People travelling with support persons need assistance with mobility, communication, accessibility, or personal or medical care during trips. A support person can be a paid personal support worker (PSW), a volunteer, a family member, or a friend.
In contrast, other people with disabilities may be able to travel alone but may sometimes travel with companions. A companion sometimes chooses to do one or two of the things a support person does. This overlap means that it can be hard for the public to tell the difference between support persons and companions. However, transportation providers make clear distinctions between the two groups. Therefore, under the Transportation Standard of the AODA, people travelling with support persons or companions must abide by different rules.
Travelling with Support Persons
Rules for travelling with support persons apply to both conventional and specialized transportation providers. Neither provider is allowed to charge fares to support persons. People who need assistance from a support person when travelling must demonstrate this need to the provider. Each provider must create its own criteria for how people should show that they need support persons. When someone has demonstrated that they need to travel with a support person, they receive a support person designation, such as a pass or card. The person with a disability, not the support person, receives the designation. This system allows people to travel with different support persons at different times. For instance, someone may travel to and from work with a PSW, and later go to social events with their partner acting as support person.
Travelling with Companions
Rules for travelling with companions apply to specialized transportation providers. Some people with disabilities may need to do all their travelling on specialized transit. The option to travel with a companion ensures that people are not required to travel everywhere alone. Instead, a companion can come with them as long as another person with a disability does not need the seat that the companion would occupy. Companions must pay the fares they would pay if they were travelling on conventional transit. In addition, providers must allow dependent children of people with disabilities to travel with them.
Every person with a disability has different capabilities and needs. Some people need assistance when they travel while others do not. However, people who do not need support in transit should not have to take every trip alone. Rules for travelling with support persons or companions ensure that each passenger travels in the way best for them.