Central Midlands Council of Governments, Columbia, SC, 4-27-01

U.S. Department
of Transportation

    400 Seventh St. S.W.
    Washington, D.C. 20590

Federal Transit
Administration
April 27, 2001

 

Re: FTA Complaint No. 98252

Dear (Name Withheld):

This letter responds to your complaint you filed against the Central Midlands Council of Governments (CMCOG), of Columbia, South Carolina, alleging noncompliance with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (the ADA) and/or the Department of Transportation (DOT) implementing regulations at 49 CFR parts 27, 37, and 38. The FTA Office of Civil Rights is responsible for civil rights compliance and monitoring, which includes ensuring that providers of public transportation properly implement the ADA, the DOT ADA regulations, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

In the FTA complaint investigation process, we analyze the complainantís allegations for possible ADA deficiencies by the transit provider. If we identity what may be a violation, we first attempt to provide technical assistance to address it by assisting the transit provider to comply 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 transportation provider that may result in the termination of Federal funds. FTA also may refer the matter to the U.S. Department of Justice for enforcement.

Because of the limitation in resourcesa majority of complaint investigations are conducted by telephone and written inquiry. In a few circumstances, where time and resources permit, investigations may be complemented by other means, such as compliance reviews or other on-site action. Each letter of finding 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 property.

In July 1999, FTA conducted an on-site compliance assessment of CMCOGís ADA Complementary Paratransit service, known as DART. The assessment was based in part on your complaint submitted to the FTA Office of Civil Rights. The specific issues regarding DARTís ADA Complementary Paratransit service in your complaint were addressed from a broader perspective by this assessment. Where we made findings of deficiencies, FTA will continue its monitoring activities with CMCOG until we determine that the deficiencies noted in the report are corrected. We intend to combine our monitoring efforts on the complaints with those addressing the assessment findings.

The allegations that we will address regarding the CMCOG fixed route service are as follows:

  1. The CMCOG fixed route service does not adequately accommodate persons with disabilities.
  2. There is inadequate access to information for persons with hearing and visual disabilities.

We reviewed your complaint and made a determination based on our analysis of your allegations in relation to the DOT ADA regulations. We have restated your allegations followed by our determinations below.

  1. The CMCOG fixed route service does not adequately accommodate persons with disabilities. Buses are not equipped with wheelchair lifts.

    When the DOT ADA regulations were promulgated on September 6, 1991, public transportation providers were not required to immediately replace fixed route buses with new accessible buses. It was anticipated that systems would gradually come into compliance over a period of years as older buses were replaced. Nor were providers required to retrofit buses with wheelchair lifts. The DOT ADA regulations state at 49 CFR section 37.71:

    Except as provided elsewhere in this section, each public entity operating a fixed route system making a solicitation after August 25, 1990, to purchase or lease a new bus or other new vehicle for use on the system, shall ensure that the vehicle is readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs.

    All new buses purchased for fixed route use must now be accessible. Those persons with disabilities who were unable to use the fixed route service because the system was not yet accessible were automatically eligible for ADA Complementary Paratransit. We do not find this a deficiency under the DOT ADA regulations.

  2. There is inadequate access to information for persons with hearing and visual disabilities. Persons with hearing and speech impediments are not able to call an [CMCOG] operator using a telecommunications display device (TDD). Persons with visual impairments do not have access to Braille or telecommunications that announce bus starts and stops.

Two separate parts of the regulations apply to this allegation. The first applies to any information regarding service. The DOT ADA regulations state at 49 CFR section 37.167(f):

The entity shall make available to individuals with disabilities adequate information concerning transportation services. This obligation includes making adequate communications capacity available, through accessible formats and technology, to enable users to obtain information and schedule service.

In the case of persons with hearing and speech impairments, we believe that the Telecommunications Relay Service that is available without charge is an acceptable alternative to TDD service. In the case of persons with visual impairments, there is no requirement that transit providers must offer information in Braille. Other accessible formats, such as audio or electronic mediums are acceptable alternatives. However, there is a requirement at 49 CFR section 37.167(b) Ė (c) that stop announcements must be made as follows:

(b) On fixed route systems, the entity shall announce stops as follows:

  1. The entity shall announce at least at transfer points with other fixed routes, other major intersections and destination points, and intervals along a route sufficient to permit individuals with visual impairments or other disabilities to be oriented to their location.
  2. The entity shall announce any stop on request of an individual with a disability.

(c) Where vehicles or other conveyances for more than one route serve the same stop, the entity shall provide a means by which an individual with a visual impairment or other disability can identify the proper vehicle to enter or be to the vehicle operator as a person seeking a ride on a particular route.

This regulation does not require telecommunication devices to be used to announce bus stops, voice announcement in accordance with the above regulation is acceptable. If you have current information that stop announcements are not made as required above, please provide us with specific details, such as route numbers, bus numbers, dates, times, etc. This would provide enough information for CMCOG to identify specific drivers who may not be complying with the requirements.

Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. We will be closing your complaint based upon our intention to proceed as described above. If you have any questions regarding this letter, please contact Roberta Wolgast, Equal Opportunity Specialist at 1-888-446-4511 or at her email address: roberta.wolgast@dot.gov. Please include the FTA complaint number on any correspondence with this office. Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.

 

Sincerely,
/signed/
Cheryl L. Hershey
ADA Group Leader
Office of Civil Rights