Lack of special transportation resources can limit access to work, health care, independent living, and enjoyment of life.
Several laws protect the rights of people with disabilities to have access to transportation. One important law is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). One of the main purposes of the ADA is to make sure that people with disabilities have access to new and existing transportation systems, such as buses and trains. The ADA also requires that public transportation systems not exclude people with disabilities. When transportation providers fail to follow the rules, the ADA gives people with disabilities the right to file complaints or lawsuits against them.
Statewide Public Transportation System: NJ TRANSIT and Access Link
New Jersey’s public transportation system works to make its bus and train services more accessible to people with disabilities. Most buses have special lifts that work with standard-sized wheelchairs and “tie downs” to secure the chairs. Some, but not all, of its train stations have elevators and doors that are wide enough so that people who have problems with stairs can use them. Passengers using wheelchairs may request assistance from a train conductor to use a small portable ramp to bridge the gap from the train platform to the entrance to the train car. People with other types of disabilities may ask for other kinds of special assistance when using public transportation. For example, a person who has trouble seeing may ask the driver to announce certain stops. Train and bus drivers should know how to use wheelchair securement and lifting devices.
The New Jersey Transit website describes these features and provides a map showing which rail stations may be used by people with disabilities.
NJ Transit also has a reduced-fare program for people with disabilities, which covers bus, train, and light rail services. The program allows personal assistants to ride for free with proper identification. To take part in the program, a person must have certification by a licensed physician and apply through NJ Transit. Some private companies within New Jersey also participate in the program.
New Jersey is also required to provide “paratransit services”—transportation for people who are unable to use buses or trains even with the accommodations. Access Link, the New Jersey paratransit program, provides curb-to-curb transportation services for these New Jersey residents.
Passengers with a wide range of disabilities may qualify for Access Link services. Some examples of the types of people who might qualify include:
Access Link follows fixed bus routes, with stops usually within ¾ mile of existing bus routes. The routes, hours of operation, and fares are like the regular NJ Transit bus network. Unfortunately, there are many gaps in the public transportation/Access Link system—for example, for those who do not live within ¾ mile of an existing bus route (the limit for Access Link). For those who cannot use Access Link, there are other county and local services that they may use. Those services are described below.
If you apply for Access Link services, but are found to be ineligible, you have the right to appeal that finding. For more information about how to appeal a finding of Access Link ineligibility, call NJ Transit’s ADA Customer Service Center at 1-800-955-2321 or contact Legal Services of New Jersey's hotline at 1-888-LSNJ-LAW (1-888-576-5529).
New Jersey counties have their own separate transportation programs for passengers with disabilities. Services vary by county and you may be able to apply to use more than one. You can find links to help you contact each county paratransit program on Transportation Resources for NJ Residents with Disabilities and the New Jersey Transit website. It is important to remember that each county program has its own rules and requirements. For example, some may transport people only to and from places within the county, while others may go outside of the county.
There are also some special non-emergency medical transportation services for people who are covered by Medicaid and NJ FamilyCare health insurance. These include vehicle transportation, non-emergency air services, and non-emergency basic life support ground ambulance transportation when they are medically necessary. Of course, people who have true medical emergencies may call 911 to receive assistance.
Other public programs, such as Social Services, Vocational Rehabilitation, and the Division of Developmental Disabilities, sometimes provide transportation for people with disabilities. Public school programs for children with disabilities sometimes provide transportation for those children who need it to participate in the school programs.
What if I need to travel to another state?
There are other resources for people with disabilities who need to travel outside of New Jersey. People traveling to Pennsylvania may get information on vehicle accessibility, station accessibility, and reduced fares from SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority). People traveling to New York should check with the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority). For those traveling to other states, the Easter Seals Project Action Program is a good source for information on accessible travel.
There are many examples of different aids (called “accessible technology”) that help people with disabilities to get around. Some vans are specially designed so that people who use wheelchairs can access and operate them. Many GPS/computer applications are now available to help people with (and without) cognitive disabilities avoid getting lost. Other devices can give directions by voice to help people with visual impairments. One clever application for the iPhone maps the entire New York City subway system, listing handicap-accessible locations. The maps can be enlarged for people with visual impairments. There are many types of accessible technology, and some research is usually needed to find the best affordable technology for any given situation.
Several online sources help people with disabilities find accessible technology that can help them with transportation and other needs. The Back in Action website includes a classified ads-style database of assistive technology products for sale in New Jersey, including modified vehicles.
What can I do if I can’t get help?
Despite anti-discrimination laws, such as the ADA, people with disabilities sometimes face unfair treatment and challenges in finding accessible travel. Knowledge of your rights and the resources that are available are important tools to help you meet your transportation needs. Several resources are available to help. For people who are improperly denied paratransit services (such as Access Link), a guide entitled ADA Paratransit Eligibility: How to Make Your Case provides information on your rights and more practical information to assist in self-advocacy. The Federal Transit Administration accepts complaints of disability discrimination in public transportation. You may also file a lawsuit if your rights are violated. Because there may be a limited amount of time to file complaints, you should act quickly. For more information about your legal rights, contact LSNJLAWSM, Legal Services of New Jersey’s statewide, toll-free legal hotline, at 1-888-LSNJ-LAW (1-888-576-5529) or 732-572-9100 if you are calling from outside New Jersey. Hotline hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. If you are not eligible for assistance from Legal Services, the hotline will refer you to other possible resources.
For a list of additional accessible transportation resources, visit Transportation Resources for NJ Residents with Disabilities.
This information last reviewed: May 18, 2023