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Equal Mobility Through Paratransit Services?

While transport services that supplement public transport are vital for people with disabilities, they can be expensive for those affected, and their availability is often limited. This project is based on the experiences of persons with disabilities. It aims to create a foundation for improving paratransit services.


Many people in Switzerland cannot use public transport or can only use it to a limited extent (e.g., due to a motor or visual impairment). They rely on paratransit services to participate in daily life. Various insurance providers, such as health insurance funds and the Swiss Disability Insurance and Old Age and Survivors' Insurance, provide some financial support by subsidizing travel. There are also foundations in some Swiss cantons that co-finance transport services. However, the responsibilities of these sponsors are often unclear. In addition, benefits may be tied to specific purposes and limited, for example, to a certain number of journeys per month.

Little is known about how people experience mobility limitations and how they affect their ability to work and engage in social activities. However, their views are relevant as Switzerland is obliged under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Swiss Disability Discrimination Act to facilitate the personal mobility of persons with disabilities.


The objectives of this research project were

  1. To provide an overview of national and cantonal regulations for paratransit services.
  2. To describe the limitations and disadvantages experienced by people with disabilities in this area.
  3. To develop recommendations for action for policy makers and those responsible in the relevant organizations.

Method and approach

The project team collected the views of persons with disabilities from different perspectives and using several methods:

  • First, the experiences of 31 persons with disabilities were collected in five group discussions and analysed following the qualitative content analysis method. 
  • The findings of the qualitative study served as the basis for a large-scale quantitative survey in German-, French- and Italian-speaking Switzerland, in which 536 people participated. 
  • At the same time, the research team compiled an overview of the legal basis for paratransit services in Switzerland. 
  • Based on this overview and the results of the qualitative and quantitative data collection and the legal basis, the researchers developed recommendations for action and involved relevant stakeholders.


The results show that paratransit services are used for different purposes: for going to therapy and the doctor, for leisure activities, shopping, or coming to work. Mainly paratransit services are used for short distances. The service is appreciated because of the personal support of drivers, reliability, and safety. The use of paratransit services varies from person to person. While some people can use alternative means of transport, for others paratransit services are the only option. Consequently, it is precisely for these people that the high prices, unclear funding responsibilities, limited availability, and insufficient coordination among the cantons have a limiting effect.
The analysis of the legal basis revealed an ambiguous positioning of paratransit services within the law and a lack of clear responsibility of the federal government and the cantons. In summary, the project results show that the fundamental rights of persons with disabilities are being violated and that the goals of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities are not being met in the area of mobility.

The following three recommendations for action were developed:

  • Include paratransit services into the scope of the Federal Act on the Elimination of Discrimination against People with Disabilities (BehiG)
  • Paratransit services for persons with disabilities should be integrated into public transport services in an appropriate form by making them subject to the Passenger Transport Act.
  • Ensure coordination of paratransit services for people with disabilities throughout Switzerland - in the areas of offer, use, ordering, and payment - so that people with disabilities can use transport options like people without disabilities.
  • The project was completed in summer 2023. A public final report and further scientific publications are still to be published.

ZHAW Publikationsdatenbank

Project Organisation