What Does Americans with Disabilities Act say about Transportation?

What Does Americans with Disabilities Act say about Transportation?

Is public transportation covered by the ADA?

Yes. If it is offered by a state or local government, it is covered by Title II. If it is offered by a private company, it is covered by Title III. Publicly funded transportation includes, but is not limited to, bus and passenger train (rail) service. Rail service includes subways (rapid rail), light rail, commuter rail, and Amtrak. Privately funded transportation includes, but is not limited to, taxicabs, airport shuttles, intercity bus companies, such as Greyhound, and hotel-provided transportation. The ADA also covers how transportation service is operated. For example, bus stops must be announced.

Do all buses have to be accessible to people who use wheelchairs?

At this point, nearly all buses are required to be accessible. When the ADA was passed in 1990, it required any new bus that was leased or purchased to be accessible to people who use wheelchairs, but it did not require retrofitting of older buses. Since buses are generally replaced after 10 or 12 years, it would be very rare to have an inaccessible bus still in the fleet, since the ADA was passed over 22 years ago.

Must bus drivers allow people who are blind to ride the buses?

Bus drivers may not discriminate against people because of a disability. No transit provider may deny any person with a disability, on the basis of disability, the opportunity to use the transit provider’s service.

Are taxicabs covered by the ADA even if they are driven by private independent contractors?

Yes. Taxicabs are still covered by the ADA even if the drivers are not technically employees of a cab company. However, taxicabs that are sedans are not required to be wheelchair accessible.

Are shuttle buses on college campuses covered by the ADA?

The ADA does not require a college campus to offer a shuttle bus system, but if it does, it must be accessible to people with disabilities.

What is ADA paratransit?

ADA paratransit is a transportation service that complements public transit bus and rail systems by providing origin-to-destination service for individuals with disabilities who cannot use the fixed route service.

Must all transit agencies offer ADA paratransit service?

Any public entity that offers bus and/or train service must also offer paratransit because there will always be some individuals with disabilities who are unable to navigate the bus and/or train systems on their own, due to their disabilities.

Is ADA paratransit free?

No. But ADA paratransit fares are limited to twice the fare that may be charged to a passenger paying full fare on a comparable trip on the bus or train system.

Is every person who has a disability eligible for ADA paratransit?

No. There are three categories of eligibility for ADA paratransit:

  1. Individuals who cannot navigate the fixed route system, as a result of a physical or mental impairment, without the assistance of another individual (other than the operator of a wheelchair lift or other boarding device);
  2. Individuals with disabilities who can use buses that have wheelchair lifts, but want to travel on a route that uses buses that are not accessible; and
  3. Individuals with disabilities who have specific impairment-related conditions that prevent the person from traveling to a boarding location or from a disembarking location.

What are some of the ADA’s specific requirements for public transit vehicles?

In complying with the ADA’s requirements, the U.S. Department of Transportation has issued minimum guidelines for accessibility on public transit vehicles. Some important vehicle regulations in assisting Americans with disabilities are:

  • Platform barriers to prevent wheelchairs from rolling off
  • Strong and large handrails
  • Vehicle ramps or bridge plates
  • Lift equipment to load wheelchairs
  • Priority seating for the disabled
  • Proper and clear doorways and pathways in subways
  • Proper lighting on ramps and doorways

In addition, all transportation personnel should be properly trained in operating accessibility equipment safely and assisting individuals with disabilities with courtesy and respect.

Does ADA paratransit cover the same areas as the bus and train?

The transit agency must provide paratransit to and from places within corridors that are ¾ mile on each side of all the bus routes, making the corridor 1.5 miles wide. In the case of a train system, the transit agency must provide paratransit to and from places within circles with a diameter of 1.5 miles around each station.

During what days and hours must ADA paratransit be offered?

Paratransit must be available throughout the same hours and days as the transit agency’s bus and/or train service.

How soon can an ADA paratransit rider obtain a ride?

A transit agency must provide a paratransit ride if it is requested at any time on the previous day (next day service).

Must passenger trains and train stations provide access for people with disabilities? Is level boarding required?

Yes, passenger train service must be accessible to people with disabilities and level boarding is required under certain conditions. Train stations must be accessible. Each passenger train must have at least one accessible car and new cars must be accessible. Most passenger trains must provide level-entry boarding at stations in which no track passing through the station and adjacent to platforms is shared with existing freight rail operations. If the track shared with existing freight rail operations precludes compliance, the railroads are able to choose an alternative way to make sure that passengers with disabilities can access each accessible train car that other passengers can board at the station by either providing car-borne lifts, station-based lifts, or mini-high platforms.

  1. Are there any ADA requirements for air transportation?

The ADA doesn’t regulate air travel discrimination. However, the Air Carrier Access Act does. Under the Air Carrier Access Act, domestic and foreign passenger airlines are prohibited to discriminate against people with mental or physical disabilities. The Act only covers passenger airlines that are open to the public. For example, a passenger airline such as Southwest must provide wheelchair access on its planes. However, FedEx, a shipping company, isn’t required to do so, on its planes.

  1. Do sidewalks have to comply with the ADA?

Many individuals with disabilities use wheelchairs or walking aids. In compliance with the ADA, the U.S. Department of Transportation has issued regulations for sidewalks and crosswalks. Some significant regulations include:

  • Wide sidewalks
  • Ramps leading in to crosswalks
  • Pedestrian control signals low enough to be accessible by wheelchair users
  • Increased crossing times to accommodate people with disabilities
  • Driveway crossings designed to accommodate the movements of individuals with disabilities

Get Legal Assistance for your Disability Discrimination Claim

Have you experienced difficulty getting around via public transit or other means of transportation? The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that individuals with disabilities are entitled to the same access to transportation as everyone else. If you are disabled and have been denied access to any mode of transportation, then find out how to protect your rights. If you think your rights have been violated, then you should talk to a civil rights attorney about filing an ADA claim.


*Taken from the ADA National Network Disability Law Handbook Created by Jacquie Brennan,
Southwest ADA Center A program of ILRU & Findlaw at http://civilrights.findlaw.com.