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ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 “set the foundation for guaranteeing equal opportunity for people with disabilities in employment; public transportation; public accommodations, such as stores, shopping malls, restaurants and hotels; government services; and telecommunications” (ADA Essentials for Transit Board Members).  

The following section will discuss requirements for public transportation entities and their private contractors that provide public transportation services.  Fixed routes, general public demand response services, deviated or flexible routes, and complementary paratransit services all are subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Note that these are highlighted aspects of the ADA regulations as they pertain to public transportation entities and not an exhaustive list of all compliance requirements.  ADA regulations are also issued by other federal agencies such as the Departments of Justice, Education, Health and Human Services, Labor, Interior, and Housing and Urban Development.  There will be occasions where different agencies overlap, and in one case, explained later, where the regulations conflict.

Transit managers should be aware that compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act covers virtually every aspect of transit operations, from transit system employees, to service on the street, to vehicle purchasing, to transit facility design.  Daily operations are impacted by the need to deliver consistent, high quality service to members of the riding public regardless of their disabilities or abilities. 

The information presented in this section is based on the U.S. Department of Transportation regulations:  49 CFR Part 37- Transportation Services for Individuals with Disabilities (ADA) and 49 CFR Part 38- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Accessibility Specifications for Transportation Vehicles.  Changes to the U.S. DOT Americans with Disabilities Act regulations effective in October 2011 are also cited
ADA regulations are complex and contain information applicable to more than bus modes of transportation.  Much of this information will not apply to your transit operations.  However, we suggest that you download both Parts 37 and 38 and keep them as references, flagging or highlighting the parts that pertain specifically to public transit bus operations. 
Some requirements apply to all providers regardless of the type of service.  These include nondiscrimination, vehicle accessibility, provision of service, and “other” vehicle requirements.  Other requirements only apply to operators of fixed route or demand response service – these sections are labeled accordingly.  

Non-discrimination requirements

While the nondiscrimination requirements in 49 CFR Section 37.5 state that you may not discriminate against people with disabilities, there are some ambiguities.  A clear statement of organizational policy can help you clarify exactly how you will deliver public transit service in a non-discriminatory manner.  These requirements apply to both fixed route systems and rural programs operating other types of public transit service.  The U.S. DOT regulations specifically address these points:
  • You cannot discriminate against a person with a disability in the provision of transportation service. (Section 37.5(a))
  • You cannot, on the basis of disability, deny an individual with a disability the opportunity to use the general transportation system if that person is capable of using that service. (Section 37.5 (b))
  • You cannot require that an ambulatory person with a disability use priority seating. (Section 37.5 (c)) 
  • You cannot impose special charges on individuals with disabilities, including those who use a wheelchair. (Section 37.5(d))  **Note that this is not the same as charging an ADA-eligible paratransit fare that is equal to the base fixed route fare times two (see section on ADA Paratransit Service Criteria).
  • You cannot require that an individual with a disability be accompanied by an attendant. (Section 37.5(e))
  • You cannot refuse service to an individual with disabilities because your insurance coverage or rates are based on the absence of individuals with disabilities.  (Section 37.5(g))
  • 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. (Section 37.5 (h))   

Provision of service requirements 

Section 37 Subpart G of the U.S. DOT Americans with Disabilities Act regulations describes how carefully you must attend to maintaining the accessibility features of your transit operations.  The ADA addresses safety issues only insofar as it describes equipment and maintenance.  The following points are highlights of the contents of Section 37, Subpart G:
  • General maintenance of accessibility features:  You must ensure that your vehicles and related transit facilities are maintained in operative condition so that they are usable by individuals with disabilities.  You must promptly repair accessibility features if they are damaged or out of order.  If an accessibility feature is out of order, you must also take reasonable steps to accommodate individuals with disabilities who would otherwise use the feature.  Examples of this are shoveling snow around bus stops and providing a ride in a paratransit or supervisor’s vehicle to a fixed route passenger who gets stranded by an inoperative lift.
  • Keep vehicle lifts in operative condition: You must create and follow a system of regular and frequent maintenance checks of lifts to determine whether the equipment is operative.  Your vehicle operators must report any failure of a lift to operate in service as quickly as possible.  For example, if you have a spare vehicle, the vehicle with the inoperative lift must be taken out of service before the beginning of the vehicle’s next day of service and the lift must be repaired before the vehicle returns to service.  If you do not have a spare vehicle available, such that taking the vehicle out of service would reduce the transportation service you are able to provide, you may keep the vehicle with the inoperative lift in service for no more than five days.
  • Lift and securement use:  You are not required to permit wheelchairs to ride in places other than designated securement locations, but you cannot deny transportation to a wheelchair or its user on the grounds that the device cannot be secured or restrained satisfactorily by the vehicle’s securement system.  You may recommend, but cannot require, that a user of a wheelchair transfer to a vehicle seat.  Your personnel must assist individuals with disabilities who need or request assistance with the use of securement systems, ramps and lifts.  If this requires the vehicle operator to leave his/her seat they must do so. You must permit individuals with disabilities who do not use wheelchairs, including standees, to use a vehicle’s lift or ramp to enter the vehicle.  The September 2011 rule update removed the “common wheelchair” definition.  This will be discussed in detail in the section on “Special Considerations Regarding ‘Non-Standard’ Mobility Devices” that will come later.
  • Training requirements:  Whether you are a public or private entity, if you operate a fixed route or demand responsive system you must ensure that your personnel are trained to proficiency, as appropriate to their duties. They must be able to operate vehicles and equipment safely and properly assist individuals with disabilities using the service in a respectful and courteous way, with appropriate attention to the difference among individuals with disabilities.

Other service requirements 


Section 37.167 outlines several service delivery requirements, some of which apply only to fixed route systems while others apply to all operators of public transit systems.   The requirements apply to both public and private entities.  

For all public transit service the following is required:


  • Your vehicle operators and other personnel must make use of the accessibility-related equipment or features required by Part 38.
  • Your service information must be available in accessible formats to individuals with disabilities. This means your printed materials must be available, upon request, in accessible formats such as large print format, Braille, or CD. Online information should avoid the use of Flash and should be available in plain text to accommodate screen readers.
  • You cannot refuse to permit a passenger who uses a lift to disembark from a vehicle at any designated stop, unless the lift cannot be deployed, the lift will be damaged if it is deployed, or temporary conditions at the stop, not under the control of the transit operator, preclude the safe use of the stop by all passengers.
  • You cannot prohibit an individual with a disability from traveling with a respirator or portable oxygen supply provided the devices are properly secured under 49 CFR subtitle B, chapter 1, subchapter C.  U.S. DOT Office of Pipeline Safety and Hazardous Materials.
  • You must ensure that individuals with disabilities have adequate time to complete boarding or disembarking from the vehicle.
  • You must ask that individuals sitting in the priority seating area, or fold-down seats in the wheelchair securement area, relocate if an individual needs to use that priority seating because of a disability or needs to secure a wheelchair.  

Requirements specific to fixed route service can also be found in this section of the regulations, but they will be addressed later in this toolkit.

Special considerations regarding service animals


You must allow service animals to accompany individuals with disabilities in vehicles and facilities. The U.S. Department of Justice recently amended its definition of a service animal to include only dogs and miniature horses. The U.S. Department of Transportation continues to define 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, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing animal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items.” This is the definition with which the operators of public transit service must comply.

You may ask if an animal is a service animal or ask what tasks the animal has been trained to perform, but you cannot require special ID cards for the animal or ask about the person’s disability.  

Easter Seals Project ACTION has many resources available that give information about service animals and interacting with passengers who travel with service animals.   Please see their Resource Library results.

Special considerations regarding “non-standard” mobility devices


Effective October 19, 2011, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a revision to some aspects of Parts 37 and 38 of its ADA regulations.  A one pager issued by the U.S. DOT clarifies some of the main points.  As stated in the one pager, these are:
The term “common wheelchair” has been removed and changed to “three or more wheeled devices” to accommodate the technology advances that have been made since the ADA was implemented.  Over time, transit operators began to apply the original common wheelchair dimensions to exclude wheelchairs that did not fit into the common wheelchair weight and dimension “envelope” (i.e., a weight of not more than 600 pounds when occupied, and measuring 30” x 48”), regardless of whether their vehicles and equipment could accommodate them.

Notably, there is no requirement to procure vehicles or lifts that can accommodate wheelchairs exceeding the weight and dimensions found in the previous definition of “common wheelchair.”  49 CFR Part 38 continues to require that vehicle lifts accommodate a minimum of 600 pounds, and that vehicles accommodate wheelchairs measuring 30” x 48.”  However, when transit providers procure vehicles and/or lifts that have the capacity to transport larger and/or heavier chairs, transit providers must carry a wheelchair and occupant if the lift and vehicle can physically accommodate them, unless doing so is inconsistent with legitimate safety requirements.


While the original language called for lifts to accommodate a combined passenger and device weight of 600 pounds, many lifts are now rated to accommodate 800 pounds. There may also be a situation where the passenger’s mobility device exceeds the length of the original dimension and the lift tip and bridge plates can still deploy.  In either situation, you must transport the passenger provided they fit into the securement area.  Remember that the ADA is about a passenger’s right to use the mobility device of his or her choosing; it does not address the actual safety features of the device. 

“Legitimate safety requirements” include such circumstances as a mobility device of such size that it would block an aisle or would interfere with the safe evacuation of passengers in an emergency. 

This does not apply to securement; a transit provider cannot impose a limitation on the transportation of wheelchairs and other mobility aids based on the inability of the securement system to secure the device to the satisfaction of the transportation provider.  It would be inconsistent with this rule to allow transportation providers to deny service to people who use wheelchairs just because particular devices may be problematic from a securement point of view.  “Legitimate safety requirements” must be based on actual risks, not on mere speculation, stereotypes, or generalizations about individuals with disabilities or about the devices they use for mobility purposes. 

For more information, please see the Federal Register Notice containing the final revision to the regulations, as well as National RTAP's 2015 technical brief on Oversized Wheeled Mobility Devices.   


Service options and requirements


While many requirements apply to all agencies providing public transportation service, there are some requirements that are specific to the service you provide.  If your system includes fixed route service, you are required to provide complementary paratransit service to your customers who are unable to use the fixed route system.  To find information about complementary paratransit service requirements, please see the ADA Complementary Paratransit section below.  If you provide demand responsive service, you are required to provide equivalent service for your passengers with disabilities (see the Equivalent Service Standards section below).  

If your system includes deviated (or flexible) fixed route service, and you deviate for everyone, you should see the Equivalent Service Standards section of this page to ensure that you are providing equivalent service for your passengers with disabilities.  If you run deviated service that only deviates for passengers with disabilities, and not all riders, you must follow the complementary paratransit service criteria (see the ADA Complementary Paratransit Requirements section below for this information).  

Operating fixed route systems


FTA’s ADA regulations use the terms “designated public transportation” and “specified public transportation,” which draw distinctions between types of entities that provide service and between different modes of service.  The definition of a fixed route system includes both those terms, so they are explained below.  

Designated public transportation is provided to the general public on a regular and continuing basis by a public entity (excluding public school transportation) by bus or rail, or another mode (but not by aircraft, or intercity or commuter rail).  **Intercity and commuter rail services are excluded from this definition because the ADA addresses those types of services separately.  Public school transportation is excluded because accessibility requirements for that type of service are covered in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Specified public transportation is the same type of service provided to the public by a private entity, but intercity or commuter rail is also included.

Both designated and specified public transportation may include fixed route and/or demand responsive service.  A fixed route system is defined in FTA’s ADA regulations as a system of transporting individuals, other than by aircraft, on which a vehicle is operated along a prescribed route according to a fixed schedule.  


Both designated public transportation and specified public transportation that is operated in that manner are included.  **Air service is excluded from the definitions of designated and specified public transportation service because accessibility requirements are covered under the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986.

In other words, if your public or private system transports the general public by bus or rail (excluding commuter or intercity rail if your organization is a public entity) on a regular basis on vehicles that travel a designated route on a fixed schedule, you operate fixed route service.  This definition includes charter service, but excludes public school transportation.  

Route identification


If your system has stops that serve more than one bus line the ADA requires that you provide riders with a disability with the means of identifying which bus has arrived or to identify themselves as a person seeking a ride on a particular route.  These external route identification announcements can be automated or spoken by the driver.  The DREDF Topic Guide on Stop Announcements and Route Identification recommends announcing both the bus line and the destination to ensure that the rider can board the correct bus going in the desired direction.

DREDF Topic Guide on Route Identification 

Stop announcements

Just as external announcements can be used to identify the bus line and destination, it is required that internal announcements are made to inform riders of upcoming stops. Announcements should be made in advance of the stop, and they should follow a standard format. For example, the street the bus is traveling on should always be stated before the street it intersects. At a minimum, the following announcements must be made (list taken from the Topic Guide on Stop Announcements and Route Identification):


  • Transfer points with other fixed routes.  
  • Major intersections and destination points.
  • Orientation announcements should be made during longer intervals on a route that has no stops or destination points, which allows passengers with disabilities to be oriented to their location.
  • Any requested stop.

This obligation can be met by requiring bus operators to announce stops or by using an automated stop announcement system onboard the vehicle.  It is recommended that the disability community and bus drivers be consulted when deciding what stops to announce to ensure the effectiveness of the system.  

DREDF Topic Guide on Stop Announcements 

ADA complementary paratransit 

If your transit system provides fixed route service, you are also required to provide ADA complementary paratransit. This section will provide more information.  

ADA complementary paratransit requirements  

Public transit agencies that run fixed route services must also provide ADA complementary paratransit services for those who are unable to use accessible fixed route services. (ADA complementary paratransit requirements do not apply to commuter bus, commuter rail, or intercity rail service, however.) This includes the inability to access vehicles, transit stops, or facilities, or to independently navigate through the system.  Paratransit services are characterized by vehicles that operate flexible routes or demand response service and provide origin-to-destination service.  

ADA paratransit service criteria

ADA complementary paratransit service must be comparable to the fixed route service in a number of areas. Paratransit service criteria include the following (Section 37.131):


  • Geographic area of service – transit systems that run fixed routes must also provide ADA complementary paratransit service within ¾ mile on either side of the fixed route; this is considered to be the maximum distance a rider would travel to reach a bus or train stop.       
  • Response time –the paratransit ride may not be provided more than an hour before or after the requested time.  
  • Fare- the one-way paratransit fare may be no more than twice the full fixed route fare for a similar trip. A rider’s personal care attendant may not be charged a fare.  However, at least one additional accompanying individual must be permitted to board and will be required to pay the same fare as the rider (additional companions may accompany the ADA-eligible customer, if space is available).
  • Hours and days of service—ADA paratransit service must be provided on the same days and during the same hours as fixed route service.  
  • Trip purpose—there may be no restrictions or priorities based on trip purpose. Service must be provided regardless of the nature of the trip.
  • Capacity constraints—see discussion below.    

Prohibited capacity constraints

You cannot have capacity constraints in ADA complementary paratransit service. Under the ADA, capacity constraints are defined as any operational patterns or practices that significantly limit the availability of service to ADA paratransit eligible individuals (Section 37.131 f). Capacity constraints include:


  • Limits on the number of trips an individual may make, or trip waiting lists.
  • Denying trips.
  • Long telephone hold times for trip reservations.
  • Substantial numbers of excessively long trips.
  • Substantial numbers of significantly untimely pickups. 

Due to high demand for ADA paratransit service and limited resources, this tends to be where most transit systems have difficulty in complying with the complementary paratransit regulations. As you will read in the section below, rigorously managing demand through the eligibility process is a way to combat capacity constraint issues.


Eligibility and managing demand

ADA regulations require transit providers to conduct an eligibility determination process that strictly limits eligibility for complementary paratransit service to individuals who are not able to use accessible fixed route services due to a disability.  It is important to establish exactly when an individual’s functional ability enables him/her to use the fixed route system and when he/she requires paratransit service.  

Establishing and following an accurate ADA paratransit eligibility process is critical both to protecting individuals’ civil rights under the ADA and to managing demand so that paratransit service is available for those who need it. Transit managers are encouraged to read Sections 37.123-127 of Part 37 carefully and to consult the Easter Seals Project Action (ESPA) and Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) resources on ADA paratransit eligibility that are listed at the end of this section.  Key points about ADA eligibility criteria and the eligibility determination process are discussed below. 

There are three eligibility categories and three types of eligibility.    

Eligibility Categories (personal eligibility):


  • A person with a disability who cannot navigate the transit system without assistance.
  • A person with a disability who requires an accessible vehicle when one is not available.
  • A person with a disability who is unable to reach the transit stop.  

Eligibility Types (trip eligibility):


  • Unconditional eligibility (all trips) – this rider is unable to use the fixed route service under any conditions.
  • Conditional eligibility (some trips) – this rider can use the fixed route service in specific situations, such as a fixed route with a close and accessible stop. However, if a stop is too far or is inaccessible, this rider may qualify for paratransit.  It is important that the conditions of his/her eligibility be clearly defined and understood by both the rider and the reservationists/schedulers and dispatchers.  
  • Temporary eligibility (defined period of time) – this rider only requires paratransit for a limited period of time.

Visitors who are certified eligible for ADA paratransit services in their home areas are eligible for paratransit services in your area for up to 21 days. If they do not have an ID card stating their eligibility in another system, you can require that they instead show proof of residency and ask about their disability, if the disability is not apparent. Visitors do not have to show an ID card to be eligible for your services.


The source of these descriptions is the DREDF Topic Guide on Eligibility for ADA Paratransit. For more details, please see the full guide.

Careful determination of eligibility for ADA complementary paratransit service is a legal requirement and can be an effective way to manage demand for the service.  Appropriate use of conditional eligibility can be particularly effective.  

A transit provider may apply the conditions of an individual’s eligibility to each trip request he/she makes. This practice is referred to as “trip-by-trip eligibility” or “trip eligibility.”  Trip-by-trip eligibility, if implemented properly, helps to manage demand by identifying trips that can be made reasonably on the fixed route system, while preserving the individual’s eligibility for paratransit service when his/her functional ability makes it necessary. An example of this is when a person who uses a wheelchair may be able to reach the transit stop and use the accessible fixed route service on his/her own during the mild weather.  However, he/she may not be able to reach the transit stop when the sidewalks are covered in snow or ice.  On those occasions, he/she is eligible to use the ADA complementary paratransit service, but on days when the path to the transit stop is clear and accessible, the individual should use the accessible fixed route service.  Reservationists should be aware of the exact type of service the individual is eligible for when fielding requests.  

To assist both the reservationist and the rider, conditions for the paratransit eligibility should be clearly defined.  In our example above, it is better to state the exact conditions when the rider is unable to travel to the transit stop (when there is ice/snow on the sidewalks) rather than simply saying he/she is eligible “during the winter months” or “during bad weather.”  There are many days during the winter when there is no snow/ice on the ground, and the description “bad weather” is too vague.  Clearly defining conditional eligibility is the most effective way to manage demand and ensure that riders who need paratransit are being served.  The Topic Guide on Eligibility for ADA Paratransit offers practical guidance on incorporating conditional eligibility into daily operations.

While many transit systems use paper forms to collect rider information to determine eligibility, increasingly systems are moving to more personal, hands-on approaches.  These approaches include phone or in-person interviews, functional assessments, and combinations of the above.  

Eligibility process


  • If a rider makes the request, you must provide all information about the process, materials necessary to apply for eligibility and notices and determinations concerning eligibility in accessible formats.
  • If, by a date 21 days following the submission of a complete application, you have not made a determination of eligibility, you must treat the applicant as eligible and provide service until and unless you deny the application.
  • You must put your determination concerning the eligibility in writing.  If the determination is that the individual is ineligible, the determination must state the reasons for the finding.
  • Because this is a civil rights issue, there must be a system in place by which a rider can appeal any decisions that are made concerning eligibility.  Eligibility appeals must be handled by someone who did not make the original decision.

For more information about the eligibility process, please see the DREDF Topic Guide on Eligibility for ADA Paratransit


You can also find information on this topic in the Easter Seals Project ACTION document "Determining ADA Paratransit Eligibility: An Approach, Guidance, and Training Materials."


Other ADA paratransit operational requirements


Origin-to-Destination Service

Under Section 37.129, you are required to provide complementary paratransit service that is “origin-to-destination.”  As a transit provider, you can establish whether you will provide door-to-door or curb-to-curb service as your basic mode of paratransit service, but there may be times when you must offer service beyond this base level when required due to a passenger’s disability.  FTA, in its Disability Law Guidance document, gives the following examples of when “origin-to-destination” service might be necessary:


  • The nature of a particular individual’s disability or adverse weather conditions may prevent him/her from negotiating the distance from the door of his/her home to the curb.
  • A physical barrier (e.g., sidewalk construction) may prevent a passenger from traveling between the curb and the door of his/her destination point. 

Providing this level of service may require more time from the driver than on a base-level service stop, and because of this the FTA has deemed it reasonable that transit providers ask for advance notice from any passenger in need of this assistance when the reason for the additional assistance is known in advance of the trip. 


For more information, please see the "Origin-to-Destination Service" page of the FTA website


Rider no-shows

You are permitted to temporarily suspend service to individuals who are repeated no-shows. A no-show does not count, however, if the ride was missed due to circumstances outside of the rider’s control. You should consult the DREDF Topic Guide on No-Shows in ADA Paratransit in order to establish what qualifies as a no-show and what situations are qualified to be beyond a rider’s control. 


DREDF Topic Guide on No-Shows in ADA Paratransit


Operating general public demand response


According to ADA regulations, a demand response system is any system of transporting individuals which is not a fixed route system (49 CFR Part 37). General public demand response service is found in many rural and tribal areas.  If your organization runs a general public demand response system, it is not required that you also provide ADA complementary paratransit service. Your system may operate non-accessible vans and buses as long as you provide equivalent service for people with disabilities in accessible vehicles.  Unlike paratransit, you can have capacity constraints when operating general public demand response service as long as those capacity constraints effect all riders, those with and without disabilities, equally.   


Equivalent service standard

Service provided to individuals with disabilities should be equivalent to the service provided to other individuals in the following ways (Section 37.105):


  • Response time.
  • Fares.
  • Geographic service area.
  • Hours and days of service.
  • Restrictions or priorities based on trip purpose.
  • Availability of information and reservation capability.
  • Any constraints on capacity or service availability.

Operating deviated (or flexible) fixed route service


For the purpose of ADA regulations, transit systems are considered to be either fixed route or demand responsive (Section 37.3). Accurately categorizing a system is important because it will determine the requirements that systems will be required to follow. While some systems are clearly one or the other, systems that provide deviated route service can be harder to categorize. According to DOT regulations, deviated-route service is considered to be demand responsive service, and because of that it must follow the requirements for equivalent level of service for its riders with disabilities.  


However, FTA has informally made a distinction between service that allows anyone to request route deviations and service that only allows riders with disabilities to request the deviations.  If the system only provides route deviations to customers with disabilities, this service is then regarded as complementary paratransit service, and is held to the paratransit service criteria that are listed above. If the system with deviated-route service provides complementary paratransit service for its riders with disabilities, it must implement an eligibility determination (and appeal) process for those who would like to use the service.  If the system’s service allows all riders to request route deviations, the system is considered demand responsive and must follow the equivalent service requirements (which are listed in the section above) when serving riders with disabilities.


To read about the distinction between deviated-route service that is considered to be demand responsive and deviated-route service that is considered to be ADA paratransit, please see the FTA Triennial Review Workshop Materials


System policies


If you have not already done so, it is a good idea to develop a set of service policies so that passengers know exactly what they can expect from the transit system. These policies are applicable to ALL passengers regardless of ability. Policies should cover:


  • Response time.
  • Fares.
  • Geographic service area.
  • Hours and days of service.
  • Curb-to-curb; door-to-door; assistance with packages.
  • Deviations off route described in miles or blocks or time.
  • Escorts, companions, and personal care attendants.
  • Pets (not service animals).
  • Car seats and strollers.
  • No restrictions or priorities based on trip purpose. 
  • Availability of information.
  • Making reservations: same day and/or in advance.
  • Unsafe or disruptive passenger behavior. 
  • No-shows and cancellations.
  • Inclement weather.

Well-articulated policies demonstrate that all passengers are being treated equitably.  They should be available in alternative formats upon request.


Reasonable modification of policies and practices

The Reasonable Modification Final Rule, effective July 13, 2015, clarifies that public transportation providers are required to make reasonable modifications to their polices, practices, and procedures to avoid discrimination and ensure programs and services are accessible to individuals with disabilities.  It applies to public entities providing fixed route, demand-response (dial-a-ride), and complementary paratransit services.  It establishes that an individual’s disability cannot preclude a public transportation entity from providing full access to its service, except when it would fundamentally alter the service. 

The Final Rule also provides 27 examples of what a reasonable modification is and is not, and clarifies the definition of origin-to-destination service. The issue of origin-to-destination policy has long had varied interpretations and was unevenly applied throughout the nation. The new rule requires paratransit providers that primarily operate curb-to-curb service to make reasonable modifications for those passengers who need assistance beyond the curb so that they can use the service.


Accessibility specifications for transportation vehicles (Part 38)


All vehicles are required to have accessible features and each feature must be fully operational any time the vehicle is in use.  This includes the following:


  • Mobility aid accessibility – you must ensure that all vehicles have a lift or ramp to allow individuals with a disability, including individuals who use wheelchairs, to safely board, and there must be sufficient clearances to permit a user of a wheelchair or other mobility aid to reach a securement location. Vehicles in excess of 22 feet must have at least two securement locations, and smaller vehicles must have at least one. (Section 38.23) 
  • You must ensure that doors, steps, and thresholds are slip resistant, and all steps, edges, thresholds, and the boarding edge of the ramp must have a band of contrasting color running the full length of the step or edge.  Door height must be a minimum of 68 inches for vehicles in excess of 22 feet and a minimum of 56 inches for smaller vehicles. (Section 38.25)
  • You must place priority seating signs at the front of the bus, and your operators must ask other passengers to make those seats available to individuals with disabilities when necessary.  You must also place signs at securement locations. (Section 38.27)
  • You must ensure that interior handrails and stanchions permit sufficient turning and maneuvering space for wheelchairs and other mobility aids to reach a securement location from the lift or ramp.  Handrails or stanchions must also be located at the entrance to the vehicle. (Section 38.29)
  • You must install lighting at any stepwell or doorway. (Section 38.31)
  • If you have fare boxes, they must be located as far forward as practicable so as not to obstruct   traffic in the vestibule. (Section 38.33)
  • You must install a public address system in any vehicle in excess of 22 feet that is used in multiple-stop, fixed route service. (Section 38.35)
  • You must ensure that stop request controls are located adjacent to the securement location in vehicles in excess of 22 feet that make multiple stops.  These controls must be located between 15 inches to 48 inches off the ground, and must be operable with one hand. (Section 38.37)
  • Where you display destination or route information on the exterior of the vehicle, each vehicle must have illuminated signs on the front and boarding side of the vehicle. (Section 38.39)


Transportation facilities (Part 37)


If you are a public entity and you construct new facilities to be used for providing designated public transportation services, they must be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs (Section 37.41).  If you are a public entity and you alter an existing facility or part of an existing facility used for providing designated public transportation services, and that alteration affects or could affect the usability of the facility, you must make the alterations in a way that is readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities (Section 37.43).


Section sources