How to Apply for Paratransit (Free or Low-Cost Rides for People with Disabilities)

Art: Robin Mead

Paratransit programs offer low-cost, door-to-door transportation for people with disabilities or chronic illnesses who cannot use public transportation. Paratransit programs exist in most cities and some rural areas.

You do not need to be in a wheelchair to qualify for paratransit. In most areas, you do not need to be approved for Social Security Disability to qualify.

Paratransit! A Great Deal! Sometimes!

Paratransit will pick you up right at your door and drop you off right at the door of wherever you need to go. Paratransit is not limited to medical appointments. You can use it for shopping, visiting friends, or other activities.

The cost is often similar to bus fare (for example: $2 each way). If you have a companion or aide with you, that person can usually ride for free.

Paratransit can be a wonderful program for people, but it can also suck. Many of our readers report that paratransit programs are not always reliable, causing them stress and sometimes causing them to miss important doctor’s appointments.

Finding Paratransit 

🌷 Paratransit programs are available in many (but not all) areas. Contact your local public transportation department to inquire.

🌷 If that does not work: Research nearby cities. Contact their transit agency and ask if their paratransit program will travel to your area.

🌷 Even if you are young: You can also contact your local Area Agency on Aging to ask if they offer or know about any transportation services for people with disabilities.

🌷 You can also Google the name of your county or city and words like: disability transportation or paratransit.

Applying for Paratransit

🌷 Ask the paratransit program to send you an application. Or it may be available on their website.

🌷 Many programs will also require a form from your doctor.

Will I Qualify?

🌷 Every programs has different criteria to qualify. The criteria for your area may appear on the website or on the application form.

🌷 In most areas, you do not need to be approved for disability to qualify.

🌷 Don’t be discouraged if someone tells you you won’t qualify. Always apply in writing and get a decision in writing. If you disagree with the decision you can appeal.

🌷 Paratransit programs are designed for people who cannot use public transportation. If you can use public transportation some days, but this causes you pain, or worsens your symptoms, or if you have some days you can and some that you can’t, you should still apply. The rules vary by program, but you may still get approved.

🌷 Your disability can be physical or mental. If your mental health disability impairs you from being able to successfully use public transportation, you may be able to qualify for this reason.

🌷 Examples of mental impairments: Some people with panic disorders are unable to use public transportation if this triggers panic attacks. Some people with cognitive or mental impairments cannot safely navigate the public transportation system without getting lost.

Disability Related Reason

You will only qualify for paratransit if you have difficulty using public transportation because of your disability. When you fill out the application, be sure to include any information on why your disability prevents you from using public transportation.

🌷 No. You will not get approved if you need paratransit because:

  • There is no bus in your neighborhood
  • The bus does not go at the times you need it
  • The bus does not go to the place you need to go

🌷 Yes. You might get approved if you need paratransit because:

  • Your disability or illness prevents you from being able to use public transportation
  • Your disability or illness causes you pain or worsens your symptoms when you try to use public transportation

Function Test

🌷 This is not common, however in some areas, readers report they were asked to go in person to have a function test.

🌷 If you feel you are being asked to do a kind of test that may cause problems for you, you may be able to submit an accommodation request to be excused from the test, along with a letter from your doctor or practitioner stating that this activity may trigger or worsen your symptoms and being excused from the test is a necessary accommodation. Your local legal aide program may also be able to assist with advocating for you.

Success story!

🌷 Roselyn applied for paratransit and got denied. Three months later she applied again and got approved. Her health didn’t change. What did change? Roselyn Gets Approved for Paratransit by Using the Magic Words

Using Paratransit

🌷 Every program is different. In most programs, you will need to call and schedule your rides at least a few days ahead of time.

🌷 Some programs will allow you to auto-schedule. For example, if you know that you have a support group meeting on Monday afternoons, you can set up an automatic ride for every Monday, instead of having to call each week.

🌷 Paratransit programs will sometimes pick up other passengers during your trip. So sometimes you will be driven around as various people get picked up and dropped off. Try to avoid scheduling at busy times and you will be more likely to get a quick ride. (Busy times are usually weekdays around 8am-9am and 5pm-6pm).

🌷 You will probably need to be ready a little early and wait for your ride. Some programs ask you to be early while waiting at your home, but you do not have to be early while waiting other places. For example: Susan goes to her mom’s house. Paratransit pick up at Susan’s house is between 2pm – 2:15pm. Pick up at her mom’s house is 4pm.

🌷 Of course, they won’t arrive right at the minute. They are sometimes late. If they don’t show up on time, you may wish to call dispatch and confirm that the ride is still coming and did not accidentally get left out.

🌷 It is really helpful to have a cell phone, so you can call and find out what is happening, in case you get stranded somewhere. If you don’t have a cell phone: How To Get a Free Phone

More Options

🌷 Paratransit is not the only option. More programs that offer free or discounted transportation: Transportation for People with Disabilities or Chronic Illness

🌷 If you are on Medicaid, you can also get free transportation to doctor’s appointments. Contact your Medicaid provider.

What Do You Think? 

Please comment below with stories, ideas, questions or suggestions. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working.

Updated 2019. If you found this page helpful, please share it with others by pressing one of these magic little buttons:


9 thoughts on “How to Apply for Paratransit (Free or Low-Cost Rides for People with Disabilities)”

  1. I am a patient advocate in Waterloo Iowa. Have been getting such a run around for a pt that has a new BK Amputation and desperately needs paratransit. He filled out a form and it has been faxed to Paratransit. This article says they may need a form completed by the doctor… which they are eager to write. Where can we find that form? Where is it to be sent? Please help


  2. When I was in my 30’s and going to college, before I became disabled, I was a cab driver in the suburbs of Detroit. I did “insurance jobs” which went like this. The people I drove were disabled with closed head injuries. There insurance company paid for a cab to pick them up and take them to Drs or hospital appts. Than, when they were done, another driver in our cab company would pick them up and take them home. Insurance paid cab fare and tip. So, people might want to call there local cab companies and/or insurance company to see if this service is provided. It was nice for drivers because the patients were regulars and for the patients, they felt safe not having to take a bus. If you are in the suburbs of Detroit, the cab company was out of Livonia. Not sure if they are still in service.


  3. hello good morning my name is Kikwanda Dekattu lam 46 year old and l would like to apply for transportation for the disability


  4. My name is Miriam Cooper and I am trying to help my brother who cannot read or write and works for PARC. They have changed his schedule and where he is to work on Hill air force base. I would like to help him but Unfortunately I cannot leave my job to take him to all his jobs. That is why I’m asking how we can get him qualified for Paratransit.


  5. I’ve been intending to comment for a while…I want to thank you for this website; it’s been very helpful (and I love the beautiful, cheerful artwork throughout)


  6. Your articles are extremely helpful in informing people who just don’t know how to navigate the world of disability in getting what they need to survive!
    Thank you for your assistance!


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