SURE Ride began accepting requests for wheelchair accessible vehicles when they resumed services at the start of the spring semester.
“This has been in the plan from the beginning, and so we are extremely excited to see it finally being rolled out,” said Bobby Stone, director of Parking and Transportation Services, in an email. “The program was designed and is intended for the entire university community, and with this last piece it now can truly serve everyone equally.”
SURE Ride is in a partnership with Lyft that began last fall. The program enables students to receive free Lyft rides from campus to residential areas between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m.
Students who want to participate in the program must opt in through Parking and Transportation Services online. To request a wheelchair accessible vehicle, students must select “Access Mode” under the “Settings and Services” of the app and follow the instructions given there.
“It provides a great platform for providing the campus community with late night, safe access from the campus back to where the shuttles operate,” Stone said.
SURE Walk, the student-run ride service on campus, also added a wheelchair accessible van to their fleet of vehicles during the fall semester.
“Now we are able to fulfill requests for students who may have different needs in terms of vehicles,” said Holden Hopkins, associate director for SURE Walk. “We are fully accessible, that was one of our big goals coming in and SURE Walk is now fully accessible.”
Government sophomore Archer Hadley said adding wheelchair accessibility for students like him is a step in the right direction. Hadley is the founder of Archer’s Challenge, an event where people experience what it’s like to be wheelchair bound for a day.
“To know that excites me a lot,” Hadley said. “I think this is all helping to make UT a more welcoming environment for all kinds of (students), and I think this is really helping to do that.”
Hadley says the University still has a long way to go to make people more aware of disabilities and special education.
“I think that they could do a much better job in putting money and efforts in the special education areas,” Hadley said. “I think that they’re definitely trying to make efforts in that area, but it’s not without prodding and poking from students like me, so I think there’s a lot more to do.”
Last semester, SURE Walk fulfilled about 15,000 rides, which is 3,000 more than the previous semester, said Hopkins, Plan II and business honors sophomore. This semester, SURE Walk plans to purchase more golf carts after raising money through UT’s fundraising site HornRaiser, during the fall.
“It’s great to continue to see it grow,” Hopkins said. “We did have a successful HornRaiser that raised us some money that we’re going to be able to invest in the program and get us some more vehicles, and hopefully we can see that usage go even higher.”
Hopkins does not foresee any major changes to SURE Walk operations this semester that will affect users, but program leaders are looking to become more efficient and decrease wait times.
“We are always working and evaluating efficiency and working to get wait times down to respond to students,” Hopkins said. “We are looking at what students want and building that into the program.”