How To Get a Free Ride

Artwork: Elizabeth D’Angelo

If you are having trouble getting to the doctor, or getting around town, or getting across the country, here are a few programs that might help.

If you have spent any time on this site, you will see we have already written this on just about every page, but here we are writing it again:

You do not need to be on disability to qualify for most disability programs.

Para-transit Programs

If you are unable to use public transportation because of your health, try looking into disability para-transit services in your area. Many areas have free or low-cost services that will take you door-to-door anywhere you want to go (not just doctor’s appointment… they will take you anywhere!). Contact your local public transportation agency and ask for para-transit programs.

You do not need to be on disability to get into a para-transit program, but you may need a form filled out by you and/or your doctor explaining how your disability makes it too difficult for you to regularly use public transportation.

For people with CFS/ME and related conditions, filling out these types of forms can be a challenge. What you write and the way you answer questions may make a big difference. Check out: How Roselyn Got Approved for Paratransit by Using the Magic Words

Medicaid Cabs

If you are on Medicaid, you may be able to get a free Medicaid cab or transportation to all your doctor’s appointments. Contact your Medicaid provider. In some states, anyone can get this automatically. In other states you will need to apply for it.


Amtrak has a mediocre wheelchair service that may provide you with a wheelchair and assistant who can push the chair and help you get to the train. Be prepared to possibly get stranded.

Amtrak gives 15% discount to people with disabilities, plus a traveling companion.


Airports also have wheelchair services and they are GREAT. Use them. You will be very glad you did. Sleepy Girl Airport Wheelchair Tips

Airlines will allow you to bring an animal on board with you if it is an emotional support animal or psychiatric service animal and you have a doctor’s letter. I once sat next to someone who had an emotional support cat (the stewardesses were not happy).

Handicapped Parking

If you have difficulties with walking or mobility, handicap parking tags are very easy to apply for. Your doctor signs a form and you mail it in. Voila!

The criteria is different in each state. In many states someone who “cannot walk 200 feet without stopping to rest” will be eligible.

If you have an invisible disability like CFS, Fibro or Lyme, brace yourself. Someday someone you don’t know is going to say something really rude or mean to you for no particular reason. We’ve all been there.

Buses & Subways

Some areas offer free or discounted bus and subway fares to people with disabilities. Some cities offer free or discounted parking to people with handicap license placards. Inquire with your local transit authority.

In some states, the Department of Motor Vehicles offers discounts on ID cards, driver’s licenses, and license plates to people who are poor or disabled.

Vehicle Modifications

In some areas, Medicaid waiver programs will pay for modifications to your car or van, such as a wheelchair lift. They will not buy the van itself, just the modifications. You do not need to be on Medicaid to get into Medicaid waiver programs. The criteria is different for every program.

Other Services

Contact your local area agency on aging and ask what kind of transportation services are available for people with disabilities in your area. Please call here even if you are young.

Optimists Only

Finally: One more thing I have never tried and have no idea if it works. I would not get my hopes up too terribly high, but if you try any of these programs, please share your experiences below. Here’s some services that offer free cars and car repairs for low income people:

This lady saw my handicap license plate and said, “Well, you look perfectly normal to me!”

I turned to look at her and said, very seriously, “Maybe that’s part of the problem. You can’t see what’s lurking under my shell.”

The look on her face was priceless! I often have to remind myself that other people’s judgment or ignorance is their burden to bare, not mine. I walk in my shoes, so I’m going to make sure I’m comfortable.

~ Samantha Sue Sullivan

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