Impact Feature Issue on Meeting Transportation Needs of Youth and Adults with Developmental Disabilities

Developing an Individualized Travel Plan: Questions to Explore


Joe Timmons is Project Coordinator with the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition, Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

Individuals with disabilities who are planning for the vocational, educational, social/recreational, residential and other areas of their lives in the community may also benefit from the development of an individualized travel plan. An individualized travel plan can be part of an Individualized Education Program (IEP), an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE), a community support plan or any number of individualized or person-centered plans designed to support self-determination, community participation, and quality of life.

The ultimate goal of an individualized travel plan is to maintain or increase community inclusion by maximizing the ability to travel safely. An individualized travel plan will identify travel needs and goals, travel skills, transportation resources, skill-building and information needs, and financial supports to be used and/or sought. A major premise of the plan should be support for personal choice and self-determination. This means that its content should be based on the individual’s needs, goals, and desires and not solely on what services are currently available.

Below are examples of areas that may be explored and questions that may be asked in developing an individualized travel plan. They may be addressed through conversation with individuals and/or their circles of support, as well as through observation. They are given as suggestions, and are intended to be modified as needed to fit individual situations and to complement other planning processes.

Travel Needs/Requirements

Ascertaining the type and frequency of local travel in which the individual will engage can be one starting point to an individualized travel plan conversation. Questions may include:

  • How many days a week will you need or desire to travel?
  • How many times a day?
  • For what purposes (e.g., work, medical appointments, grocery shopping, meet friends)?
  • Where will each trip start and end (e.g., geographic areas covered)?
  • Will the trips be interrupted by stops along the way, such as stopping for groceries on the way home from work?
  • How do you currently travel in the community?
  • What new ways of traveling would you like to explore?

Travel Skills

Some individuals may need travel-related skill building. It’s important that formal evaluation as well as support and instruction in this area be provided only by qualified and trained travel instructors. The questions below can identify areas for which the assistance of a travel instructor may be sought. Questions for exploration could include “Can the individual...”:

  • Cross streets safely without traffic signals?
  • Cross streets safely with traffic signals?
  • Board bus, subway, or other mode of transportation?
  • Recognize and disembark at the correct destination?
  • Plan routes and seek information using the telephone?
  • Plan routes and seek information using email or the Internet?
  • Use a timepiece to keep track of time and to schedule trips?
  • Recognize the need for assistance enroute and request help from an appropriate source?
  • Use cardinal directions (N, S, E, W)?
  • Recognize and avoid dangerous situations and obstacles?
  • Understand environmental concepts (street numbering system, landmarks, etc.)?
  • Handle unexpected situations, such as re-routed buses or missed transfers?
  • Deal in an appropriate manner with strangers?
  • Write or record directions and routes?
  • Keep track of money and use for paying fares, etc.?
  • Maintain endurance and physical stamina to travel specific routes?
  • Travel safely in unfamiliar areas?
  • Travel safely in nighttime or in poor weather?
  • Use printed and homemade maps?
  • Use equipment and technology (wheelchair, telescope, compass, global positioning, cell phone, etc.)?
  • Convey personal information to strangers (address, phone, directions)?
  • Problem-solve access issues such as stairs, curbs, and doors?

Support Needs

The individual may require assistance as they travel, and the following questions are examples of areas to discuss in exploring travel options that will fit the person’s needs:

  • Do you use any equipment or support to help you travel (manual wheelchair, power chair, scooter, cane or walker, service or comfort animal, other)?
  • Do you travel with a paid staff person, family member or friend? If so, what supports do they provide for you?

Financial Supports

Service providers may be more familiar than the transportation user with financial supports available through government or agency programs and their eligibility requirements, and may be able to add other helpful information to the user responses for the suggested questions below:

  • How do you currently pay for transportation (e.g., own money, Medicare waiver, vouchers)?
  • Have you created a budget for your transportation expenses?
  • Are you eligible for transportation support from any government or agency programs?
  • Have you applied for transportation funds from any programs? What types of travel will they support?

Community Resources

Knowing about existing transportation resources in the community is an essential part of planning. Service providers and family members may wish to gather information about options to supplement the knowledge of the individual about the following:

  • What transportation options are available to you in your community (i.e., this question should identify those that are available in the parts of the community where the individual needs/desires to travel)?
  • What are their days and hours of availability?
  • Where and how can you access them?

Goals, Needs, and Resources Chart

The information gathered through the preceding questions can be compiled into a chart such as the sample one below (Figure 1) that summarizes the individual’s travel goals, needs that must be met to achieve those goals, and resources that can be accessed or explored to meet those needs. For each identified goal, there may be needs for further skill-building, for obtaining additional information, for using existing supports or locating new supports, and/or for identifying costs that must be met and possible sources of funds. In each of those instances where needs are identified, the specifics of that need and available or potential resources to meet it can be written on the chart.

A chart such as this can be incorporated into an individual’s personal planning resource manual or portfolio and be referred to, reviewed, and updated on an ongoing basis by the individual and their circle of support. It can also be shared with new service providers and support staff. The outcome of such a plan, whatever specific form it takes, should be to support the individual to live the life they choose in a community to which they have access through the meeting of their travel needs.

Figure 1. Sample Goals, Needs and Resources Chart​

Travel goals

Skill building needs/resources?

Information needs/resources?

Support needs/resources?

Financial needs/resources?

Travel outdoors in familiar areas with simple street crossings (between bus stop and work, mall, recreation center, home)

Learn to navigate between identified areas with help from travel instructor

Need to find local travel instructor

Need support staff to help find travel instructor, review with me how these goals are going

May need funding resources for travel instruction

Ride the bus on regular routes (from home to work, mall, recreation center, and back)

Learn to ride bus with help from travel instructor

Need to find local travel instructor. Need bus schedules

Need bus pass – get from case manager

Information in the Travel Needs/Requirements, Support Needs, and Community Transportation Resources sections was adapted in part from: United We Ride. (2005). Building an individual transportation plan. Washington DC: Author.