Questions and Answers


This section of the toolkit contains questions about ADA requirements received by National RTAP in recent years from rural public transit providers.  These questions are grouped under the following topics:


The information presented in this toolkit is technical assistance and not legal advice. A transit agency with a question or specific situation that is not addressed in the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) ADA regulations or U.S. DOT or Federal Transit Administration (FTA) guidance documents may wish to request guidance from the Civil Rights officer at your FTA Regional Office or the FTA Office of Civil Rights and/or seek legal counsel.

The responses to many of the following questions are based on the U.S. DOT regulations in 49 CFR Part 37- Transportation Services for Individuals with Disabilities (ADA) and FTA Circular 4710.1 - Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Guidance.

Additional transit-related ADA FAQs can be found on the Civil Rights FAQ section of the FTA website.

References to regulatory language in the following questions and answers are from 49 CFR Part 37 unless otherwise noted.


General Questions

Answer: The FTA ADA Circular can be found on the FTA website.

Answer: The ADA requirement says that agencies must adopt procedures that incorporate appropriate due process standards and provide for the prompt and equitable resolution of complaints. The process for filing a complaint must be advertised to the public (such as on the agency’s web site), including the name, address, telephone number, and email address of the employee that the transit agency has designated as responsible for coordinating ADA complaint resolution. The procedures must be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. The agency must provide the complainant with a prompt response and document its response [Section 37.17]. Further, under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, agencies receiving federal funding are required to retain all detailed documentation for 1 year, and save a summary of all ADA complaints for 5 years [49 CFR Part 27 Section 27.121]. See Section 12.7 of the FTA ADA Circular for additional guidance.

Answer: The FTA conducts ADA specialized reviews and triennial reviews of its direct recipients (including State DOTs). States are responsible for conducting oversight of their FTA subrecipients, including rural Section 5311 subrecipients. FTA conducts oversight of state programs and may also review rural transit agencies as part of State Management Reviews. FTA also takes complaints through its website. If FTA determines that there is an ADA violation, staff will work with the agency to correct the deficiency. Because compliance with ADA requirements is part of the grant agreement, FTA or a state may also withhold grant funding for unresponsive agencies. As a civil rights law, the ADA also provides aggrieved individuals with the right to seek legal action through the courts; it is therefore possible that an individual or an advocacy organization may file a lawsuit against a transit agency for an ADA violation.

Answer: While many ADA requirements apply to all transportation providers, some requirements differ depending upon whether the agency providing the service is a public entity or a private entity. However, if a private contractor is providing transportation services under contract (or other arrangement (including a grant, subgrant, or cooperative agreement) or relationship to a public entity, the private entity must abide by the regulations that apply to the public entity as if the public entity was directly operating the service (Section 37.23). The private entity is regarded as “standing in the shoes” of the public entity. See Section 1.3.2 of the FTA ADA Circular for a discussion on “standing in the shoes” applicability.

Note that the National RTAP ADA Toolkit focuses on the requirements for public entities, which apply to Section 5311-funded rural transit systems, the intended audience for this toolkit.

Answer: Transportation providers are not required to provide service to an individual with a disability if that individual engages in violent, seriously disruptive or illegal conduct, or who represents a direct threat to the health or safety of others. However, an agency cannot deny service to individuals with disabilities because their disabilities result in appearance or involuntary behavior that may offend, annoy, or inconvenience employees or other persons [Section 37.5(h)]. Transit agencies should have procedures in place to address disruptive riders and enforce the procedures consistently among all riders.

Answer: Under Section 37.5(h) of 49 CFR Part 37, service can only be refused to an individual with a disability if the individual engages in violent, seriously disruptive, or illegal conduct, or represents a direct threat to the health or safety of others. Service cannot be refused solely because the individual's disability results in appearance or involuntary behavior that may offend, annoy, or inconvenience others.

As stated in Section 2.2.7 of the FTA ADA Circular, it would not be appropriate to refuse service if the hygiene situation were merely unpleasant to other passengers or drivers. If the situation disrupts the provision of service, however, grounds for refusing service may exist. Before refusing service to an individual with a disability, FTA encourages transit agencies to make reasonable attempts to resolve issues with riders or, if appropriate, caregivers or guardians.

Answer: A transit agency cannot require that an individual with a disability to be accompanied by a PCA. [Section 37.5(e)]. However, the transit agency is not required to provide attendant services and may refuse service to someone who engages in violent, seriously disruptive, or illegal conduct. If a PCA would mitigate such conduct, the transit agency could require an attendant as a condition of providing service it otherwise had the right to refuse [Discussion of Section 37.5(e) in Appendix D to Part 37]. 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 [Section 37.131(c)(3)].


Fixed Route Bus Service

Answer: On a fixed route, all vehicles must be accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities, including wheelchair users [Sections 37.71, 37.73, and 37.75], and accessibility equipment must be in good working order [Sections 37.161 and 37.163]. Since 1991, Subpart D of 49 CFR Part 37 has required that all non-rail vehicles acquired by public entities for use in fixed route systems be accessible. Very rare exceptions have been made for vehicles of historic character that are operated solely on a route that is included on the National Register of Historic Places [Section 37.75(d)], as well as used vehicles obtained through very specific circumstances (although since most buses manufactured since 1990 have been accessible, this exception generally is no longer used) [Section 37.73]. For more information about these limited exceptions, see Section 4.2 of the FTA ADA Circular.

Answer: The “30-minute” rule: If the bus lift 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 (wait for the next bus) is longer than 30 minutes. The transportation provider should promptly (i.e., within 30 minutes) send out an accessible vehicle to pick up the customer if the wait for the next bus will be longer than 30 minutes, and if the reason for the bypass is malfunctioning accessibility equipment [Section 37.163(f)]. For ramp-equipped buses, the operator will often be directed to deploy the ramp manually, so alternative transportation is not needed. For additional discussion and suggested practices, see Section 6.2.1 of the FTA ADA Circular.

Answer: 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 a central business district and outlying suburbs. Commuter bus service may also include other service not oriented toward work trips, characterized by a limited route structure, limited stops, and a coordinated relationship to another mode of transportation (U.S. DOT definition) [Section 37.3]. Appendix D to Section 37.3 further clarifies commuter bus service as characterized by no attempt to comprehensively cover a service area, limited route structure, limited origins and destinations, an interface with another mode of transportation, and limited purposes of travel. ADA complementary paratransit requirements do not apply to commuter service [Section 37.121(c)]. In some situations, a service referred to by a transit agency as "commuter" does not meet the U.S. DOT definition of commuter service, and would thus require ADA complementary paratransit.

Answer: The stop announcement requirements described under Section 37.167(b) for fixed route systems apply to commuter bus service. On fixed route systems, transit agencies are required to notify passengers when the bus approaches certain bus stops and transfer points along the route, so that individuals with disabilities can be oriented to their location.

By definition in 49 CFR Part 37 Section 37.3, commuter bus service is a fixed route service. Although the ADA Complementary Paratransit requirements for other types of fixed route systems do not apply to commuter bus service [Section 37.121(c)], commuter bus service is not exempt from the stop announcement requirements. These requirements are discussed in Section 6.6 of the FTA ADA Circular.

Answer: Yes, this is a requirement. As stated in 49 CFR Part 37 Section 37.165(f), “where necessary or upon request, the entity's personnel shall assist individuals with disabilities with the use of securement systems, ramps and lifts. If it is necessary for the personnel to leave their seats to provide this assistance, they shall do so.”


Demand Response Bus Service

Answer: On-demand service to the general public is covered by the ADA requirements for demand-responsive service. All vehicles must be accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities, including wheelchair users, unless the service, when viewed in its entirety, provides equivalent service to persons with disabilities according to specific regulatory criteria that include fares, response time, service area, and hours and days of service. Service provided under contract or other arrangement or relationship with a private entity, including a grant, subgrant, or cooperative agreement, must meet the same regulatory requirements as service provided directly by the public entity. This means that if a passenger can reserve an on-demand trip using a service operated under any kind of arrangement between a public entity, such as transit agency, and a private entity, such as a taxi operator or TNC, the same service must be available on the same basis to persons with disabilities, including wheelchair users. The same is true of fixed route services. Some transit agencies have entered into arrangements with private operators to provide what amounts to flag-stop service, where the vehicles follow a fixed route but stop to pick up passengers only when requested by a rider via an app. Public operators of fixed route service must ensure that all vehicles are accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities, including wheelchair users; therefore, any such service provided under contract or other arrangement or relationship must also consist of only accessible vehicles. Appendix D to the DOT ADA regulations makes it clear that the mere existence of an interaction with a passenger to obtain service, such as flagging down a bus to board, does not render an otherwise fixed route demand-responsive. In some cases, transit operators are engaging the services of private entities such as TNCs or taxi operators to supplement their ADA complementary paratransit service. Again, the requirements applicable to the public entity would apply. Some transit operators use these services to provide paratransit service on a real-time basis; while this is expressly permitted under the ADA, it is important to understand that real-time service must be provided to all paratransit passengers using the service, not just to ambulatory riders. Wheelchair users and others who require an accessible vehicle must be provided with the same level of service.

Answer: U.S. DOT ADA regulations do not require eligibility determination for demand response services. Eligibility policies for demand response services can be determined at the local organization level. Sometimes funding sources will limit eligibility, or require that the service be open to the general public. Locally-determined policies must not be discriminatory (for example, wheelchair users must be able to use the service in a manner equivalent to ambulatory individuals).


ADA Complementary Paratransit

Answer: The paratransit required under the ADA is complementary, not complimentary (a common misspelling). The service is required to complement, or supplement, the fixed route service. ADA complementary paratransit provides a “safety net” for individuals with disabilities who are unable to use fixed route services, and must be comparable to fixed route service. Paratransit is not required to be complimentary, or free—unless the fixed route service is also fare-free. It is not meant as complimentary in regard to expressing praise or admiration either (paying someone a compliment).

Answer: Transit agencies are required to schedule trips on a next-day basis; they are permitted to schedule a trip up to 14 days in advance. For ADA complementary paratransit, the requirement is that next-day service be provided, even if the office is not open the day before the trip. The transit agency must establish procedures for accepting next-day service that is requested when the office is closed the day before the trip. Transit agencies may also accept trips as many as 14 days in advance, but this is not required, and may not disrupt the agency’s ability to make next-day trips. [Section 37.131(b)].

Answer: The regulations specify that complementary paratransit be “origin-to-destination” service [Section 37.129(a)]. Whether or organization provides “curb-to-curb” or “door-to-door” service is a local policy decision. However, 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 [Sections 37.129 and U.S. DOT Disability Law Guidance on Origin-to-Destination Service.

Answer: As long as the driver would not leave the vehicle unattended or out of visual observation for a lengthy period of time, a paratransit driver can, and should, leave the bus to assist passengers with disabilities when help is needed to provide origin-to-destination service [Appendix E to 49 CFR Part 37]. For discussion of scenarios in which this level of assistance may be needed, see Appendix E to 49 CFR Part 37 and FTA ADA Circular Section 2.5. All drivers may need to assist riders who use manual wheelchairs on and off lift platforms, or up and down a ramp [Section 37.165(f) and discussion in Appendix D to 49 CFR Part 37].

Answer: Transit agencies may charge no more than twice the general public fixed route fare for ADA complementary paratransit for a trip of similar length (i.e., with the same origin and destination), at a similar time of day [Section 37.131(c)]. In a free fare service zone, ADA complementary paratransit must also be free for trips with origins and destinations within the free fare zone.

Answer: A transportation provider is allowed to charge up to twice the cost of fare for taking the same trip on fixed route [Section 37.131(c)]. 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 a 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 the agency 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.

Answer: Yes, if they are within the paratransit service area. A paratransit trip cannot be restricted or prioritized on the basis of trip purpose [Section 37.131(d)]. If the person is eligible for paratransit, and the requested trip can be provided within the paratransit service area and service hours, the transit agency needs to provide requested trips for recreational destinations just as it would to a medical appointment, to the individual’s job site, or for other “basic needs” travel.

Answer: Providers of ADA complementary paratransit service are not obligated to provide any service beyond transportation; paratransit is intended to function as a ”safety net” for persons whose disabilities prevent independent use of the fixed route system. If a transit agency has riders who need assistance above and beyond transportation, here are a few options:

  • Ensure that the rider understands the nature of ADA complementary paratransit service as a transportation system, not a human services function, and that they are expected to be able to independently use the system.
  • If a rider is unable to independently use the paratransit system, suggest that they be accompanied by a Personal Care Attendant (PCA) of their choosing to provide the assistance that is needed that goes beyond transportation. While transit systems can’t require that a PCA be used [49 CFR Section 37.5(e)], the ADA regulations do not require a transit agency to provide attendant services.
  • Negotiate arrangements by which the rider will ensure that someone is there to meet them as needed at each end of a trip, and establish procedures in the event of a failure of such arrangement
  • • Although not required, as a good practice, transit agency staff 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.
  • • Although not required, as a useful practice, 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. This means that the transportation provider can offer a trip that not only includes transportation, but provides for the additional care such as waiting with the rider until 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. ACCESS, the paratransit program serving Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, utilizes this model. More information on hand-to-hand service is available on the ACCESS website. Another example is the hand-to-hand service offered by TriMet in the Portland, Oregon region.

Answer: Whatever policy the transit agency has for minimum age to ride fixed route service without an accompanying adult should be applied to ADA complementary paratransit – the same policy should apply to both services. Many transit agencies establish a policy on the minimum age at which a child can ride the transit service without being accompanied by an adult. To avoid discrimination on the basis of disability, such policies must be applied consistently for all children.

As discussed in Section 9.2.2 of the FTA ADA Circular, in the context of determining ADA complementary paratransit eligibility, policies limiting the availability of transit to children under a certain age or requiring children under a certain age to be accompanied by an adult cannot be created solely for ADA complementary paratransit. Any policy would also need to apply to the fixed route service to avoid a discriminatory practice. For children under the minimum age to travel alone on fixed route, paratransit eligibility determination should take into account the ability of the team of the child with a parent/guardian, rather than the independent ability of the child, since all children of that age would be required to travel with accompanying adults. However, paratransit eligibility determination for children that meet the minimum age for unaccompanied travel on the fixed route must be based on the child’s independent functional ability. The FTA ADA Circular makes the distinction that having an age-related fare policy (e.g., children under the age of 6 ride free when accompanied by a fare-paying adult) does not constitute a policy requiring adults to accompany younger children.

Answer: Paratransit service must be provided to a personal care attendant (PCA) traveling with an eligible rider with no fare charged for the PCA [Section 37.123(f)]. 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. The existence of a PCA does not absolve the transit system from providing boarding assistance or assistance with securements. The paratransit eligibility process may note whether an individual travels with a PCA, but may not require a PCA or insert itself into the process of selecting the PCA or determining the PCA’s duties or functions. For space considerations, the transit agency may ask the rider if he or she will be traveling with a PCA for a particular trip.

Answer: This is a local policy decision. Each transit agency determines its own ADA complementary paratransit eligibility determination standards and process, following the requirements in Sections 37.123 and 37.125 in 49 CFR Part 37. Under these federal requirements, paratransit eligibility isn’t intended to be based on a medical diagnosis; it should be based on an individual’s functional ability to independently use the fixed route transit system. Many transit agencies require verification by a medical or other professional, such as an occupational therapist, who can assess the person’s abilities and under what circumstances (if any) the individual could use fixed route transit services. More information the ADA complementary paratransit eligibility requirements that transit agencies must follow can be found in the ADA Complementary Paratransit section of this toolkit and in Chapter 9 of the FTA ADA Circular.

Answer: Yes. Transit agencies are required to establish an appeal process through which individuals who are denied ADA complementary paratransit eligibility can obtain review of the denial [Section 37.125(g)]. Eligibility appeals must be handled by someone who did not make the original decision. Written appeals cannot be required (though a declaration of intent to appeal can be required in writing), and an opportunity to be heard in person must be part of the appeals process. Requirements and FTA suggestions for the appeal process are discussed in Section 9.7 of the FTA ADA Circular.

Answer: An ADA complementary paratransit rider who is facing a possible suspension for violating the transit agency’s no-show policy must be given an opportunity to appeal, consistent with the appeal process that is needed for the eligibility determination process. For more information, see Section 9.12 of the FTA ADA Circular.

Answer: No, unless the transit agency’s normal policy is to help with such items [Appendix E to 49 CFR Part 37]. 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, whether or not they have a disability.

Answer: Next-day service means that ADA complementary paratransit riders can request a trip at any time (during business hours) today, to be taken any time (during service hours) tomorrow. For example, if a passenger wants to make a trip at 8:00 AM on Tuesday, they can call at 3:00 PM on Monday to schedule the trip. They do not have to call at 8:00 AM on Monday. It’s important to note that U.S. DOT ADA regulations require transit operators to take next-day paratransit reservations on days when offices may be closed. For example, if offices are closed on Sunday, but Monday is a service day, the agency must have a means in place to make next-day reservations on Sunday.

Answer: While the term "paratransit" has often been used in a generic sense, it has a specific meaning under the ADA, subject to specific eligibility and service criteria. When we speak of "paratransit," we are referring to ADA complementary paratransit. Other forms of demand-responsive services are just that – demand-responsive, and subject to their own separate requirements under the ADA for accessible vehicles and equivalent service. It’s also important to note that there is no such thing as "non-ADA service." This term is often used to describe demand-responsive service that is not ADA complementary paratransit. U.S. DOT ADA regulations cover every form of surface transportation, public and private; the only form of "non-ADA service" involves the use of aircraft.


Accommodating Riders Using Mobility Devices

Answer: Under current regulations, the design load of the vehicle lift must be a minimum of 600 pounds [49 CFR Part 38, Section 38.23(b)]. Wheelchair lifts are often manufactured with a higher design load. Providers should check with lift manufacturers for specifications.

Answer: U.S. DOT requires that transit agencies provide transportation for all people with disabilities, and must transport the wheelchair and occupant if the lift and vehicle can accommodate the wheelchair and occupant [Section 37.165(b)(1)]. Transit agencies should know the capacities of their lifts and vehicles.

For ADA complementary paratransit, transit agencies should disclose such information in the application materials. The best way to figure this out is to try to board the person. Transit operators can request to test this before a trip (for example, as part of the ADA complementary paratransit eligibility determination process) if there are legitimate concerns about the whether a person is able to safely board the bus.

Before attempting board a passenger on fixed route, ADA complementary paratransit, or demand response bus service, transit agency personnel could validate the design load of the lift specifications and ask the passenger if the combined weight of the occupied wheelchair exceeds this amount. If the operator is unable to safely board the passenger with the mobility device, based on legitimate concerns related to space or weight capacity of the equipment, the passenger could be notified that they cannot be carried, and offered the option to board separately from the mobility device, with the assistance of a personal care attendant (PCA) operating the mobility device. 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. In the case of ADA Complementary Paratransit eligibility denial, the passenger must have an opportunity to appeal the decision [Section 37.125(g)].

In some cases, passengers may be able to board separately from their mobility devices. However, this may necessitate the assistance of a PCA, which a transit agency is not required to provide. For additional discussion, see Section 2.4.1 of the FTA ADA Circular.

Answer: This may become a transportation provider personnel or human resources issue. drivers are expected to perform the duties and tasks of the job. The ADA requires that operators provide reasonable assistance for customers to use public transit including boarding, alighting and using accessible features of the vehicle. The requirement to provide this assistance should be included as part of the job description. 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.

It is possible that there may be situations where pushing an individual in a manual wheelchair could present a direct threat to the health or safety of drivers. As stated in Section 2.5.1 of the FTA ADA Circular, “The driver needs to assist an individual with using a ramp, assuming the level of assistance is reasonable and does not constitute a direct threat to the health or safety of the driver. The regulations do not set a minimum or maximum weight for an occupied wheelchair that drivers are obligated to help propel. Transit agencies will need to assess whether a particular level of assistance constitutes a direct threat on a case-by-case basis.” A transit agency with a specific situation that it believes could present a direct threat to the health or safety of drivers may wish to request technical assistance from their Regional Civil Rights Officer at their FTA Regional Office or the FTA Headquarters Office of Civil Rights through FTA’s Contact Us web tool by selecting the “Civil Rights & Accessibility” category when submitting a question or its toll-free hotline at (888) 446-4511, and/or seek legal counsel.

Answer: Transit agencies may decline to carry a wheelchair/occupant if carriage of the wheelchair is demonstrated to be inconsistent with “legitimate safety requirements.” Legitimate safety requirements include such circumstances as when a wheelchair is of a size that would block an aisle or not be able to fully enter a rail car, thereby blocking the vestibule, and interfere with the safe evacuation of passengers in an emergency. 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 persons 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 the items and offer assistance to customers, if needed.

Answer: This is a local policy decision. Section 37.3 of Appendix D to 49 CFR Part 37 states that U.S. DOT “does not interpret its rules to require transportation providers to permit an assistive device to be used in a way that departs from or exceeds the intended purpose of the device.” Section 2.4.2 of the FTA Circular notes that transit agencies are not required to permit riders who use walkers with built-in seats to ride in securement areas while seated on their walkers, meaning that transit agencies can require these individuals to transfer to a vehicle seat.

Importantly, individuals who occupy wheelchairs should have priority access to the wheelchair securement positions, and the driver of the vehicle is required to ask (but not required to compel) other passengers to move to other seats [Section 37.167(j)].

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

Answer: If there is a direct threat to the health and safety of others, the operator can deny the trip to the passenger. However, drivers should make sure that this is a real, direct biohazard threat (for example, blood, urine, or fecal matter) rather than a perceived concern. Transit agencies should consider having a policy about hygiene that is simple to implement by bus operators, applies to all passengers, and reflects the overarching nondiscrimination regulatory language. Under Section 37.5(h) of 49 CFR Part 37, service can only be refused to an individual with a disability if the individual engages in violent, seriously disruptive, or illegal conduct, or represents a direct threat to the health or safety of others. Service cannot be refused solely because the individual's disability results in appearance or involuntary behavior that may offend, annoy, or inconvenience others.

Answer: As described in the General Requirements for All Services section of this toolkit, transit agencies must ensure that the accessibility features of vehicles and related transit facilities are maintained, and promptly repaired if accessibility features are damaged or out of order. If an accessibility feature is out of order, the transit agency must also take reasonable steps to accommodate individuals with disabilities who would otherwise use the feature [Section 37.161]. Further, transit agencies must create and follow a system of regular and frequent maintenance checks of lifts and ramps to determine whether the equipment is operative. Vehicle operators must report any failure of a lift/ramp to operate in service as soon as possible. If a spare vehicle is available, 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, with additional nuances in situations when no spare vehicle is available [Section 37.163].

Answer: A customer cannot be denied a trip because the securement equipment on the bus will not secure the mobility device [Section 37.165(d)]. If this occurs, the driver must give the customer the option to ride without securement. If the customer chooses to ride unsecured, then the ride must be given.

Answer: The bus driver must continue taking that person to their destination if the passenger so wishes. The inoperable securement system must be repaired promptly [Section 37.161].

Answer: The passenger would be violating the policy by refusing to allow the device to be secured [Section 37.165(c)]. However, if there is no policy, or if the securement system does not fit or is not secured to the driver's satisfaction, the passenger must still be provided the ride [Section 37.165(d)].

Answer: 49 CFR 37.3 defines a wheelchair as a mobility aid belonging to any class of three- or more-wheeled devices, usable indoors, designed or modified for and used by individuals with mobility impairments, whether operated manually or powered. A mobility stroller meeting this definition is a wheelchair.

Answer: The driver needs to provide assistance with boarding and alighting provided that the level of assistance is reasonable and does not constitute a direct threat to the health or safety of the driver. The regulations do not set a minimum or maximum weight for an occupied wheelchair that drivers are obligated to help propel. Transit agencies will need to assess whether a particular level of assistance constitutes a direct threat on a case-by-case basis. If an individual does present a direct threat to the health or safety of others, it would be appropriate for the transit agency to work with the individual to identify a solution that would not pose a direct threat to the driver. A transit agency may wish to consult their agency's legal counsel or contact the FTA Regional Civil Rights Officer (RCRO) for their Region to discuss a specific situation.


Service Animals

Answer: Encountering a service animal in the transit or other environment is an expected part of being in public. As such, allergies to service animals would not be grounds for denying service to a person accompanied by a service animal.

Answer: Yes. Each animal might provide different services to the passenger. Transit agency personnel can ask the two questions for each animal: (1) Is the animal a service animal required because of a disability? and (2) What work or task has the animal been trained to perform? [Section 2.6 of FTA Circular 4710.1].

Answer: The requirement is that the animal be under control of the rider. Beyond that, there is no requirement that the animal be on a leash or harness.

Answer: No. However, it is a helpful practice for 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 the animal is afraid of buses.



Answer: Complying with the ADA requirements and providing services that are accessible to everyone is part of the business of providing public transportation, and is a condition of eligibility for federal funding. Transit agencies can often use FTA grants to fund ADA-required equipment, services, training, and other transit program elements. For more information, see the Funding section of this toolkit. States may also offer grant funding to assist with ADA compliance.

Answer: Yes. While a private entity does not become subject to the requirements for public entities because it receives an operating subsidy from, is regulated by, or is granted a franchise or permit to operate by a public entity, when a public entity enters into a contractual or other arrangement (such as a grant, subgrant, or cooperative agreement) or relationship with a public entity, the private entity “stands in the shoes” of the public entity. If the transportation provider is under contract to a public entity such as a local or state government, or if a grant from the state or federal government funds the service provided under contract, the requirements that apply to a public entity apply to this service.

Answer: FTA requires that State DOTs conduct oversight of their subrecipients on numerous compliance requirements, including ADA, that come with the FTA grant. Each State DOT determines its own approach to subrecipient oversight. FTA conducts oversight of the state’s approach as part of the State Management Review. The requirements that apply to states and their oversight efforts as described in the FTA’s Comprehensive Review Guide. The most recent Comprehensive Review Guide can be found on the FTA website. There is nothing stated in the ADA about reporting requirements, but there may be requirements as part of the National Transit Database (NTD) or for funding purposes, such as a state’s subrecipient reporting requirements tied to a specific grant.


Emergency Management

Answer: As discussed in National RTAP’s Transit’s Role in Emergency Response, transit agencies need to have an emergency response plan developed in consultation with local emergency management agencies and other stakeholders. It is also a good practice for transit agencies to be involved in planning local emergency response plans and practice. While not an ADA requirement for transit agencies, they can have a critical role in evacuating residents in collaboration with emergency first responders, including residents with disabilities. Planning for evacuation of community members with disabilities is essential, as demonstrated by devastating effects on people with disabilities during and following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. Emergency planning should include outreach and engagement with community members with disabilities. Before, during and after an emergency event, outreach is necessary to educate community members on how to get help. As part of their emergency planning efforts, many transit agencies have recognized the needs of people with disabilities. For example, as shared in National RTAP’s October 2019 Transit Disaster Response Twitter Chat, Palm Tran prioritized vulnerable populations throughout Hurricane Dorian. Leading up to the storm, Palm Tran provided over 300 evacuation trips for residents with disabilities and special needs, transporting them to shelters where their specific needs could be met. Palm Tran’s paratransit service continues to provide evacuation services for residents with disabilities when needed, including transporting their life-sustaining medical equipment and other belongings necessary for a three-to-five night stay.


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Updated June 2, 2020