For travelers with restricted mobility, ground transportation has often been the weak link in an otherwise accessible travel experience. In many countries, lift-equipped or ramped vehicles are either unavailable or prohibitively expensive. And even in the US, there are still many challenges including a lack of accessible taxis in even major cities.
Recognizing the importance of accessible ground transportation, Open Doors Organization (ODO) has from the beginning worked with companies in the industry such as Avis to help them improve facilities and service to their clients with disabilities.
Open Doors Organization also helped with the design of the Standard Taxi, a purpose-built, fully accessible taxi now being built in Mishawaka, Indiana, and marketed as the MV-1 by the Vehicle Production Group. The MV-1 has now been approved for use in taxi in paratransit fleets in major cities including New York, Philadelphia and Chicago
Open Doors Organization provides disability awareness training and other consultative services within the motorcoach industry. In January 2012, ODO, in cooperation with the United Motorcoach Association (UMA), launched a new day-long training program for intercity and charter/tour bus operators. State motorcoach associations nationwide have hosted the training for their member companies. In 2016 a 2-hour Refresh Training is also proving popular with the industry.
In 2011, Open Doors Organization took on its largest ground transportation project to date: training for nearly 8,000 frontline staff for Amtrak. The day-long class on customer service for people with disabilities took place in 17 cities simultaneously across the United States, employing primarily trainers who have disabilities themselves. The program’s goal was to enhance awareness and sensitivity while teaching specific skills such as guiding techniques for passengers who are blind.
In August 2013 Open Doors Organization itself joined the transportation industry as Open Taxis, the centralized taxi dispatch for wheelchair accessible vehicles in Chicago. In 2016 ODO won a second contract to dispatch the city’s 160 taxis, a fleet scheduled to grow to 400 in total by 2018. Passengers could either call Open Taxis for service or use its smartphone app that includes key features such as estimated wait time and an estimated fare quote. All drivers received disability awareness training from ODO on how to communicate with and physically assist individuals with disabilities. Open Taxis operated until June of 2020.
Since 2014 Open Doors Organization has also worked with Uber Technologies Inc., helping develop two programs for passengers with disabilities: UberAccess, which uses wheelchair accessible vehicles, and UberAssist, whose drivers are trained in stowing assistive devices. Drivers in both programs receive ODO disability awareness training. ODO has also created training videos for Uber.
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