Accessibility

Background

All people, regardless of their ability level, should have access to convenient and safe transportation options. Mobility is an essential component of quality of life. Nonetheless, people with disabilities or with limited mobility often find themselves with limited transportation options.

The Americans with Disabilities ActLegislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications. (ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications.) is a comprehensive civil rights law guaranteeing equal opportunity for people with disabilities. It applies to employment, public transportation, and public accommodations. All state and local government programs, activities, and services may not discriminate on the basis of disability.

Ensuring safe pedestrian travel requires streets, intersections, curbs, and other infrastructure to comply with the ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications.. The goal is to make transportation facilities and services accessible and safe for all people, including older adults and people with disabilities.

In 2011, the Access Board issued Proposed Accessibility Guidelines for Pedestrian Facilities in the Public Right-of-Way. However, the Department of Justice still has not adopted these guidelines. When it does, they will become enforceable under Title II of the ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications.. In the interim, the Department of Transportation identifies these as the current best practices in accessible pedestrian design. Among the many issues that these guidelines address are crosswalks, curb ramps, street furnishings, signals, parking, access for pedestrians who are blind, wheelchair access to on-street parking, and constraints posed by space limitations, roadway designs, and terrain.

In addition, Title II of the ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications. also requires state and local governments to develop ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications. transition plans that remove existing barriers to travel, which must:

  • identify corridors where sidewalks are nonexistent but are needed;
  • inventory physical obstacles and their location;
  • provide adequate opportunity for residents with disabilities to offer input into the transition plan;
  • describe in detail the methods the entity will use to make the facilities accessible;
  • provide a yearly schedule for making modifications;
  • name an official or position responsible for implementing the transition plan; and 
  • set aside a budget to implement the transition plan.

The ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications. requires all new buses and rail cars to be accessible to people with disabilities. The ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications. also requires that demand-responsive services, which do not operate on a fixed route, must demonstrate equivalent service for individuals with a disability. For example, a demand-responsive provider may provide services in buses and vans that are not accessible as long as equivalent service is available for people with disabilities in accessible vehicles.

The ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications. and some states prohibit taxi and transportation network company drivers from discriminating against people with disabilities. For example, drivers must transport a wheelchair when they can fit it in the car (see also Transportation Network Companies). Taxis are required to purchase wheelchair-accessible vehicles when purchasing new vans, but this may not be enough to satisfy the demand.

Municipalities have put in place a range of programs to expand access to accessible vehicles. For example, some municipalities that require an authorization, commonly known as a medallion, to operate a taxi are providing them at a reduced cost for drivers with accessible vehicles. In addition, some taxi companies contract with the local public transportation authority to provide accessible transportation services and then make these wheelchair-accessible vehicles available for regular taxi service when they are not providing service under such contracts.

Some transportation network companies (TNCs) are exploring options to ensure compliance with the ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications. and expanding access for people with disabilities. These include:

  • requiring training for all drivers on ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications. legal requirements;
  • offering services from drivers who have received additional training on how to best assist older adults and people with disabilities;
  • referring passengers who cannot be accommodated to local, accessible vehicle dispatch services;
  • partnering with private transportation providers to tap their fleets of wheelchair-accessible vehicles and trained drivers; and
  • removing drivers who do not comply with the ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications..

Airplanes: Although the ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications. does not apply to air travel, the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 prohibits discrimination against air travelers with disabilities. Unlike the ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications., however, the 1986 law does not guarantee equal access for people with disabilities or provide injunctive relief in court (though administrative relief is available). People with disabilities continue to experience many barriers to the use of commercial aircraft and believe that enforcement efforts need to be strengthened.

Passenger vessels: The ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications. covers passenger vessels, including ferries, excursion vessels, sightseeing vessels, and cruise ships. Department of Transportation rules, in effect since 2011, address service issues under the ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications.. Passengers with disabilities should be able to experience all aspects of a cruise or other passenger vessel, as do passengers without disabilities. For example, cruise operators are required to ensure that passengers with disabilities can board and get off a vessel through lifts, ramps, boarding chairs, assistance from personnel, and the like. In addition, the U.S. Access Board has drafted accessibility guidelines establishing standards for the construction or alteration of passenger vessels, but they have not yet been approved.

Station infrastructure: Newly constructed or reconstructed transit stations and bus stops, along with ticket-vending equipment, must be accessible to people with disabilities.

Congress required Amtrak to make all stations accessible by 2010; however, Amtrak did not meet this deadline. The Amtrak Office of the Inspector General reported in 2014 that only 51 of 482 stations were ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications.-compliant. The Department of Justice determined that Amtrak discriminated against people with disabilities by failing to meet the deadline. Problems persist today.

The ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications. requires public transportation providers to make infrastructure accessible. In addition, public transportation providers must offer door-to-door wheelchair-accessible paratransitThe Americans with Disabilities Act requires fixed-route public transit providers to offer “complementary paratransit” to qualified people with disabilities. Door-to-door service is typically provided using wheelchair-accessible vehicles. services for people with disabilities who cannot use fixed-route transit and live within three-quarters of a mile of a fixed route. The coverage area and days and hours of service must be comparable to the fixed-route service.

ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications. paratransitThe Americans with Disabilities Act requires fixed-route public transit providers to offer “complementary paratransit” to qualified people with disabilities. Door-to-door service is typically provided using wheelchair-accessible vehicles. service consists of curb-to-curb or door-to-door service on wheelchair-accessible vehicles. The total fare charged to the customer cannot be more than twice the base fare for the fixed-route service. However, the cost of providing paratransitThe Americans with Disabilities Act requires fixed-route public transit providers to offer “complementary paratransit” to qualified people with disabilities. Door-to-door service is typically provided using wheelchair-accessible vehicles. services is more than triple the cost of providing fixed-route services, according to the Government Accountability Office.

The funding need for specialized paratransitThe Americans with Disabilities Act requires fixed-route public transit providers to offer “complementary paratransit” to qualified people with disabilities. Door-to-door service is typically provided using wheelchair-accessible vehicles. is increasing for several reasons. First, people with disabilities are becoming more integrated into mainstream employment and community activities and thus need more services. Second, some agencies are no longer offering transportation for clients eligible for complimentary paratransitThe Americans with Disabilities Act requires fixed-route public transit providers to offer “complementary paratransit” to qualified people with disabilities. Door-to-door service is typically provided using wheelchair-accessible vehicles. trips. Finally, many paratransitThe Americans with Disabilities Act requires fixed-route public transit providers to offer “complementary paratransit” to qualified people with disabilities. Door-to-door service is typically provided using wheelchair-accessible vehicles. providers have difficulty with clients not showing up for scheduled trips, diminishing the resources available for others who seek services. At the same time, riders in some areas complain that existing paratransitThe Americans with Disabilities Act requires fixed-route public transit providers to offer “complementary paratransit” to qualified people with disabilities. Door-to-door service is typically provided using wheelchair-accessible vehicles. services are expensive and not dependable.

Some communities are experimenting with new on-demand ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications. paratransitThe Americans with Disabilities Act requires fixed-route public transit providers to offer “complementary paratransit” to qualified people with disabilities. Door-to-door service is typically provided using wheelchair-accessible vehicles. models in the form of microtransitA private, shared ride on-demand transportation service that uses computer-generated pickup points and routes. or partnerships with TNCs.

ACCESSIBILITY: Policy

ACCESSIBILITY: Policy

Access for people with disabilities

Policymakers and the private sector should meet the transit needs of people who are older, frail, or have disabilities. This includes:

  • encouraging the development of accessible private transportation services;
  • removing barriers that prevent people with disabilities from using sidewalks; and
  • ensuring accessibility for people with disabilities in commercial aircraft and passenger vessels.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Congress should provide adequate funding for ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications. enforcement activities. It should utilize the higher federal match for compliance with the ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications.. Congress also should amend the ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications. to explicitly prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities by private transportation services.

Public transportation providers should identify and implement cost-effective measures that expand ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications. paratransitThe Americans with Disabilities Act requires fixed-route public transit providers to offer “complementary paratransit” to qualified people with disabilities. Door-to-door service is typically provided using wheelchair-accessible vehicles. eligibility and service beyond the minimum mandated by the ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications..

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the Administration for Community Living should develop guidelines and provide technical assistance to transit authorities on making eligibility decisions under the ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications. and providing information on available alternatives to people of all ages with disabilities.

The FTA also should:

  • provide education about ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications. rights and the use of accessible transportation;
  • ensure the accessibility of all transportation services offered to the public, including through monitoring and enforcement of all public transportation providers and providing technical assistance to local transportation agencies and authorities; and
  • promote research on how to reduce paratransitThe Americans with Disabilities Act requires fixed-route public transit providers to offer “complementary paratransit” to qualified people with disabilities. Door-to-door service is typically provided using wheelchair-accessible vehicles. service costs while improving quality and dependability.

Specifically, the FTA should use its authority to:

  • more vigorously enforce ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications. regulations;
  • conduct compliance reviews;
  • investigate complaints; and
  • impose meaningful sanctions for failures to comply with ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications. regulations.

Congress should also ensure the accessibility of all transportation services offered to the public by aggressively monitoring and enforcing timely ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications. compliance by all transportation providers, including intercity and over-the-road buses.

Local governments should encourage the development of accessible private transportation services (e.g., taxis) through such means as economic incentives, ordinances, and programs that designate medallions for accessible vehicles.

State and local jurisdictions must comply with the ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications. by removing access barriers that prevent people with disabilities from safely using the sidewalks.

State and local government should proactively develop and implement transition plans to ensure communities are fully accessible to people with disabilities.

State and local jurisdictions must safely accommodate pedestrians with disabilities by implementing the best-practices guidelines in the 2011 Proposed Accessibility Guidelines for Pedestrian Facilities in the Public Right-of-Way.

Congress should encourage the Department of Justice to adopt the Proposed Accessibility Guidelines for Pedestrian Facilities in the Public Right-of-Way.

Congress should ensure the accessibility of all transportation services offered to the public by aggressively monitoring and enforcing timely ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications. compliance by all transportation providers, including intercity and over-the-road buses, Amtrak, and ferries.