Getting Support to Travel

The ability to travel often contributes greatly to a person’s independence, whether it’s going to the grocery store or across the country. However, sometimes getting somewhere isn’t as easy as it might seem. Here, you can find some resources and information to improve and maintain your freedom to go where you want to.

Via Rail Pass for Special Companion:Expand Via Rail Pass for Special Companion: Section

If you or someone you know requires assistance in tending to their personal needs and must travel with a companion, that companion can travel free of charge in the same class of service on Via Rail. This is a program that Epilepsy Ontario manages for Epilepsy Canada.

Who is Eligible?
The companion must be at least 12 years old and must be able to take the responsibilities required of them, including boarding and disembarking the passenger and assisting in their mobility on the train.

How to Apply
Documentation from the physician attending to the person with special needs is required and it must state that the person needs assistance while travelling. The letter must specifically include:

    • If the condition is permanent, or otherwise be dated within the last 9 months
    • If the person with special needs cannot eat, tend to their personal hygiene, or administer medical care on their own

Once you have this documentation, you can send it to us, along with a mailing address we can send your card to.

What else?
The pass is good for as long as the VIA program is operating and the pass can be used as many times as necessary. Once Epilepsy Ontario receives confirmation, we will send the person the card.

For more information, you can refer to the VIA rail webpage on accessibility and special needs.

Northern Health Travel Grant Program:Expand Northern Health Travel Grant Program: Section

The Northern Health Travel Grant Program (NHTGP) can assist people by covering some of the travel costs for residents in Northern Ontario who have to travel at least 100 km one-way to access a medical specialist or other designated health care facility that isn’t available locally. In certain cases the program can also assist people whose one-way road distance to the nearest health care facility is at least 200 km by providing an allowance of $100 per eligible trip for accommodation (e.g., hotels).

Please note: you must get an application for the program from the professional who is referring you BEFORE you travel.

Who is Eligible?
To be eligible, you must meet the following requirements:

    • You are OHIP insured on the date of your treatment and your primary residence is in the district of Algoma, Cochrane, Kenora, Manitoulin, Nipissing, Parry Sound, Rainy River, Sudbury, Timiskaming or Thunder Bay
    • The medical specialist or health care facility-based service you were referred to is under the Health Insurance Act
    • A northern physician, dentist, optometrist, chiropractor, midwife, or nurse practitioner has referred you before travel takes place
    • You are referred to one of the following:
      • A medical specialist who is certified by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada
      • A Winnipeg (Manitoba) physician enrolled in the Manitoba Health Specialist register who is permitted to bill as a specialist
      • A physician who holds a specialist certificate of registration from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario in a recognized medical/surgical speciality other than family/general practice
    • The nearest specialist/designated health care facility able to provide the type of care required in Ontario or Manitoba is at least 100 km from where you live

How to Apply
To apply for a grant, you can get an application form from your northern doctor, dentist, optometrist, midwife, NP, or chiropractor. You will need a referral form before you travel, which only needs to be completed every 12 months as long as you’re going to the same specialist/facility. After that, the specialist you see will need to fill out another section of the form, and you will need to keep your accommodation and receipts, as well as those for a travelling companion.

What else?
Here’s how the numbers work:

  • For travel, approved grants are paid at $0.41/km based on return road distance travel between your home and your destination. There is a deductible of 100km on your trip (i.e., you must pay for 100km yourself)
    • Example: You need to travel 150 km one-way (300 km two-way).
      • The deductible is 100 km, so 200 km will be paid for by the NHTG (300 km – 100 km)
      • 200 km x 0.41 = $82.00
  • For accommodation, the program gives an allowance of $100 for each eligible treatment trip. You must submit a receipt of your expense.

Some things to keep note of:

    • Costs such as meals and other expenses other than travel and accommodation will not be covered by this program
    • Receipts/itineraries are required if you travel by air, train, or bus (but nothing is needed if you go by personal vehicle)

For further details, you can visit the NHTGP website.

Travelling in the community:Expand Travelling in the community: Section

The Government of Canada has compiled a list of accessible ground transportation services within cities and towns across Canada. To find a transportation service in your area as well as the right contact information, please visit this page.

Travelling far for medical reasons:Expand Travelling far for medical reasons: Section

Ontario is very fortunate to have many specialized programs for epilepsy within the province. For some people these services will be close by, and for others it may take some travelling to get to them. Here are some tips you can keep in mind when planning and travelling to a medical facility or specialist that is far from your home.

    • Residents in Northern Ontario may be eligible for financial support with accommodation and travel costs under the Northern Health Travel Grant (see above)
    • Most hospitals will have information about nearby accommodations on the hospital website: try searching for “accommodations”
    • The Patient Relations office or Family Resource office at the hospital should have additional information about local accommodations, and can answer questions you may have – you can find the extension or call the main number and ask switchboard to redirect you
    • The hospital may also have a Patient Handbook on their website, or they could be able to send you one
    • When booking a room at a hotel/motel – be sure to ask if there is a hospital rate for people travelling for medical reasons
    • Local service clubs or church groups may provide financial help to people and families who have to travel for medical reasons.  Contact your local Lions Club or Rotary Club, local church groups or other community groups for more information.
    • You may be able to claim travel expenses on your income taxes for a tax credit. If you plan to do so, keep a few things in mind:
      • Keep a log of any medical appointments – the date, type of appointment and distance traveled
      • Keep receipts for public transit, gas, parking, meals and accommodations
      • For more information visit the Canadian Revenue Agency website
    • If you need help with accommodations or travel, ask your doctor for a referral to a social worker at the hospital.
Quick links:

Accommodations near the University Health Network, Toronto – Toronto General, Toronto Western, Princess Margaret, and Toronto Rehab: Click Here

Accommodations near Sick Kids Hospital, Toronto: Click Here

Accommodations near St. Joseph’s Hospital, Toronto: Click Here

Accommodations near Hamilton Health Sciences, Hamilton: Click Here

Accommodations near the Kingston General Hospital, Kingston: Click Here

Accommodations near CHEO, Ottawa: Click Here

Accommodations near University Hospital, London: Click Here

Victoria Hospital, Children’s Hospital, London: Click Here

Seizure alert/response dogs:Expand Seizure alert/response dogs: Section

Seizure alert (or seizure assist) dogs are special service animals trained to protect people who have epilepsy if they have a seizure in public. They may be capable of many things such as staying close to a person, fetching medication or a telephone, or guiding someone away from trouble. It should be noted that dogs cannot be trained to detect seizures, but some dogs may have the intuition.

The Lions Foundation of Canada has a program where eligible individuals could be provided with seizure response dog. You can find the page on this program here, as well as the application forms you will need to complete to apply for a dog. You can also learn more about seizure dogs in general on our website here.