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Public Meetings and Outreach

Unless stated otherwise, the information in this section is based on U.S. Department of Transportation regulation 49 CFR Part 37 - Transportation Services for Individuals with Disabilities (ADA).

Public review and input on certain capital projects is required if you receive federal funds* (see the Transit Manager's Toolkit Service Planning and Evaluation section for more information) and there are specific requirements for those that provide ADA complementary paratransit service.

If you provide complementary paratransit, you must “create an ongoing mechanism for the participation of individuals with disabilities in the continued development and assessment of services to persons with disabilities” (Section 37.137(c)).

There are also specific requirements for public hearings and notice-and-comment periods if you plan to change your paratransit reservations system (Section 37.131(b)(4)) or if you intend to seek a determination of equivalent facilitation to depart from the required accessibility standards for facilities, vehicles, or systems (Section 37.7 and Section 37.9). 

(*Note: The public hearing requirement for capital projects does not apply to funding for FY2013 and later; it is not in the Section 5311 Circular (Final) under MAP-21, published in fall 2014. For more information about MAP-21, see the Transit Manager’s Toolkit MAP-21 page.) 

Ongoing Public Participation

There are different ways you can fulfill the ongoing public participation requirement, including, but not limited to:

  • Advisory committees or subcommittees
  • Surveys via phone, mail, online, or in-person
  • Focus groups
  • Suggestion forms/boxes
  • Complaint analysis**

According to Appendix D, Section 37.137 of the regulation, the DOT is not as interested in the specific structure used to ensure public participation as it is in the effectiveness of the effort.

Establishing an ADA advisory committee or subcommittee is a common way to institutionalize participation and make it permanent. If you already have a larger advisory committee or consumer advisory committee, you may want to create a subcommittee to focus specifically on ADA issues.

ADA advisory committees should be comprised of persons with disabilities as well as other stakeholders and representatives in the community. Ideally the members with disabilities should represent various types of disabilities, as well as diversity in terms of age, gender, race, and economic status. It is also important to have riders and non-riders participate, when possible.

The other committee members should include representatives from the following stakeholder groups, where appropriate:

  • Your transit system
  • Contract providers (if used)
  • Local government
  • Relevant social service agencies
  • Other agencies and/or organizations involved in transportation-related activities for individuals with disabilities and older adults
Committees should meet regularly and should consider the schedules and needs of the public when setting meeting times. Meetings should be open to the public and it is good practice to post meeting dates, agendas, and minutes online, in addition to distributing them to members. All meetings must be accessible to persons with disabilities – to be discussed further in the section below.

Here are few examples of ADA advisory committees:


Advisory committees and any other mechanisms for ongoing public participation should be tailored for each transit system and community. Whatever the method, effective public involvement should foster communication and collaboration over the long term to make sure the paratransit services continue to meet the community’s needs.

For more information about advisory committees and public participation, see Easter Seals Project ACTION's Effective Transportation Advisory Committees guide, the Service Planning and Evaluation section of the Transit Manager's Toolkit, and the Resources page of this toolkit. 

(**Note: In addition to being a valuable source of feedback, you are required by 49 CFR Part 27 to have procedures to receive, resolve, keep records of, and report on complaints. As Part 27 is not one of the ADA regulations, it is not covered in this toolkit. See the Complaint Investigation section of the DREDF Topic Guide on Eligibility in ADA Paratransit for more information.)

Hosting Accessible Meetings

All of your public meetings (e.g., advisory committee meetings, public hearings, and board meetings) must be accessible to individuals with disabilities. Meetings must comply with all applicable ADA accessibility requirements and should also be conducted in such a way that all participants can participate in an equal and meaningful way.

According to Easter Seals Project ACTION’s ADA Essentials for Transit Board Members guide, minimum requirements identified by U.S. DOT include:

  • The meeting location must be accessible by public transit, including paratransit.
  • Primary entrances and doorways used for the meeting must be accessible, barrier-free, and usable by persons with disabilities, including wheelchair users.
  • There should be circulation space for wheelchairs throughout and at the front of the meeting space.
  • Microphones should be adjustable to wheelchair height.
  • Path of travel signs for an accessible route to the meeting room should be posted.
  • Meeting materials should be available in alternative formats prior to the meeting.
  • Sign language interpreters should be available if requested.

The South West Transit Association (SWTA) has a helpful Accessible Meetings Guide, which is both comprehensive and concise. It covers all aspects of planning and hosting an accessible meeting or event, including:

  • Meeting room set-up
  • PowerPoint and other visual presentations
  • Incorporating videos, remote speakers, and flip charts/wall boards
  • Print and Electronic Guidelines

Information on communicating and providing materials in accessible formats is covered in the Rider Information section of this toolkit.

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