Getting to the Car has Never been Easier
by Joan Leotta
For some time, car rental companies have recognized that travelers with disabilities often need specially-equipped cars. But the process of reaching those cars was never easyuntil now.
The Hertz Corporation, headquartered in Park Ridge, New Jersey, has made a $60 million dollar commitment to making it easier for disabled travelers to get to their rental cars. To streamline the process of taking travelers from airport terminals to car rental locations, Hertz recently completed deployment of Easy-Access shuttle buses at 20 airports across the country.
Why This Bus?
One of the world's leading vehicle rental companies, Hertz has locations in over 140 countries, operating a fleet of 525,000 vehicles from approximately 6,500 locations. Hertz spokesperson Paula Stifter says, "At Hertz, we want to make all customers' rental experience as easy and convenient as possible. Taking this into consideration, we offer a full range of special services for physically-challenged renters."
The first Hertz Easy-Access courtesy shuttle bus chugged into airports in 1997. These low-floor, environmentally friendly transports are designed to meet high standards of customer service. The extra-wide (56 inches) doorway and low (16 inches) floor eases boarding. The bus can "kneel" to a four-inch height to further ease entry.
A simple electronic ramp facilitates wheelchair or scooter entry and exit. Once on board, travelers in wheelchairs have available ADA-compliant safety belts. Waist-high luggage racks eliminate the need for passengers to heft cumbersome baggage overhead.
The Easy-Access bus can accommodate up to 24 passengers. With the Gillig Corporation, a major bus manufacturer based near San Francisco, Hertz developed the Easy-Access bus to meet the varied needs of today's traveler, taking into consideration a variety of environmental issues associated with bus transportation.
Low-floor buses have been used in Europe for several years, and Gillig had been tracking bus usage and evaluating technology needed to manufacture such a vehicle in the US. Hertz approached Gillig for a potential partnership and development of the Easy-Access bus began.
A 35-Year History
Stifter notes that Hertz has been providing services to travelers with disabilities for some time. She points out that Easy-Access is simply one more example of the company's commitment to easing the burden of travel for individuals with physical disabilities. In 1965, Hertz introduced hand controls for disabled travelers and currently makes the controls available at most rental locations in the United States and Canada. This equipment is available at no additional charge.
Steering wheel spinner knobs are also available at many US and Canadian Hertz locations. Travelers needing spinner knobs should request them at the time of reservation. Travelers who are blind or otherwise unable to drive themselves can rent Hertz cars in their names, provided that they are accompanied by a licensed driver at the time of rental. However, such drivers still must meet the Hertz minimum age requirement of 25.
All Hertz corporate locations have designated accessible parking at car-return areas. When returning a rental car to a Hertz location, renters should ask the Hertz representative how to find the accessible parking area.
For any special accommodation, communication at reservation time is key. The Hertz reservation system can accommodate requests for left-hand controls, right-hand controls, and steering wheel spinner knobs. The system also makes note of blind renters requesting to be accompanied by drivers and customers or members of a traveling party who have disabilities. Reservations involving special circumstances can usually be accommodated with as little as eight hours' notice at major airport Hertz centers and as little as 24 hours notice at other locations.
Just the Latest Step
The Easy-Access shuttles are just the latest step in the company's plan to serve people with disabilities. Stifter notes, "We continually seek ways to make travel, and car rental in particular, as easy and convenient as possible for all of our customers."
Use the numbers listed below to call Hertz to arrange your next rental car. Deaf drivers, call 1-800-654-2280 (TTY).
The 20 airport locations with Easy-Access shuttles are:
New York (Kennedy and La Guardia)
Washington, DC (Dulles)
West Palm Beach
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