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ADA Complementary Paratransit Basics: Part 1. Paratransit Eligibility. Photo: TARC. Meet Your Trainer. Donna Smith Director of Training Easter Seals Project ACTION. ESPA Technical Assistance. Strives to provide accurate information on the ADA Does not carry the force of law

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ADA Complementary Paratransit Basics: Part 1

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ADA ComplementaryParatransit Basics: Part 1

Paratransit Eligibility

Photo: TARC

Meet Your Trainer

Donna Smith

Director of Training

Easter Seals Project ACTION

ESPA Technical Assistance

  • Strives to provide accurate information on the ADA

  • Does not carry the force of law

  • Seeks solutions using the ADA as a baseline

What is ADA Complementary Paratransit

ADA Complementary Paratransit

  • Paratransit as a complement to fixed route service

    • Each public entity operating a fixed route system shall provide paratransit or other special service to individuals with disabilities that is comparable to the level of service provided to individuals without disabilities who use the fixed route system. § 37.121 (a).

Who is Eligible for Paratransit

Eligibility for Paratransit Services

Three categories of eligibility:

  • Category 1: includes persons with disabilities that are unable to use accessible fixed route service

  • Category 2: includes persons with disabilities that have the ability to use the accessible fixed route services, but the service available is not accessible

  • Category 3: includes persons with disabilities that are unable to travel to or from a station or a bus stop

Types of Eligibility

  • Unconditional: Not reasonable for individual to use fixed-route services for any trips under all conditions

  • Conditional: Individual is able to use fixed-route services under certain conditions

  • Temporary: For an individual whose disability is temporary or functional abilities are expected to change

Common Practice - The Eligibility Process may Include

  • A paper application

  • Confirmation of disability by a physician or other professional

  • Interview – phone or in-person

  • Functional physical assessment

  • Functional cognitive assessment

  • Path of travel assessment

Determining ADA Paratransit EligibilityMaster Functional Skills

  • Basis for eligibility considerations

  • Each transit task and personal ability necessary for completion of each

  • Exhaustive, complete, under all conditions.

  • Physical, cognitive and sensory

    • To and from the bus

    • Waiting for and getting on and off the bus

    • Riding the bus

    • Dealing with the unexpected

  • Reflects your community

Conditions of eligibility

  • The specific conditions that prevent an individual from using fixed route

    • Personal conditions

    • Transit system conditions

    • Environmental conditions

    • Architectural conditions

Specific conditions

  • Rational process to determine

  • Thorough and complete

  • Little or no interpretation required

    • What is “safely?”

    • What is “dangerous?”

    • What are “barriers?”

  • Two people should independently get the same answer

    • Measurable

    • Meaningful

How many conditions are too many?

  • No absolute number

  • None can be left out !!!!!

  • Resident who uses wheelchair – minimum:

    • Snow and ice

    • Curb cuts

    • Berm of road

    • Accessible stop - less than 5ft from traffic, no sidewalk

    • Uneven surfaces (gravel, unpaved path) and no alternate path of travel

Eligibility For Those Who are Blind or Have Low Vision

An assumption that once a bus system is served by automated bus stop announcements, people who are blind or have vision impairments can all use the transit system, ignores the fact that a case-by-case determination still needs to be made, due to many factors, including:

NOTE: The information on slides 15-20 comes from the ADA Topic Guide on ADA Paratransit Eligibility developed by DREDF and the FTA

Eligibility For Those Who are Blind or Have Low Vision

Traveling to unfamiliar locations. For a location to be familiar means that the person knows how to use the fixed route service to get there. Some systems have wrongly classified a location as "familiar" simply because the person made trips there before on the paratransit system.

Eligibility For Those Who are Blind or Have Low Vision

Traveling where there is not a safe, detectable path of travel. The conventional wisdom is that the individual must be able to stay at least five feet from quickly moving traffic and must have a detectable path that stays separate from the street. In addition to roadways without sidewalks, wide-open parking lots present another major barrier.

Eligibility For Those Who are Blind or Have Low Vision

Crossing busy streets and intersections, including intersections that allow constant right-on-red turns, and intersections with crossings that aren't aligned. Further, the lack of accessible pedestrian signals and detectable warnings, important features of accessible public rights-of-way, may confer eligibility.

Traveling in areas with a lot of ambient background noise that precludes a traveler from hearing how traffic is moving and utilizing these cues.

Eligibility For Those Who are Blind or Have Low Vision

Using bus stops that are not detectable. If a traveler cannot locate a bus stop (for example, if the pole is away from the sidewalk up a hill), the stop is not detectable. Bus stops that lack unique tactile identifiers are also, arguably, not detectable.

Eligibility For Those Who are Blind or Have Low Vision

Traveling after dark (night-blindness issues).

Much depends on the level of independent travel skills of each person. This is information that only the rider and individuals who may have worked with him or her on mobility and orientation can provide. 

Eligibility Determination Requirements

  • Information shall be made available in accessible formats upon request

  • Transit agency has 21 days to complete application or presumptive eligibility must be provided unless and until the application is denied

  • Applicant must be notified in writing of initial determination of eligibility

ADA Eligibility Appeals

  • An administrative appeal process must be available

  • Applicant can appeal:

    • Denial of ADA paratransit eligibility

    • Conditions placed on eligibility


ADA Eligibility Appeals (cont.)

  • Applicant must have at least 60 days to file an appeal

  • Appeal process must be a

    separate function

  • Appellants must have the

    right to be heard in person

  • Appellants must be notified in writing (including reasons for denial, if applicable)

  • The transit agency must provide presumptive eligibility if the decision takes more than 30 days.


PCAs, Companionsand Visitors

Personal Care Attendant (PCA)

  • PCA’s assistance enables individuals with disabilities/older adults to live more independently

  • A PCA is usually paid to provide services for individuals with disabilities/older adults

  • PCAs ride paratransit vehicles at no cost to the passenger or the PCA

  • Family or friends can be PCAs if they are traveling with the individual in that capacity


  • At least one additional person can accompany the ADA paratransit eligible passenger as a companion

  • Additional individuals can also accompany the passenger if space is available and it does not result in a denial of service to ADA paratransit eligible individuals

  • Companions must share the same origin and destination and will pay the same fare


  • A visitor is an individual with disabilities who does not reside in the jurisdiction(s) served by the public entity or other entities with which the public entity provides coordinated complementary paratransit service within a region

  • Visitors that have been certified as ADA paratransit eligible must be provided up to 21 days of paratransit service

  • Visitors that claim to be ADA paratransit eligible must be provided presumptive eligibility for up to 21 days


  • ADA Transportation Regulations -

  • Easter Seals Project ACTION –

  • Determining ADA Paratransit Eligibility: An Approach, Guidance and Training Materials – Can be found in ESPA’s online store -

  • FTA ADA Topic Guides on Transportation -

Group Exercise

  • Break into 2 groups

  • Identify a recorder

  • Read your vignette as a group

  • Determine whether or not your vignette would be complementary paratransit eligible.

    • If so, what type of eligibility would she have?

    • If not, what reasons would you provide in her denial letter?

  • You will have 15 minutes to discuss



Easter Seals Project ACTION

1425 K Street NW, Suite 200

Washington, DC 20005


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