This blog is usually about my going out and exploring around Huntsville/Madison County. In future entries, I’ll take the bus system for a try, or perhaps go kayaking down the Flint River. Well, the holiday season is upon us (with all of the crazy scheduling that comes along with it), and so, as I’ve not had as much time as I would like to go exploring, I’m doing something a little different this month.
There is no shortage of resources around the Tennessee Valley to provide aid, advocacy, or awareness to individuals with disabilities and their families. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully it can provide those of you who are new to the area an introduction to all there is to offer here.
Traveling to Huntsville with a Disability
Although it is contrary to my spontaneous nature, I have learned that traveling as a person with a disability (in my case, spina bifida, and I use a wheelchair) can often take some advanced planning. Those of us with disabilities often must deal with additional proverbial flaming hoops to jump through beyond just those common logistical things that everyone deals with on a trip.
My wife and I have started to prefer to fly in and out of Huntsville when possible. The airport is small enough to be quite manageable when you have a plane to catch and are managing considerable amounts of luggage. It’s a pleasant, easy airport, and worth it to be so close to our house once we get off the plane after a trip.
If you are needing special assistance for disability/mobility reasons, you should call your airline directly to discuss your arrangements in advance, and then reiterate those arrangements at the desk when you check in for your flight.
- American Airlines at 1-800-433-7300
- Delta at 1-800-221-1212
- United at 1-800-864-8331
- Silver at 1-801-401-9100
- Frontier at 1-801-401-9000
Rental Cars in Huntsville
I cannot emphasize this enough: Each of the major rental car companies will offer adapted vehicles, but please do take special precautions to ensure a smooth trip.
The rental car company may not have an accessible vehicle available at the drop of a hat. When you plan a trip that requires an adapted rental vehicle, it should be among the first items you check off your list. Once you reserve your vehicle, you must follow up with a phone call to verify that it is showing up in their system as an adapted rental. Some companies use systems where it’s merely written in as a note at the bottom of your screen, and it can be easily overlooked – a problem when you arrive at an airport to a car that you physically cannot drive.
Sometimes, the adapted car(s) in a company’s fleet will be on loan in a different city. Also a problem. Do act early with reserving a rental, and follow up with (at least) two phone calls – one immediately after the reservation is made, to confirm for yourself, and one within 72 hours before your flight, just to ensure they know you’re coming and will be expecting a modified vehicle.
Once I learned how to be more stubborn and diligent in the rental process, it became less stressful. Above is Dana in our hand controls-equipped Mustang on our honeymoon in New Mexico, back in 2013.
Buses in Huntsville, AL
Many of Huntsville’s city buses, known as the “Shuttle Bus”, are equipped with wheelchair lifts. You can check routes and schedules here: https://www.huntsvilleal.gov/residents/streets/public-transportation/huntsvilletransit/
Taxis, Uber & Lyft in Huntsville, AL
I have had great experiences in several different cities with Uber. The Uber and Lyft apps have more options if you are in a larger market. In Huntsville, what I would do is seek out an Uber XL (larger capacity vehicle) just to ensure that there’s storage space for my chair once I transfer into the vehicle.
As far as traditional taxi companies are concerned, I am seeing more fleets with vans on them, but it is always best to inquire by phone in advance, when you can.
Once you’ve come here and enjoyed your visit, why don’t you think about staying? There are a lot of resources here that make live with a disability a little easier!
Alabama State Programs
The Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program (ADAP) is a federally-funded protection and advocacy program. ADAP provides legal services to Alabamians with disabilities to protect, promote and expand their rights.
The Arc of Alabama, Inc., is a volunteer-based organization whose main role is to advocate for the rights and protections of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. This advocacy is provided through public policy initiatives, referral services, and educational opportunities like the annual Alabama disAbility Conference.
The Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) aims to remove barriers to independent living for disabled Alabamians and works to increase necessary supports and services.
The Southeast ADA Center provides info, training, & guidance on the Americans with Disabilities Act. The center serves Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and the Carolinas.
The Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services provides free or low-cost services, such as physical therapy, employment opportunities, independent living support, and assistive technology to Alabamians of all ages with disabilities.
Huntsville/Madison County Programs
Are you needing more of a door-to-door, specialized service? Handi-Ride is Huntsville’s system of 19 radio-dispatched, ADA accessible paratransit vehicles. Your ride must be reserved by 5 p.m. the day before you need it. The service application, which must also be certified by your doctor, may take up to 21 days for processing.
However, if you are certified for paratransit service in another city, you may use the Handi-Ride service for 21 days over a 365 day period. Proof of out-of-town certification is required and may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, or faxed to (256) 427-6869, or mailed to Handi-Ride, 500 B Church Street NW, Huntsville, Alabama 35801.
Within the Madison city limits, The Madison Assisted Ride System (MARS) is available for residents who live within the Madison City Limits and are eligible for paratransit services under ADA guidelines. Transportation is only available for medical and/or work purposes.
The Madison City Disability Advocacy Board (MCDAB) was established to strengthen public understanding of the needs of persons with disabilities and ensure that all citizens with disabilities have equal access to the City of Madison’s resources and opportunities.
Huntsville Parks & Recreation Department - Special Populations seeks to promote and develop recreational programs for individuals with differing abilities.
The Miracle League of North Alabama’s mission is to provide baseball and bowling opportunities for individuals with disabilities, regardless of their ability. Ages 5 to adult.
CASA of Madison County provides various services for aging and homebound clients, aged 60 or older, so they can continue to live independent lives with dignity. CASA designs, builds, and repairs wheelchair ramps, provides transport to necessary medical appointments, offers volunteer yard work, home weatherizing, installs grab bars and other safety features to aid in the prevention of falls, and grows organic produce to deliver to clients who lack access to it.
305 8th Street is an organization that provides structured living environments for adults with disabilities. Residents have disabilities ranging from autism, brain injury, cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, or mental illness.
Disability Support Services at The University of Alabama in Huntsville is committed to serving all students with documented disabilities. Their vision is to encourage and foster full participation and inclusion of students with disabilities at UAH, while ensuring accessibility.
Phoenix (The Huntsville Rehabilitation Foundation, dba Phoenix) helps people with disabilities throughout North Alabama to be successful in employment.