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Offering travel instruction

Transit authorities, human service agencies, and educators can help people with disabilities, seniors, and others gain independence through learning to ride transit independently and safely.

Table of Contents

Bhutanese seniors riding a bus

Bhutanese elders rode the bus together in Worcester as part of a travel instruction program led by the Worcester Regional Transit Authority in partnership with the Worcester Senior Center.

What is travel instruction?

Travel instruction is the professional activity of teaching individuals with disabilities, seniors, and others how to use fixed-route public transportation independently and safely to access their environment and community. Travel instruction includes at least three different services:

  • Transit orientation explains transportation systems by sharing information about trip planning, schedules, maps, fare systems, mobility devices, and benefits and services. It may be conducted in a group or one-on-one.
  • Familiarization teaches people who are experienced with traveling about a new route or mode of transportation. It may be conducted in a group or one-on-one.
  • Travel training is an intensive, one-on-one process to help someone gain the knowledge and skills they need to make trips independently. Travel training is individualized to meet each student’s unique needs

Everybody wins from travel instruction:

  • Individuals and their families benefit from travel instruction because it promotes independence and community living. It gives people more choice about how to get where they need to go.
  • By offering travel instruction, human service agencies can help their consumers increase their mobility and their independence.
  • Transit authorities benefit from travel instruction because it can help them increase ridership and save money. Riders may be able to shift some of their trips off paratransit services on to fixed route services, reducing costs for transit agencies.

Travel instruction is not the same as Orientation and Mobility training for people with visual impairments. Orientation and Mobility training includes travel instruction but also covers a number of other skills. For Orientation and Mobility training in Massachusetts, contact the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind.

Find a travel instruction program near you

Transit authorities, human service agencies, and school districts in your area may offer travel instruction programs. Find programs near you.

Tools for travel trainers

MassMobility offers technical assistance to travel instruction programs - and anyone looking to help their consumers or students learn to ride public transit - in Massachusetts. We welcome you to contact us at hstmobility@state.ma.us to

  • Get assistance starting or expanding a travel training program
  • Get help integrating transportation education into your school's special education curriculum or transition program
  • Join the Massachusetts Travel Instruction Network email listserv for information about ongoing professional development and opportunities to connect with other travel trainers
  • Participate in an introductory or intermediate travel training workshop provided by the Kennedy Center (expert travel trainers from Connecticut) and funded by MassDOT
  • Receive updates on training sessions and webinars related to travel training

For more information, check out our practice briefs and toolkit on travel instruction.



Additional Resources

National organizations

These national organizations promote travel instruction for individuals with disabilities and seniors, and offer technical assistance, education, and professional development to practitioners of travel instruction:

A travel trainee's story

In short, I never had to feel I was stranded and vegetating in my home, for I was going to learn how to get to where I needed to go on the bus. [My travel trainer] would be with me every step of the way until I felt safe enough to get to my destination and return on my own. Over a short period of time I became acquainted with all of the buses I needed to take to carry on my life. -Rita A. DeFino, Pittsfield

Travel training helped Rita regain her independence after a stroke left her unable to drive at age 80. Read more of Rita's story.



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