Concern has been raised about the registration process for a new Utah Transit Authority service that is scheduled to begin offering curb-to-curb transportation for the disabled on July 5.
About 650 registration forms for the new service, known as FlexTrans, already have been mailed to members of the disabled community associated with the Utah Independent Living Center.The form, which asks for information on disabilities and government benefits, must be filled out and signed before the service can be used.
Included is a statement certifying that passengers are disabled and the warning that "any misrepresentation" may exclude them from the special service. The statement authorizes UTA to require that disabilities be documented.
A spokesman for the disabled community, Mark Smith, said he and others are uncomfortable providing all the information requested on the form, especially date of birth and Social Security number.
Smith, the community resource director for the Utah Independent Living Center, said he fears the information would be used to determine if the individuals are eligible for federal programs that help fund transportation of the disabled as well as to verify disabilities.
UTA officials hope to offset about half the $1 million operating cost for the service with payments from Medicaid and other federal programs that subsidize transportation costs for the disabled.
"Who's to stop them from getting all kinds of information they don't need from a physician or even the federal government?" Smith asked. "Who does UTA think they are? They're a bus company."
UTA spokesman Craig Rasmussen said that FlexTrans service would be provided on an honor system unless it appears it is being abused.
"They just have to sign the form and say they have a disability that makes them unable to use the UTA bus system," Rasmussen said of the disclaimer. "We just wanted a fallback position."
Smith and other members of the disabled community have sought to have all UTA buses equipped with wheelchair lifts. They call the separate FlexTrans service discriminatory.
FlexTrans, short for "flexible transportation service", is a $1.8 million fleet of 15 scaled-down buses with platforms that can be lowered nearly to ground level for easy wheelchair access.
The special buses will supplement UTA's regular fleet. Only about one-tenth of the regular buses are equipped with wheelchair lifts.
FlexTrans buses will pick up registered riders at their homes and take them to a station at 1900 S. State St., where they can connect either to another FlexTrans bus or a bus with lift equipment.
Registration forms can be obtained at UTA's offices at either 616 W. Second South or 3600 S. Seventh West, at major schedule outlets or by calling 287-7433.
Other places where the forms are available include: Utah Industries for the Blind, Multiple Sclerosis Society, Easter Seal Society, Muscular Dystrophy Association, United Cerebral Palsy, University of Utah Disabled Student Services, Salt Lake County Aging services, Disabled American Veterans, Holy Cross Hospital, University of Utah Medical Center and Western Rehabilitation.