For Providers

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Transportation and Employment:
The Role of Service Providers

As part of assisting individuals with disabilities with employment, service providers often become involved in helping individuals with obtaining transportation to and from work since many people with disabilities do not drive and/or own their own vehicles.

But lack of transportation should not be viewed as an ultimate barrier to employment for your clients and you don’t need to own and drive a car to get to work. Approximately 24 percent of individuals in the United States get to work every day by means other than driving by themselves, including taking mass transit, participating in carpools, and other methods.

Transportation Options in order of preference

Provider assistance should focus on options in the following order of preference:

(A) Integrated and “typical” options used by people who work and who don’t drive, such as mass transit and car pools.
Such solutions promote independence and integration into society, and are relatively simple to arrange.

(B)Alternatives such as paratransit or hiring a driver.
These are viable solutions, but may require more time and energy to manage, and which may not be as flexible

(C) The employment services provider providing transportation.
If the agency providing employment services is responsible for transportation, this can be a major drain on resources, and also does not necessarily promote independence (although this may be a short term solution in terms of transportation to a job, while long-term solutions are identified).

At times, there may be no other alternative, and the service provider may be contractually obligated to provide transportation. However, even if a person is eligible for transportation services for which the service provider is reimbursed, if it is possible for the individual to use some other means of transportation, this will help to promote the individual’s independence, and may allow the service provider or service system to use those resources elsewhere.

Transportation cannot be allowed to be an insurmountable barrier to employment.

Using a Methodical Approach

There is no one “magic” solution to transportation, but there are many possible options. Through a methodical step-by-step process that considers a variety of transportation possibilities, a solution can be found.

Consider transportation when planning the job search.
Don’t wait until after the job seeker has a job to figure out how they will get there, as the service provider and job seeker could end up wasting a lot of time finding a job the individual can’t get to.

Length of commute.
Assist the job seeker in considering the amount of time they are willing to travel to work. What is the maximum amount of time they are willing to devote to their commute? (The average commute time to work in Massachusetts is about a half hour each way, although approximately 20 percent of individuals in the state have a commute that is 45 minutes or longer.) Encourage the job seeker to be as open-minded as possible, as the amount of time they are willing to commute will influence their transportation options and job choices.

Other possible factors.
In conjunction with the amount of time they are willing to commute, there are other things to think about that may influence the job seeker’s transportation choices and options such as the days and hours they can work, coordinating transportation with child care, and other aspects of their life. Be sure to consider these factors.

Develop a transportation budget.
Determine about how much the individual can pay for transportation to and from work. Typical costs for commuting to a job can range anywhere from $3 to $20 per day or more, depending on the method of transportation and length of commute.

Like any other person who works, it is reasonable for a person with a disability to pay for transportation costs out of their earnings. As a person with a disability, they may be also be entitled to reduced transportation fares, and also remember that Social Security work incentives can be used to pay for transportation.

Identify all possible transportation methods.
Through brainstorming and research, develop a list of all the methods of transportation the job seeker could possibly use to get to work. For each method, list the places (towns, cities, neighborhoods) that they can get to, the hours that they can get there, and the cost.

Be sure to consider all possible options, and only cross those off the list that are impossible for the individual to use to get to a job. Don’t assume that a transportation method isn’t an option until you and the job seeker have done research using the world wide web, phone calls, and talking to others.

Identify all possible employment locations.
From the list created, make a combined list of all the places that the individual can get to using some or all of the transportation methods chosen, and the hours they can get there. Keep in mind that many people use a combination of methods to get to work (for example, public transit plus taxi). Use trip planning tools to assist with this process. Be as expansive as possible with this list, and include as many locations as possible.

When the solution does not immediately present itself, don’t give up. The solution is out there somewhere.

Look for a job in places the job seeker can access.
Once the job seeker has ideas about where he or she can get to for work, shift the focus on those locations and places that have the type of work that interests him or her.

Develop a transportation plan for their job.
Once the individual has a job, figure out the details regarding transportation (how long it will take to get to work, what time they need to leave home, etc.). Particularly if they are going to be taking mass transit and/or have a couple of transfers during the trip between methods of transportation, the individual may want to do a test run (possibly with staff) before they start their job, to make sure everything goes smoothly. That way they can be sure not to be late their first day of work! If travel training is going to be required for the individual, arrangements should be made for this to occur.

Additional options once the individual is working.
After the individual starts work, they may find there are additional transportation options. For example, once co-workers get to know them, the co-workers may be willing to make the individual part of a car pool, or give them rides to transit stops. The individual also may be able to advertise at work for a ride.

Remember, this may take a bit of time. For example, it’s probably not a good idea for the individual to ask their brand new co-worker on the first day on the job whether they can start giving them a ride. However, once a co-worker gets to know the individual a bit, they might be willing to help out. If someone gives the individual a ride, make that they are offering the person driving money for gas and wear and tear on the driver’s vehicle.

Through creativity, relationship building, and lots of people and ideas, a transportation solution will be found.

Additional Tips

Get others to help.
In coming up with transportation ideas, involve other people to help come up with ideas and who also may also be able to assist with providing transportation such as:

  • people the job seeker lives with
  • friends
  • family members
  • neighbors
  • counselors
  • other professionals
  • other community members
  • members of groups they are part of
  • residential staff
  • personal care attendants

Find options, not necessarily the exact solution.
Keep in mind that an individual does not need to have an exact solution for transportation during the job search, as long as they have some possible options that can get them reasonably close to potential employment locations. Once they have a job, the service provider can work with the individual to figure out the details.

Think short-term and long-term.
The service provider and job seeker may want to think in terms of short-term and long-term solutions for transportation. For example, for the short-term a family member or service provider might be able to give they a ride, but over the long-term, the individual may be able to join a car pool at work or possibly purchase a vehicle once they’ve earned some money from their job. If the individual only has a short-term transportation solution, with no long-term solution but some possible options, you may find that some solutions present themselves once the individual starts working.

Be flexible.
As service providers and job seekers consider transportation options, commute time, etc., remember that the more flexible the job seeker is, the more possibilities there will be in terms of job locations and types of jobs.

For example, if the individual is able to walk a mile or so to and from a transit stop or drop-off point, that may increase their job possibilities. On the other hand, if the only option available is paratransit, this may limit the locations and hours that the individual can work.