Questions and Answers Concerning Wheelchairs and Bus and Rail Service

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
DISABILITY LAW GUIDANCE

General

What is a “wheelchair”?

Is an electric scooter a wheelchair?

Some wheelchairs weigh more than 600 pounds when occupied, and the design load of the lifts on our vehicles is 800 pounds. Is a transportation operator required to carry these “overweight” wheelchairs?

Is a transportation operator required to procure vehicles with lifts that have a design load of more than 600 pounds?

Are transportation operators required to retrofit their vehicles to accommodate larger and heavier wheelchairs?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) motor vehicle safety regulations require that a wheelchair lift be tested to withstand a 600-pound load. If the manufacturer states that the design load is 800 pounds, can the transportation operator limit actual use to 600 pounds for safety reasons?

If the lift manufacturer specifies that wheelchairs must face away from the vehicle when using the lift, are transportation operators required to permit passengers to board facing the vehicle?

What kinds of services must transportation personnel provide?

Does a wheelchair need brakes in order to use the transportation service?

Can an operator refuse to carry a person with a disability, especially a person using an electric scooter that meets the definition of a “wheelchair,” because of higher insurance rates or liability concerns?

Can an operator require a person to transfer from a wheelchair to a vehicle seat?

Securement

May a transit operator require that wheelchairs be secured in buses and vans?

What kinds of securement equipment must be provided in buses and vans?

May a transit operator deny boarding to a rider whose wheelchair is difficult to secure?

Does a wheelchair user have to use the seat belt and shoulder harness?


* Some changes to design loads and dimensional limits for wheelchair lifts have been made by the Next Generation Corridor Equipment Pool Committee, i.e., the “305 committee” to specifications for certain intercity and high-speed railcars. These are not regulatory changes or requirements but may be applicable. For more information, see http://www.highspeed-rail.org.


This guidance has been approved through the Department of Transportation’s Disability Law Coordinating Council as representing the official views of the Department on this matter.

February 4, 2013