Recognizing that limited transportation options is a major impediment to people with disabilities enjoying a full life – working, attending school, shopping and recreating – the statewide nonprofit Community Access Unlimited (CAU) has introduced a new transportation service that picks up and drops off riders according to their schedule.

"Too often people with disabilities are limited in their ability to get around," said Sid Blanchard, executive director of the agency. "Either they are dependent on family members who have other things going on in their lives or they rely on state or county transportation systems that are very restrictive in terms of routes and scheduling.

"Our transportation service picks up a rider at home when they want to be picked up, takes them where they want to go and returns for them when they're ready to go home or to their next destination. This allows people with disabilities to enjoy the same benefits of life as people without disabilities – the rewards of working or learning, the pleasures of going to worship or shopping or out to dinner with friends. These are all things that enable people with disabilities to be fully integrated into the community."

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CAU's transportation service is safe and reliable, according to Blanchard. The agency's drivers undergo a full day training in CAU standards regarding driving and transporting people with disabilities. They also are certified in First Aid/CPR and are prepared for any medical emergencies.

The agency schedules and monitors staff locations in 15-minute increments and they contact riders or their family if they run into traffic, Blanchard added.

CAU vehicles are equipped with first aid kits, ice scrapers, tire pressure gauge, spare tires, jumper cables, flashlights , batteries, Phillips head and flat head screwdrivers, reflectors, orange cones,  ponchos and gloves,, according to Blanchard.

In addition, all agency vehicles are covered by roadside assistance service and each staff member is equipped with a cell phone so they can contact family or first responders in case of an emergency.

Thirty-seven of CAU's 100 well-maintained vehicles are accessible, equipped to transport people in wheelchairs, each with a side or back lift and wheelchair tie-downs.

The agency's staff mechanic inspects each vehicle monthly to ensure they are well maintained and equipped with all safety features, Blanchard said.

The single-passenger rate is $2 per mile in a non-accessible vehicle and $2.40 per mile in an accessible vehicle. The group passenger rate is 74 cents per mile. CAU's transportation services are billed as Goods and Services and are Medicaid-eligible.

CAU's transportation service is available in Bergen, Essex, Middlesex, Morris, Passaic, Somerset and Union counties. Availability may be limited. CAU is an approved transportation provider by the New Jersey Division of Developmental Disabilities.

To learn more or to register, contact Gene Tavera, assistant director of information and referral, at 908-354-3040, ext. 4272, or gtavera@caunj.org. Or visit CAU at www.caunj.org and type in Transportation in the search option.

CAU is a statewide nonprofit providing support programs and services to adults with disabilities as well as youth served under the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to enable them to live independently in the community, providing supports in areas including housing, vocational skills and life-skills training, education, advocacy and recreation.