyhound has service areas and routes throughout the States, and can even get you to parts of Canada and Mexico.
Coach USA is an option for scheduled bus services, city-wide sightseeing tours, and charter bus rental throughout several states, including New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and parts of the Midwest and Canada. According to its fleet information page, each type of bus in service is ADA-compliant, and the only catch is 48 hours notice concerning your needs. Since it’s always wise to contact a charter service well in advance, this shouldn’t be a problem for most folks.
Megabus covers major urban areas mostly in the north, including New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Toronto, and Washington. This company seems a tiny bit less forthcoming, requiring you to contact customer service and confirm that wheelchair accessible buses are available for your intended travel. It is also not quite clear whether personal attendants are admitted free, at a reduced rate, or at full price. I’ll point it out for now, but with a grain of salt until I hear a little more. Let’s hope the disability access is just as good as the rest of these services!
As far as the west coast goes, there are a variety of tour operators and other services, but a lot of them are focused on major destinations like Las Vegas. For traveling in the San Francisco Bay area, Bay Area Rapid Transit is useful and boasts a variety of features for handicapped travelers. BART is a government initiative, and generally speaking, any publicly-supported bus service can be expected to be more accommodating and have fewer barriers to accessibility than a private company you don’t know well. The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada even offers door-to-door paratransit and various forms of passenger assistance to mobility-impaired riders; all benefits you may qualify for even if you’re only in Nevada temporarily.
For those looking specifically for a charter bus service, USA Bus Charter is a good option, with ADA-compliant wheelchair accessible buses in major cities throughout the United States. For more general tips on your rights as a handicapped traveler, you can search the official website of the U.S. Access Board, a federal agency that promotes accessible design, for accessibility guidelines pertaining to vehicles and structures. This includes Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines for which compliance is mandatory – the government also provides a great resource website for ADA information.
No offense to bus tour operators, but unless you opt for a high-end charter, trains tend to be more comfortable over long distances. What Greyhound is to buses, Amtrak is to trains. Kind of terse, I know, but I’ve had good experiences with them, and I feel like we can trust Amtrak. For those looking for more general information on disabled travel and choosing an accessible rail provider, Scootaround Mobility Solutions offers a great disabled traveling tips page on how to make your train trip smooth and easy, even if you’re traveling a long way.
That’s it for buses and trains in the U.S., but that’s not all for the subject. Wait until I show you how easy it is to get around in wheelchair accessible buses and trains throughout major destinations in the United Kingdom! Until then, keep adventuring … and don’t miss the bus!