Transit and the ADA: Frequently Asked Questions
Personal Care Attendants:
I have a personal care attendant (PCA) who assists me with certain tasks; when I go to work, she rides with me. Does she get to ride for free?
PCAs may not be charged a fare when accompanying a person with a disability who is using the complementary paratransit system. The Department of Transportation’s ADA regulations at 49 CFR §37.131(c)(3) specifically requires that PCAs shall not be charged for complementary paratransit service.
However, the Department’s ADA regulations do not require transit operators to allow PCAs to ride free on the subway, trolley, or fixed route bus service. On the other hand, there is nothing in the regulations that would prevent a transit operator from allowing personal care attendants to ride for free if it wishes; the operator has the discretion to adopt such a policy.
2. Transit Driver:
One of my paratransit passengers travels with an attendant, who rides for free under the ADA regulations. But her attendant never provides her with any kind of assistance while she’s on my bus—and every time I pick her up, her “PCA” is a different person! I think she’s just using the ADA to get free rides for her friends. Isn’t there some rule that says a PCA has to assist the passenger while she’s riding the bus? And shouldn’t I expect to see the same PCA every time?
A personal care attendant (PCA) may ride with a passenger, as outlined above, even if the duties he or she performs do not occur aboard the transit vehicle. This is consistent with the discussion in 49 CFR Part 37, Appendix D, which states that a PCA is “someone designated or employed specifically to help the eligible individual meet his or her personal needs,” but makes no mention of transportation-only needs. Many of the tasks performed throughout the day by PCAs are of a personal nature, and would not be appropriate—or even possible—aboard your bus under ordinary circumstances.
In order to deter abuse of the PCA provision, §37.125(i) of the Department’s ADA regulations allows transit operators to require paratransit passengers to indicate, as part of the paratransit eligibility process, whether they regularly travel with a personal care attendant. If the transit system has implemented such a requirement, and the passenger has not indicated that he or she requires a PCA, then the transit system may regard the individual accompanying him or her on the trip as a companion, for which the appropriate fare can be charged. (Please note that “regularly” does not mean “always” or “exclusively”; there may be occasions on which a person who normally travels with an attendant may find himself attendant-less, but must nonetheless make the trip.)
The transit operator in my city has an “ADA paratransit” service for people with disabilities. I applied, and they told me I’m not eligible. I have a note from my doctor that says I’m disabled, but I would have thought that this wheelchair I’m sitting in would make that obvious enough. How can they tell me I’m “not disabled enough” to ride?
Paratransit eligibility is based on an individual’s functional ability to use the fixed route system; it is not based on a medical diagnosis or meeting the broader ADA definition of “disability.” Simply having a disability does not make you eligible for complementary paratransit under the ADA.
The perception of ADA complementary paratransit as “a transportation system for the disabled” is common, but misguided. The ADA is a civil rights law, not a social services program. In terms of transportation, this means that its primary function is to remove the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from using the existing transportation system, not to provide separate, “special” services.
Transit operators are required to ensure that their regular fixed route systems are accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities, including wheelchair users. By now, people with disabilities should expect to be able to board virtually any bus in your city’s transit fleet by lift or ramp, on any route, at any bus stop, just like everyone else.
Under the ADA, complementary paratransit acts as a “safety net” for people with disabilities whose disability still prevent them—not merely makes use more difficult—from using the fixed route system, even when it’s fully accessible. The process a transit authority uses to determine eligibility for a person with a disability is found in §37.123(e) of the DOT ADA regulations.
I still think they made a mistake; the closest bus stop is only two blocks away, but it’s at the top of a very steep hill. I feel there’s no way I can get to the bus stop on my own. What am I supposed to do?
If an applicant for ADA complementary paratransit feels there was an error in denying their eligibility, they may appeal that decision; §37.125(g) of the DOT ADA regulations requires transit operators to “establish an administrative appeal process through which individuals who are denied eligibility can obtain review of the denial.”
The transit operator may require that any appeal be filed within 60 days of the denial of an application. The appeal process must include an opportunity for the applicant to be heard and to present information and arguments; decisions regarding the appeal can not be made by anyone who was involved in the initial decision to deny eligibility; and the transit operator must provide the individual with written notification of its decision and the reasons for it.
The transit operator is not required to provide paratransit service while the appeal is under consideration; however, if a decision has not been made within 30 days of the completion of the appeal process, the operator must provide paratransit service from that time until and unless a decision to deny the appeal is issued.
Under §37.123(e)(3) of the DOT ADA regulations, any individual with a disability who has a specific impairment-related condition that prevents him or her from traveling to or from a boarding or disembarking location would be eligible for ADA complementary paratransit service. If a disability prevents an individual from traveling to the nearest bus stop, that individual may be eligible under this section. It is important to stress, however, that this applies only where a specific impairment-related condition prevents the individual from reaching the bus stop, not simply because it is more difficult.
Where I used to live I was eligible for ADA complementary paratransit. I just moved, and applied for paratransit here in my new city. They told me I was ineligible. How can this be?
Section 37.125 of the Department’s ADA regulations stipulates that “[e]ach public entity required to provide complementary paratransit service by §37.121 of this part shall establish a process for determining ADA paratransit eligibility.” While the eligibility criteria are established under the Department’s regulations, it is up to each transit agency and the community it serves to determine its own procedures.
If an applicant feels a transit operator made an error in denying their application for eligibility, please see the discussion above about the appeals process and standards of eligibility.
Paratransit for Visitors:
My sister is going to be visiting for two weeks this summer. She’s eligible to use the “ADA paratransit” system in the city where she lives. Can she use my city’s ADA paratransit system while she’s here? Are they supposed to honor a certification from another city?
Yes. A transit authority in another city or locality must recognize the eligibility certification from the transit authority of the city from which it was issued, and must provide service to any visitor who presents such documentation.
Details regarding reciprocity of ADA complementary paratransit eligibility can be found in §37.127 of the DOT ADA regulations. If a visitor does not or cannot present documentation of eligibility in another jurisdiction, the transit authority may require documentation of place of residence and, if the individual’s disability is not apparent, of his or her disability. The transit authority shall accept a certification by such a rider that they are unable to use fixed route transit.
A transit operator is not required to provide service to a visitor for more than 21 days during any 365-day period; after that, the visitor may be required to apply for eligibility through the same processes established for residents under §37.125.
Presumptive 21-Day ADA Paratransit Eligibility:7. Rider:
I turned in my application for eligibility for ADA complementary paratransit service to the local transit system, and they sent it back and told me it was incomplete. I’m filling it out again, but in the meantime I’ve got places to go and things to do. It’s been over 21 days since I first sent it in; aren’t they supposed to be providing me with service until they make a final determination?
Under §37.125(c) of the DOT ADA regulations, the 21 calendar days begin when the applicant provides a complete application and the transit system has received all information—for example, information from a doctor—necessary to make a determination on the application. The transit system is not required to provide service until after this 21-day period has elapsed, at which time the applicant shall be treated as eligible and provided service until an application is approved or denied.
Paratransit Service Area:
8. Transit Provider:
We’ve received a paratransit application from a person who lives at an address that is just beyond the three-quarter mile corridor of a fixed route; in other words, just outside our service area. He meets all of the eligibility requirements. Is he eligible for complementary paratransit service under the ADA?
Yes. While paratransit service is only required between origins and destinations within the service area (generally ¾-mile on either side of a bus route, or within a ¾-mile radius of a rail station), there are no restrictions on residence. If an individual is able to travel to a location within the service area for a paratransit system, the transit provider have the same obligation to provide service as it would if the rider lived across the street from a bus stop. However, the paratransit service is not required to pickup or drop-off a rider outside of that service area.
Transit entities also have the discretion of expanding their service area to include areas up to 1½ miles on either side of the fixed bus route or within a 1½-mile radius of rail stations at the end of the line or in outlying areas; see §§37.131(a)(1)(iii) and 37.131(a)(2)(ii) of the Department’s ADA regulations. In addition, they have the option of providing any additional services beyond the minimum ADA requirements, such as providing countywide paratransit service even when their bus routes do not extend beyond the city limits, so long as it does not adversely affect their ability to meet those minimum requirements. Such service may be considered “premium service” not subject to the regulatory service criteria of §37.131.
Physical Contact with Passengers:
9. Transit Provider:
When assisting a passenger with wheelchair securements or seat belts, or with payment of the fare, is incidental contact with the rider or mobility device required, if needed?
Section 37.163(f) of the DOT ADA regulations states: “Where necessary or upon request, the entity’s personnel shall assist individuals with disabilities with the use of securement systems, ramps and lifts.”
Incidental contact aboard a transit vehicle is probably unavoidable, and certainly some degree of incidental contact will occur when providing assistance with securements, seat belts, and such. The regulation (Appendix D, §37.165) even requires that a driver may have to assist in pushing a manual wheelchair up the ramp (particularly where the ramp slope is relatively steep). However, it is also important to be mindful of “personal space.” It would be advisable for transit operators to develop policies for their personnel to address potentially sensitive areas such as responding to a rider’s request to reach into his pocket to retrieve cash, tokens, transfers, or other fare media to pay the fare.
Can a transit operator refuse service to a passenger who uses a wheelchair if the wheelchair is in poor mechanical condition?
Even though the mechanical condition of a wheelchair may be considered “poor,” if the wheelchair is sufficiently mobile and meets the dimensional standards so that it can be transported on a lift or ramp into the vehicle, service cannot be refused.
11. Transit Driver:
When I went to pick up one of my regular passengers the other day, he told me that the battery on his motorized wheelchair was dead and he asked me to push him onto the bus. Wow, that thing was heavy! I told him I’d get him home tonight, but I wouldn’t be able to push him onto the lift in the morning if his battery was still dead. He said I have an obligation to assist him on and off the bus, and threatened to call my dispatcher. Hey, I do what I can, but I can’t be expected to stand-in for his dead batteries all the time, can I?
Probably not. While §37.165(f) of the DOT ADA regulations requires transit personnel to provide assistance to passengers with disabilities in using securement systems, ramps and lifts, the regulation does not specifically require bus drivers to push inoperable motorized wheelchairs.
It may be appropriate to provide such one-time assistance as may reasonably be needed to ensure that a passenger is not stranded indefinitely in a station, at a bus stop, or aboard an out-of-service bus or train. However, passengers who use motorized wheelchairs should not expect such assistance on a continuing basis.
The last time I rode the paratransit system in my hometown, the bus leaned way over as I went up on the lift. The driver says he doesn’t think I’ll be allowed to ride anymore, since he believes my wheelchair is “overweight.” I’m no lightweight myself, but I think the problem is with their lift or the bus they put it on. Can they kick me off the system for being “too heavy”?
It depends. As long as the combined weight of an individual and their wheelchair is 600 lbs. or less, the transit entity’s vehicles and equipment must accommodate that rider and are required to transport them.
Under the parameters established to define a “common wheelchair” for purposes of the Department’s ADA regulations, lifts and ramps are designed to accommodate wheelchairs that weigh up to 600 lbs. when occupied; there is no requirement for transit operators to accommodate heavier occupied mobility aids.
The lift in my own van is rated for up to 800 lbs.; why can’t they just use something like that?
While transit operators are always free to exceed the minimum ADA requirements by acquiring equipment that can accommodate larger and heavier mobility aids, they are not required under the DOT ADA regulations to do so.
14. Transit Provider:
We have one passenger who uses his wheelchair primarily as a walker, and uses the seat to carry various personal effects. He always wants us to deploy the lift, but I think he should just put all his stuff in a backpack and use crutches or something. Do we really have to deploy the lift for him?
Yes, assuming the wheelchair being used fits the definition of a “common wheelchair” in §37.3. Under §37.165(g) of the Department’s ADA regulations, a lift must be deployed for any person with a disability who requires the use of the lift, including standees. There is nothing in the regulations that stipulates how an individual with a disability must use his or her wheelchair or other mobility aid, nor do the regulations require a wheelchair user to remain seated in his or her wheelchair at all times. In this situation, the passenger’s wheelchair functions as a walker; for purposes of deploying the lift, it would be appropriate to treat it as such. For purposes of riding the bus, it would probably be most appropriate to regard the passenger in the same manner as a wheelchair user who wishes to transfer into a vehicle seat, as contemplated under §37.165(e). As to items being carried in the seat of the wheelchair, it would not be unreasonable to expect a passenger who uses a wheelchair in this manner to retain control over his personal effects, to the same degree you would expect any passenger to retain control over briefcases, handbags, groceries, or laptop computers.
Lift and Ramp Use:
15. Transit Driver:
One of the passengers on my route always wants me to deploy the lift for him, but he doesn’t use a wheelchair. It’s a wheelchair lift; that means it’s supposed to be for wheelchairs, right? Are people with canes or crutches allowed to ride the lift?
Yes. Under §37.165(g) of the DOT ADA regulations, transit operators must “permit individuals with disabilities who do not use wheelchairs, including standees, to use a vehicle’s lift or ramp to enter the vehicle.” Further explanation is provided in the Appendix to this section: “People using canes or walkers and other standees with disabilities who do not use wheelchairs but have difficulty using steps (e.g., an elderly person who can walk on a [level surface] without use of a mobility aid but cannot raise his or her legs sufficiently to climb bus steps) must also be permitted to use the lift, on request.” So, if persons ask to use the lift, even if they don’t have a wheelchair or a visible disability, a transit provider must comply with the request.
The transit system in my city just got a new fleet of buses with ramps instead of lifts. The ramp is a bit too steep for me to push my wheelchair without assistance. When I asked the driver for help, he told me that the new buses complied with the ADA, and it was “my problem” if the ramp was too steep; his only obligation was to deploy the ramp. Is that true?
No. Under §37.165(f) of the DOT ADA regulations, “Where necessary or upon request, the entity’s personnel shall assist individuals with disabilities with the use of securement systems, ramps and lifts. If it is necessary for the personnel to leave their seats to provide this assistance, they shall do so.” The Appendix to this section clarifies: “On a vehicle which uses a ramp for entry, the driver may have to assist in pushing a manual wheelchair up the ramp (particularly where the ramp slope is relatively steep). [This may] involve a driver leaving his seat.”
In addition, under §37.173, transit operators are required to ensure that personnel are trained to proficiency, as appropriate to their duties, so that they operate vehicles and equipment safely and properly assist individuals with disabilities in a respectful and courteous way.
17. Transit Driver:
The transit authority that I work for recently bought a new fleet of paratransit buses. The operating manuals say that wheelchair passengers must back onto the lift to board. This has caused problems for some of my passengers, who like to see where they’re going when they board the bus; they don’t want to get on the bus backwards. I sympathize, but if the lift manufacturer says you have to back on, don’t I—and my passengers—have to follow the instructions?
In this situation, the transit authority should confirm that the lifts on the buses they purchased actually comply with the Department’s ADA regulations. Section 38.23(b)(11) specifically requires lifts to accommodate both inboard and outboard facing (i.e., front- or rear-facing) use. If the design of a lift requires passengers to back onto the platform, then the lifts do not comply. Passengers have the right to determine how they will board (i.e., which way they will face), and judgments concerning boarding direction are best left to the wheelchair user, who is the most familiar with his or her disability and the design and operation of his or her mobility equipment.
18. Transit Driver:
The manuals also say that wheelchair passengers are supposed to face rearward while riding the bus; most of my passengers want to face front. Do I have to kick them off the bus if they won’t face to the rear?
Requirements for the orientation of securement systems—whether wheelchair users face front or back when riding—are specifically addressed in §38.23(d)(4). In buses longer than 22 feet, at least one securement system must be forward-facing; additional securements may face the rear, as long as they have a padded barrier immediately behind the passenger that meets the specified requirements. For buses 22 feet long or shorter, only one securement location is required, and it may face either forward, or rearward with a padded barrier. The orientation of the passenger—whether he faced front or rear—would be determined by the orientation of the available securement location.
19. Transit Provider:
One of our paratransit passengers has requested that we dispatch only minivans for his trips, because he says our full-size vans ride too harshly and hurt his back. He also wants to ride alone, because he can’t tolerate riding in any vehicle for more than 30 minutes, and doesn’t want to have to stop to wait for additional passengers. We can’t possibly accommodate these kinds of requests, can we?
ADA paratransit service is shared-ride public transportation. In general, a transit operator is under no obligation to provide a specific type of vehicle to a transit user, or to provide an exclusive ride.
However, if the transit operator elects to provide paratransit service using a mix of vehicles, such as sedans in addition to lift or ramp-equipped vans, the operator is expected to provide a lift or ramp-equipped vehicle if a rider, based on their disability or mobility aid, requires one.
Privately Operated Transportation:
Does FTA handle complaints against intercity bus companies, such as Greyhound? Who should I contact?
Private operators such as Greyhound are addressed by the Department of Transportation’s ADA regulations (49 CFR Part 37, Subpart H, and Part 38, Subpart G), but enforcement is handled by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). More information is available at DOJ’s ADA website, http://www.ada.gov/, or by telephone at its toll-free number, 1 800 514 0301.
Does FTA regulate airport shuttles? I’ve had a hard time finding accessible transportation to the airport.
Private operators such as airport and hotel shuttles are addressed in the Department’s ADA regulations (49 CFR §37.37), but enforcement is handled by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). More information is available at DOJ’s ADA website, http://www.ada.gov/, or by telephone at its toll-free number, 1 800 514 0301.
22. Transit Provider:
One of our passengers always brings his dog on the bus. He says it’s a service animal, but it looks like a pet to me. Isn’t he supposed to have a certificate or a license or something that says his dog is a service animal?
No. Section 37.3 of the DOT’s ADA regulations defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. Any animal meeting this definition is considered to be a service animal under the ADA, regardless of whether they are identified by special collars or harnesses or licenses or certifications.
Transit authorities are required to permit service animals aboard their vehicles. A transit operator may ask a person who has a disability what specific functions his service animal performs, but the person is not required to have either a certificate or a license for a service animal, and a transit operator cannot compel a person with a service animal to produce documentation that the animal has been trained to help the person with a disability.
I’m being charged twice as much to ride paratransit as it costs to take the bus. Isn’t this discrimination?
No. The DOT ADA regulations provide at §37.131(c) that the fares for ADA complementary paratransit cannot exceed twice the full fare for a similar trip of similar length at the same time of day on the regular fixed route system.
To calculate the proper paratransit fare, the entity would determine the route(s) that an individual would take to get from his or her origin to his or her destination on the fixed route system. At the time of day the person was traveling, what is the fare for that trip on those routes? Applicable charges like transfer fees or premium service charges may be added to the amount, but discounts (e.g., the half-fare discount for off-peak fixed route travel by “elderly and handicapped” persons) would not be subtracted. The transit provider could charge up to twice the resulting amount for the paratransit trip.
This concept of fare comparability applies only to ADA complementary paratransit; it does not apply to any “additional” services that the operator may be providing outside of the ADA-defined service area, or to otherwise ineligible people.
Finally, it is important to distinguish between “complementary paratransit” as defined in the Department’s ADA regulations, and ordinary demand-response transit service for seniors and persons with disabilities. While both are often referred to generically as “paratransit,” the limit of no more than twice the fixed route fare applies only in the case of ADA complementary paratransit.
24. Transit Provider:
If a transit system offers special discount fares on fixed route buses on certain holidays, can it charge the regular rates on these days on its ADA complementary paratransit service?
Under §37.131(c) of the Department’s ADA regulations, the maximum paratransit fare is based on the full fare for a comparable trip taken on the regular fixed route system by an individual paying full fare, without regard to discounts. Special discount fares, such as those offered on holidays to riders on fixed route buses, do not have to similarly be offered to the riders of the operator’s ADA complementary paratransit system. A special discount may be provided to the fixed route, while fares for ADA complementary paratransit service could remain at the rates usually charged.
However, under that same regulation, certain circumstances—such as a free-fare zone in a downtown shopping area, a mid-day (i.e., “off-peak”) fare that is lower than a peak-period (“rush-hour”) fare, or free transfers between routes or modes—effectively represent an integral part of the fare structure and are not considered discounts; they are the “ordinary” fares for the “comparable” fixed route trip.
The bus system in my city just raised its fares again. I’m living on a fixed income, and I can’t afford to keep paying more and more to ride the bus! Why doesn’t FTA monitor or regulate the fares charged to persons with disabilities by transit authorities?
In general, §5334(b) of the Federal Transit Act (Title 49, United States Code, Chapter 53) prohibits the Secretary of Transportation—and therefore FTA—from regulating the operation of a mass transportation system, or regulating any charge for that system. Essentially, FTA is not allowed to involve itself in the direct operation of local transit authorities, such as in the setting of fares or the designation of bus routes. However, that does not prevent DOT or FTA from stopping any discriminatory practices.
I’m 85 years old and still ride the bus every day to run my errands. For the last 20 years, I’ve been able to use my “senior citizens’ bus pass” and ride for half-fare. Now the bus company is telling me that because I’m “not disabled,” I have to pay full-fare. What’s going on?
This transit operator may be confusing the “half-fare” requirement for senior citizens and persons with disabilities under Title 49 of the United States Code, and the eligibility process for complementary paratransit under the Department’s ADA regulations. These are two separate and distinct requirements, under separate laws, using different criteria to determine eligibility for different purposes.
Under §5307(d)(1)(D) of the Federal Transit Act (Title 49, United States Code, Chapter 53), transit operators that receive funding from FTA are required to ensure that “elderly and handicapped individuals,” and individuals presenting a Medicare card issued under Title II or XVIII of the Social Security Act, are not charged more than half of the peak fare during non-peak periods. Essentially, this means that if a rider meet one or more of these requirements, and they ride the bus during the middle of the day—when it’s not “rush hour”—they only have to pay half of the “rush-hour” fare.
The process to determine eligibility for complementary paratransit under the ADA serves a very different purpose. In general, by now virtually all of the buses in transit fleets should be accessible by lift or ramp, and most people with disabilities (including wheelchair users) should be able to board and ride just like anyone else. The ADA provides paratransit service only as a “safety net” for those persons with disabilities who are still unable to ride the regular fixed route system, due to specific disability-related circumstances. The eligibility criteria are accordingly much more stringent than those for the “half-fare” requirement; see §37.123 of the Department’s ADA regulations for more information.
Please note also that the “half-fare” discount does not apply to ADA complementary paratransit trips. The Department’s ADA regulations permit transit operators to charge up to twice the “regular” fare for paratransit trips—in other words, up to twice as much for the same trip taken on the regular fixed route system—regardless of discounts.
I was riding the bus to work yesterday when a blind passenger boarded and asked the driver to make sure to tell him when the bus arrived at a particular stop. But when we arrived at that stop, the driver never said anything; before I had a chance to speak up, the driver closed the door and pulled away. The man was very upset when I told him that he had just missed his stop. Isn’t the bus driver supposed to make stop announcements?
Yes. Section 37.167(b) of the DOT ADA regulations requires bus operators to announce any stop upon request, as well as transfer points with other fixed routes, other major intersections and destination points, and intervals along a route sufficient to allow individuals with vision impairments or other disabilities to know where they are traveling.
Section 37.167(c) of the DOT ADA regulations require that where vehicles for more than one route serve the same stop, there must be a way for riders with a visual impairment or other disability to identify the proper vehicle to board, or a way for them to alert the operator as to which route they are seeking. This is often accomplished by external stop announcements. That is, a bus driver would announce which route the bus is when they have arrived at the stop. Automated systems have also been used to satisfy this requirement.
Stop announcements are not intended only to assist people who are blind or have low vision; often people with cognitive or other disabilities also need stop announcements to navigate the system and know when they have arrived at their destination. It is important to note that announcements must be made for specific stops upon request, but that general stop announcements for transfer points, major intersections, and other such wayfinding “checkpoints” must be made at all times.
Can FTA require a transit system to add another route or expand its service (a) because the service is needed; (b) so that needed comparable ADA complementary paratransit service can be added to the same area of the proposed fixed route in question; or (c) because FTA is providing Federal financial assistance to the transit system?
No. While FTA has a number of enforcement and oversight responsibilities to ensure that transit operators that receive Federal funding comply with all of the requirements that follow that funding, we are prohibited from otherwise involving ourselves in their day-to-day operations. We cannot therefore compel a transit operator to add service, reduce its fares, or continue operating service along a particular route. These are local decisions, arrived at through the appropriate local planning and decision-making processes. See Title 49, United States Code, Section 5334(b).
29. Transit Provider:
Are Federal funds allocated to local transit systems to fund accessibility?
Yes, though there is not a separate “pot” of funding dedicated to that purpose.
Compliance with the ADA is a condition of eligibility for Federal transit assistance funds; most public transit operators already receive funding from FTA. They can use these funds to cover up to 90 percent of the net costs of acquiring vehicle-related equipment—such as lifts, ramps, and securement devices—required by the ADA. See Title 49, United States Code, Section 5323(i).
Transit operators in smaller cities may also be able to use FTA funding to cover certain costs of operating their systems. In addition, FTA provides funding, as available, to intercity bus operators for up to 90 percent of the costs of complying with the Department’s ADA regulations through its Over-the-Road Bus Accessibility Program, authorized by Section 3038 of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21).
Of course, the ADA is not a Federal program; it is a comprehensive civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, much as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race. If Federal funding for transportation did not exist, transit operators and other transportation providers would still have to comply with the requirements of the ADA.
I finally got my first motorized wheelchair, and I need funding to purchase an adapted van. Does FTA provide funding to help people like me purchase things like lifts, hand controls, or even an entire van?
No. FTA grant programs provide Federal financial assistance to public transit operators. Funding for private individuals may be available through State vocational rehabilitation programs, the Department of Veterans Affairs, or other individual funding sources. Many automobile manufacturers also offer rebates or reimbursements on adaptive modifications to new vehicles.
Boarding and Priority Seating:
If a nondisabled person is sitting in one of the “priority” seats in the front of a bus, does that person have to move so that a person with a disability can sit there?
A person with a disability can ask the operator to have the person without a disability move elsewhere to another seat. If, after the operator asks, the person refuses to move, the Department’s ADA regulations do not require the operator to compel this person to move. Such a policy would be at the discretion of a transit operator.
I was waiting at the bus stop yesterday with a bunch of other people. When my bus pulled up, the driver opened the door, looked at my wheelchair, allowed everybody else to board, and then told me, “Sorry, we’re full; wait for the next bus.” The “next bus” on my route wasn’t due for half an hour! There was plenty of space for me on the bus when it stopped; shouldn’t the driver have boarded me first?
In terms of general operations, it’s up to the transit operator as to when to board wheelchair users, as long as it is done in a nondiscriminatory manner.
For example, if there is sufficient space on the bus when it pulls up to the stop (i.e., the securement location is unoccupied and there is sufficient capacity aboard to relocate any passengers who may be sitting or standing in the securement area), and a wheelchair user is waiting to board, the driver must hold that securement location open for the wheelchair user whether he or she is boarded first or last.
If the bus is full as it approaches the stop, and passengers who are already on the bus would have to get off and wait for the next bus in order for the wheelchair user to board, then the wheelchair user would have to wait for the next bus just as any other passenger encountering a “full” bus. Similarly, if the bus is empty except for two wheelchair users who are already on the bus, the bus is still “full” in terms of its capacity to carry wheelchair users and the passenger waiting at the stop would have to take the next bus.
Transit systems that find their drivers routinely passing by wheelchair users because the buses are “always full” would be well-advised to reevaluate the level of service on those routes. Wheelchair users who find themselves unable to use the fixed route system because a particular route does not have sufficient capacity to accommodate wheelchair users at a particular time of day may be eligible for complementary paratransit under the ADA.