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Q&A from ADA 101 Webinar

Below are the questions and answers from the National RTAP 101 Webinar on the ADA and Rural Transportation, presented by Easter Seals Project ACTION on December 10, 2014. To view the answer to a question, click on the question. To sort by category, click on the drop-down next to Category. View the recording of the webinar as well as the PowerPoint slides here.

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You are not required to schedule a trip 14 days in advance, unless that is your policy. The advanced notice depends on the type or mode of transit being offered. For ADA complementary paratransit, the requirement is that next-day service be provided, even if your office is not open the day before the trip. For demand-responsive services, the requirement is that there is no discrimination. You must require all passengers to give the same amount of notice.

On a fixed route, all vehicles must be accessible and accessibility equipment must be in good working order.

This is a local policy decision, but providing door-to-door service is within the normal range of assistance expected under ADA regulations. A curb-to-curb policy is acceptable, as long as the bus operator provides door-to-door service when necessary.

The “30-minute” rule: If the lift or ramp is not working, the rider can wait for next vehicle if its scheduled arrival is 30 minutes or less. The operator must contact the supervisor to arrange for a ride if the headway is longer than 30 minutes. The transportation provider should send out an accessible vehicle to pick up the customer is the wait is longer than 30 minutes, and if the reason for the wait is malfunctioning accessibility equipment.

Commuter bus service means fixed route bus service characterized by service predominantly in one direction during peak periods, limited stops, use of multi-ride tickets, and routes of extended length. It usually runs between the central business district and outlying suburbs. Commuter bus service may also include other service, characterized by a limited route structure, limited stops, and a coordinated relationship to another mode of transportation. (Federal Transit Administration definition) ADA complementary paratransit requirements do not apply to commuter service. In some situations, providers label service that is actually fixed route as "commuter" though the service only has limited hours of operation and does not meet the definition of commuter service.

The requirements to call out stop announcements pertain to fixed-route transit. If a contractor is providing fixed-route transit for an agency, they will need to abide by the regulations. For other types of transit, this is not required, but encouraged.

You will need to make sure that the service is indeed commuter service, using the definition of commuter service from the FTA. In some situations, providers label service that is actually fixed route as "commuter" though the service only has limited hours of operation and does not meet the definition of commuter service. If so, then ADA complementary paratransit is not required.

No. Transit agencies can have policies that require passengers to be responsible for their own personal belongings. However, many transit agencies have policies that allow bus operators to assist with a certain number, or weight of bags. The policy just has to be applied equally to all riders.

If buses are permitted to stop at locations other than designated bus stops, then the transportation provider should set a policy about determining additional locations. This would incorporate any restriction placed on stops by the city, county, local businesses or other community partners. It should also take into consideration of how to estimate a safe drop-off/pick-up location. Customer-driven requests for drop-offs can be made within the parameters of the established policy.

There is nothing stated in the ADA that says this is prohibited. Transit agencies may create a policy stating this is not allowed.

ADA compliance is a minimum standard for accessibility. If you comply with the ADA, then you have met the minimum standard necessary to be considered accessible to customers with disabilities. Policies should at least reflect this minimum standard. However, if you want to provide more accessibility, making it more likely that customers with disabilities will choose to ride your buses, then you can set policy that exceeds the minimum requirements. There is nothing in the ADA which prohibits a transportation provider from establishing a higher level of access.

The ADA requirement says that agencies must provide a response to complaints in 30 days, address and resolve the issues, retain all detailed documentation for 1 year, and save a summary of all ADA complaints for 5 years. You can see that this does not specify that a “written” procedure be in place. However, for the sake of consistency and to prevent complaints being overlooked, it is advisable to establish a written policy regarding responding to and resolving ADA complaints, and to evaluate periodically if the requirement is being met.

As long as the vehicle remains within the line of sight, a driver can, and should leave the bus to assist passengers with disabilities when applicable.

Stop announcements are not required, although would be beneficial to all riders.

No. Transit agencies can have policies that require passengers to be responsible for their own personal belongings. However, many transit agencies have policies that allow bus operators to assist with a certain number, or weight of bags. The policy just has to be applied equally to all riders.

Transit agencies can charge twice the cost of fixed-route for ADA complementary paratransit. In a free fare service zone, ADA complementary paratransit must also be free for trips with origins and destinations within the free fare zone.

A transportation provider is allowed to charge up to twice the cost of fare for taking the same trip on fixed-route. This should calculate in the cost of fares a customer would be charged if taking two fixed-route buses was necessary to take the trip. However, if your system allows a certain time period in which a customer can transfer from one bus to another without there being an additional fare for the second bus, then you can only factor in the fare for the first bus. The calculation should be made on the actual cost of the trip. The requirement is that the paratransit fare can be as much as twice the fare of the fixed-route trip, but does not specify that twice the fare must be charged. A transportation provider can charge less than this amount and some do.

The current draft ADA circular can be found at http://www.fta.dot.gov/civilrights/12325.html.

There is nothing stated in the ADA about reporting requirements, but there may be requirements as part of the National Transit Database or for funding purposes.

The FTA does some ADA compliance reviews, and may look at agencies during triennial reviews, but it's possible that if no action is taken by riders, nothing will happen to the transit agency. Complaints should come directly to the transit agency, and the transit agency should work to fix the issue. The FTA also takes complaints (http://www.fta.dot.gov/12874_3889.html). If the FTA determines that there is an ADA violation, they will work with the agency to recognize and remediate the violation. If the transit agency is unresponsive, or this is a repeat violation, the FTA will work with the Department of Justice to mandate changes at the transit agency. It is possible for an individual to sue a transit agency for violation of the ADA.

This becomes a personnel or HR issue. Operators are expected to perform the duties and tasks of the job and the ADA requires that operators provide reasonable assistance for customers to use public transit including boarding, alighting and using accessible features of the vehicle. If an operator is unable to perform the tasks required of the job, the transportation provider will need to determine if accommodations should be made to assist this operator to fully meet job requirements. Reassignment to routes where such assistance is not likely to be needed might be an example of such an accommodation.

The combined weight of the mobility device and the customer is only a factor to the extent of determining if your equipment can handle the weight. Legitimate safety considerations are issues such as the mobility device blocking other customers from boarding or alighting from the vehicle.

Yes. This would include assistance in folding and storing the device if the customer chooses to transfer from the wheelchair to a seat on the bus.

This is a legal question for which ESPA staff are not qualified to provide an answer. Legal liability relies on a formal determination of the accident and what caused it or what could have been done to prevent it. If this situation occurs, seek legal counsel through your agency.

If there is a legitimate direct threat to the health and safety of other passengers on the bus, the operator can deny the trip to the passenger. However, drivers should make sure that this is a real, direct biohazard threat rather than a perceived concern. Transit agencies should consider having a policy about hygiene that is simple to implement by bus operators.

A customer cannot be denied a trip because the securement equipment on the bus will not secure the mobility device and the operator has attempted to secure the device. If this occurs, give the customer the option to ride without securement and if he chooses to ride unsecured, then the ride should be given. An agency’s policy will dictate if additional action is required by the operator such as notifying dispatch that a customer whose device can’t be secured is being transported.

It is a legitimate safety concern if bus aisles are blocked and it is prudent to make sure that aisles are clear and passable for riders. To this end, an agency can establish a policy about stowing mobility aids and other items customers bring on board such as baby strollers and shopping carts. The ADA requires that the policy be administered in a way so that it is not discriminatory to people with disabilities. Therefore, the policy about not blocking the aisle should be applied to all customers and not just to mobility aid users. It is also recommended that operators be trained on the best way to stow them and offer assistance to customers, if needed.

Service includes passenger assistance between the vehicle and the door of his or her home or other destination but does not entail the driver going inside the destination.

Service involves picking up and discharging passengers at the curb or driveway in front of their home or destination. The driver does not assist or escort passengers to the door.

A participant may bring someone as an escort at no cost in the following situations:

  • Participants under the age of 17 must be accompanied by a parent/guardian, relative or other adult.
  • Participants under 21 years old may be accompanied by a parent/guardian, relative, or other adult.
  • Participants that cannot travel independently or need assistance due to age, illness, or a physical or mental disability may provide a parent/guardian, relative, or other adult.
  • If the participant does not speak English, someone to interpret.

Providers of ADA complementary paratransit service are not obligated to provide any service beyond transportation as it is intended to be a complement to fixed-route service. If you have riders who need assistance above and beyond transportation, you have a few options.
• Recommend to the rider or a caregiver to have a PCA to provide the assistance that is needed that goes beyond transportation such as waiting with the rider till the person they are going to see can meet them. While you can’t “require” that a PCA be used, you can refuse to provide the trip if assistance is needed in addition to the ride.
• Someone can hold a meeting with the responsible parties at the destination point to assure that arrangements will be made to accept the rider when the vehicle arrives.
• The provider can negotiate with any service agency connected to the rider to provide the assistance that goes above and beyond transportation for a fee. That is, the transportation provider can offer a trip that not only includes transportation, but provides for the additional care such as waiting with the rider till someone else at the destination point arrives. This is typically called “hand-to-hand” service and since it is above and beyond what the ADA requires for ADA complementary paratransit service, a fee for this service can be negotiated. The paratransit program in Pittsburgh utilizes this model. 

You are not required to provide service to an individual with disabilities if that individual engages in violent, seriously disruptive or illegal conduct. However, you cannot deny service to an individual with disabilities because his/her disability results in appearance or involuntary behavior that may offend, annoy, or inconvenience employees or other persons. 

Make sure there is a real issue here based on actual experience. If there is (and it is beyond the normal transit-related duties of a bus operator), the transit agency can speak to the customer and explain that they cannot continue to ride unless there is a PCA available. The PCA must ride for free when accompanying the eligible rider. If not accompanying the ADA eligible rider, the PCA must pay a fare.

Paratransit service must be provided to a personal care attendant (PCA) traveling with an eligible rider. The role of the PCA varies. A PCA is person hired by a person with a disability to assist in certain activities of daily living. The role of a PCA is highly individualized to the person they are assisting. In some cases, PCA’s do not provide assistance to a person on a transit trip. It is good practice to identify that the rider may be traveling with a PCA during the eligibility assessment and determination.

Bus operators cannot refuse a ride based on appearances only. Passengers must be given the opportunity to ride, and after that, if there are still concerns, the management will want to voice them to the passenger before the next ride.

The bus operator must continue taking that person to his/her destination if the passenger so wishes.

Contact your vehicle manufacturer or securement equipment company to discuss mounting requirements and options.

This seams highly unusual. Operators should be trained to proficiency in using installed securement equipment. If procedures for using the securement equipment are unclear, supervisors should contact the manufacturer for instructions on proper use.

The passenger would be violating the policy if he or she refuses to allow their device to be secured. However, if there is no policy, or if the securement system does not fit/is not secured to the driver's satisfaction, the ride must continue. 

It would be up to the incoming rider to decide whether or not to ride the bus.

Yes. You can ask the two questions (is that a service animal, and what tasks does it perform) for each animal. Both animals might provide different services to the passenger.

No. It would not be reasonable to expect customers using service animals to carry such records with them whenever they take a trip on public transit. The only way you could enforce such a policy would be if the city or county requires people with animals to always have such documentation with them at any time they take the animals off their home property, and ESPA is not aware of any jurisdiction that does this. It is more typical to ask for such documentation once an incident that brings the animal's health into question has occurred. Requiring this of customers with disabilities who use service animals would be placing a higher level of responsibility on that group of customers to be able to ride public transportation and therefore, would be discriminatory against a group of class or customers.

Transportation providers do not have to permit service animals to take up seat space that could be used by other paying customers. Consideration to do so as a reasonable modification to the agency's policy under the ADA would need to be made on a case-by-case basis. That is, there may be a legitimate reason why a customer with a disability needed their service animal to be in the seat next to them instead of on the floor (i.e. whatever the task is that the animal performs for the customer couldn’t be done from the floor). The bus operator would need to ask the customer why the animal needed to be in the seat and make a decision based on their response. However, if a customer chooses to hold a service animal in their lap, keeping it within the space of the seat occupied by the customer, this should probably be allowed. It would be hard to justify a policy requiring the customer to put the animal on the floor if they would prefer to hold it.

The requirement is that the animal be under control of the handler. Beyond that, there is no requirement that the animal be on a leash.

No. However, ESPA advises transportation providers to allow service animals in training to ride their buses as long as the animal is under the control of the handler. This is the way service animals learn to behave appropriately while on public transit. It is also a necessary step in the training process, which may cause the animal to be rejected as a service animal if it is afraid of buses or trains.

If the task is vague, or sounds like something that would describe a comfort animal, then it is probably a pet. However, err on the side of assuming that it's a service animal to be safe. Operators should make this determination quickly, and make a quick decision. If the animal is under control and there is a doubt about whether they are a pet or service animal, go ahead and transport them. For future trips, if there is considerable doubt, bring management into the picture.

No, it is up to you to put this in your policy, if it is your policy to charge the person for the mess. To be safe, the policy should cover both service animals and other kinds of messes.

It could be. Follow the general policy for cleaning a biohazard on the bus.

The Federal Transit Administration requires that transit agencies provide transportation for all people with disabilities, and must carry the wheelchair and occupant if the lift and vehicle can accommodate the wheelchair and occupant. The best way to figure this out is to try to board the person. Transit operators can request to test this before a trip if there are legitimate concerns about the ability to get that person on the bus. If the operator is unable to safely board the passenger with their mobility device, based on legitamate concerns related space or weight capacity of the equipment, the passenger could be notified that he or she cannot be carried. Any denial of service to a passenger must be documented and a detailed description of the reason for denial must be kept on file and provided to the passenger.

Generally, yes. There may need to be some assessment on a case-by-case basis. If the customer can stand on the lift and maintain balance by using handrails or assistance from the operator while the lift is in motion, then there is no reason to deny the person the ability to board in that manner. If there is a safety concern, make sure that it is made on evidence rather than assumption of ability.

The design load of the lift must be a minimum of 600 pounds. Wheelchair lifts can accommodate weights up to, and usually beyond, the manufacturer's recommendations.