Rogue Valley Transportation District, Medford, OR, 12-20-08

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U.S. Department
of Transportation
Headquarters East Building, 5th Floor - TCR
1200 New Jersey Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20590
Federal Transit
Administration
December 20, 2008

Re: FTA Complaint Number 08-[0]120

 

Dear [name withheld]:

This letter responds to your complaint against the Rogue Valley Transportation District (RVTD) alleging discrimination on the basis of disability. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Office of Civil Rights is responsible for civil rights compliance and monitoring, which includes ensuring that providers of public transportation properly implement Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Department of Transportation's (DOT) implementing regulations at 49 CFR Parts 27, 37, and 38.

In the FTA complaint investigation process, we analyze allegations for possible ADA deficiencies by the transit provider. If FTA identifies what may be a violation, we first attempt to provide technical assistance to assist the public transit provider in complying with the ADA.  If FTA cannot resolve apparent violations of the ADA or the DOT ADA regulations by voluntary means, formal enforcement proceedings may be initiated against the public transit provider which may result in the termination of Federal funds. FTA also may refer the matter to the U.S. Department of Justice for enforcement.

Each response is developed based on the specific facts and circumstances at issue. A determination resulting from a review of these facts is not intended to express an opinion as to the overall ADA compliance of that transit provider.

Specifically, your complaint of August 27, 2006 alleged that:

1. RVTD violated your civil rights under the ADA by refusing to continue to provide you a vehicle with a reclining seat, which you require as a result of your disability, after its December 5, 2005 transition from various local taxicab companies to a sole provider, for the provision of ADA complementary paratransit service. 
2. RVTD suggested that you purchase a wheelchair that reclines to meet your request for a reclining seat. You stated that you do not qualify for a wheelchair under Medicare or any medical program available to you.

We apologize for the delay in responding to your complaint.  FTA investigated your allegations and sent an information request to RVTD.  We received a response from RVTD that addressed and provided relevant information on your allegations.

Each allegation is addressed in detail below:

1. You allege that RVTD violated your civil rights under the ADA by refusing to continue to provide you a vehicle with a reclining seat, which you require as a result of your disability, after its December 5, 2005 transition from various local taxicab companies to a sole provider, for the provision of ADA complementary paratransit service.  

With your complaint, you enclosed copies of two letters from your physicians.  One indicates that you are unable to sit for a prolonged period and would benefit from a reclining seat; the other states that you require a reclining seat when traveling in a moving vehicle for comfort. 

As part of its response, RVTD provided a copy of your application for partransit eligibility and its determination letter. Your application indicates that a reclining seat at 45 degrees allows you to move about freely and that you cannot ride in a moving vehicle without a reclining seat at a maximum of 45 degrees.

While the local taxi companies with which RVTD formerly contracted for part of their ADA paratransit service may have accommodated your need for a reclining seat on an individual basis, there is no requirement under the ADA for vehicles to be equipped with reclining seats.  According to documentation and information provided to our office by RVTD, the vehicles in its current paratransit fleet consist of a mix of vans, minivans and cutaway buses that meet ADA requirements for accessibility. Since May of 2006, Paratransit Services, Inc. has been providing all of RVTD’s paratransit needs using these vehicles provided by RVTD, and since that date, RVTD has not been using sedan vehicles and overflow rides have not been contracted to local taxi companies.

Under the ADA, paratransit functions as a "safety net" for people with disabilities who are unable to make use of the fixed-route transit system (bus or rail). It is not intended to be a comprehensive system of transportation that meets all of the travel needs of persons with disabilities. As such, the level of service is required to be comparable to the fixed-route system, and service is required only for individuals whose disability – permanent or temporary – prevents them from using the fixed-route system. The service requirements and standards for vehicle accessibility established by DOT regulations are intended to accommodate a broad range of disabilities, but there will inevitably be individuals whose specific medical requirements fall outside the scope and capabilities of ADA paratransit.

If RVTD’s fleet included vehicles with reclining seats, and RVTD was routinely able to accommodate requests by other passengers for a specific vehicle type but did not do the same for you, then we would regard that as discriminatory conduct.  That is not the case in this instance, however; RVTD has simply changed the manner in which it complies with ADA requirements for complementary paratransit, in a manner that still meets those requirements.  While we are sympathetic to your situation, this change in RVTD’s operations which has resulted in an inability to provide you with a reclining seat, does not constitute a violation of the Department’s ADA regulations.

2. RVTD suggested that you purchase a wheelchair that reclines to meet your request for a reclining seat.  You do not qualify for a wheelchair under Medicare or any medical program available to you.

With your complaint, you enclosed a copy of RVTD’s March 29, 2006 letter of apology to all Valley Lift clients and concerned customers acknowledging the difficulty of the transition from several local cab companies to a sole paratransit service provider, Paratransit Services, Inc. of Bremerton, Washington. Other than acknowledging that sedans had been procured to provide back up assistance for ambulatory passengers for a short time, this letter does not appear to address the substance of your complaint.

You also provided us with a copy of a letter sent to you by RVTD on June 1, 2006, in which Valley Lift Coordinator Cyndee Arellanes responded to an apparent statement by you that wheelchairs cannot accommodate your need to recline.  Ms. Arellanos stated that there are a number of wheelchairs on the market that are capable of reclining, and suggested that such a wheelchair might resolve your need to travel while reclined.  We do not find that this suggestion was made to offend you; rather, RVTD’s intent appears to have been to provide you with additional information that might be of use to you.

A member of our office contacted the RVTD General Manager on June 4 and June 6, 2008. The General Manager indicated that there might be two programs in Jackson County, Oregon that may be able to accommodate your request for a reclining seat. We encourage you to contact RVTD for referrals to these programs. 

After reviewing all of the submitted materials, the FTA Office of Civil Rights has not found RVTD to be in violation of DOT ADA regulations. As the investigation phase of this process has been completed, we are closing your complaint as of the date of this letter.

This concludes our processing of this matter and no further action will be taken. If new information comes to your attention, please contact us. If you have any questions regarding our determination, please contact Susan Clark at (202) 493-0511, or via e-mail at sue.clark@dot.gov. Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention.

Sincerely,

 

John R. Day
Acting ADA Team Leader
Office of Civil Rights 

 

cc:
Julie Brown, RVTD General Manager
Rick Krochalis, FTA Region X Administrator
Monica McCallum, FTA Region X Civil Rights Officer