Tips for using public transport if you live with physical disability
Safely accessing public transport is an important aspect of living independently and connecting with the community for kids, young people and adults living with physical disability.
It is also very important that everyone – whether they live with disability or not – have the same opportunities to access community services and facilities, and that includes public transport.
Check to see if you’re eligible for a public transport mobility pass
People living with disability can apply for assistance to travel on public transport. The mobility pass is available for people who are unable to validate a metrocard using on-board equipment due to physical or cognitive challenges, and it provides free and unlimited travel on Adelaide Metro buses, trams, and trains. You can find out more about these passes here.
Check to see if you’re eligible for a public transport companion card
People living with disability can apply for a card that enables a carer to travel with them free of charge when accessing public transport. You can find out more information about eligibility here.
Practice your trip
If you’re going to be using public transport regularly, it’s a good idea to have a few practice sessions with a family member or carer, support worker, or therapist. This can help to build your confidence and help you understand the potential challenges involved.
Avoid peak-hour travel
Travelling at peak hour can sometimes be more difficult – when everyone is heading to and from school or to work – until you feel comfortable and confident with your public transport routine.
Plan your trip
Make sure that you’re well organised and have everything that you need. This is a great way to reduce anxiety if you’re using public transport. If you’re catching a bus and prefer to travel on a bus designed for all levels and modes of mobility, it’s a good idea to call Adelaide Metro beforehand.
Talk to the driver
Drivers appreciate it when people living with disability or have extra needs talk to them when they get on-board so that can clarify any travel issues and have plenty of time for preparation – i.e., they know the stop that you want to get off so they can assist you with the ramp or any other needs. While most drivers will be really committed to supporting you on your trip, it is worth remembering that they are not trained or required to assist with physically boarding or alighting the vehicle. If you travel on public transport using a mobility device, you need to be able to manoeuvre the aid independently or with your companion.
Reduce sensory anxiety when you’re on-board
Stations, stops, interchanges, and public transport can all provide large amounts of sensory information. If the potentially excessive noise, visual input or movement may be uncomfortable, it might be worth doing something really settling before using public transport. This way you can start your trip with calmer nerves that might not be so reactive to triggering sensations. It might also be worth having some strategies ready to go to soothe your nerves if you begin to feel anxious while travelling. Each person has a unique neurological make-up so will find different things beneficial. Those sensitive to noise might like to wear headphones to either cancel noise or provide music. Some clients have found chewing gum a good way of settling their nerves while others find fidget toys really calming. If you know that you will need additional space to feel comfortable and use a seat on public transport, it might be helpful to have something on hand to put on the seat next to you to avoid someone sitting next to you.
How the Novita team can help
Novita Clinical Lead – Occupational Therapy – Rebecca Milton talks about how the Novita therapy team can provide additional support.
“Novita’s physiotherapists are essential to supporting our clients to be more confident in whatever way they mobilise,” says Rebecca.
“When it comes to accessing public transport, our physios can help to make sure people living with physical disability have the best chance possible to safely access public transport from a mobility perspective. This will involve looking at how clients are able to make their way to public transport stops, stations or interchanges, transfer from sitting to standing, as well as negotiating different levels of flooring.
“They can also ensure people are able to use their mobility aids safely, and that they know their limitations when using those aids. The turning circle and space afforded to mobility aids on public transport can be really tight so having good control over their mobility aid is critical to safe travel.
“Novita’s occupational therapists (OTs) and physiotherapists are great at ensuring people living with disability have the right equipment, and they can prescribe specialised and customised equipment including powered and manual wheelchairs.
“OTs are well placed to support our clients to practice the skills they might need to safely access public transport. This can start from the very beginning of the process in helping people work out routes, bus timetables and planning their trip. OTs often use their sessions to simulate or break down the large and complex task of using public transport so that clients can begin to feel comfortable with aspects of the activity before attempting it.
“This might involve supporting a client to develop scanning skills, road safety awareness, strategies to manage fatigue, managing high levels of noise or manipulating small objects so they feel comfortable handling and validating tickets.
“Novita’s OTs may even practice public transport skills with their clients by accompanying them on trains, buses, and trams to work out where the challenges lie so that these can be developed and eventually clients can become more independent in the task.
“Our speech pathologists are also an important part of the process. It’s very important that people living with disability can express their needs and any issues that they might have when using public transport, whether through verbal communication or by using an Assistive Technology communication device. It is often in both the driver and client’s best interest that they have a quick word to the driver as they board so that any issues or needs can be pre-empted.”
At Novita we can work together to find the best match for a client and their unique needs and lifestyle.
We also have two programs – Transition to Work and Step Up – which are both designed to support people with their life skills, including safely accessing public transport.
Mobility support from NovitaTech
NovitaTech is one of South Australia’s largest providers of mobility equipment services for people living with disability. If you use on a wheelchair or other mobility device for your mobility and independence, the professional NovitaTech team can support you to find the most appropriate equipment. Plus, the NovitaTech on-line store has a wide range of powered and manual wheelchairs, along with other equipment and devices to support your mobility.
For more information about how Novita can support you to safely access public transport contact our customer experience team on 1300 668 482 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The sa.gov.au website has some excellent information to help people living with disability access Adelaide’s public transport system.
The Adelaide Metro website also has important information including accessibility features, priority seating, assistance animals, public transport concessions, and other useful information.