Route Deviation Service Sample Policy

The purpose of this document is to provide rural public transit agencies with a sample of a written ADA policy for demand response services. This sample policy is for transit agencies that deviate for all members of the public. If the route deviations are offered to all members of the public, the service is considered as “demand response” and the system is not required to provide ADA complementary paratransit. If the transit system provides commingled (combined) service (in which fixed route bus and ADA complementary paratransit service are provided using the same vehicle through route deviation), reference the Commingled Fixed Route and Paratransit Service Sample Policy Service Sample Policy.



The transit agency is advised to carefully read all elements of this policy template and edit to reflect its local policies and practices. The items in red should be customized for the transit agency and its own local policies.


The items in purple are additional notes and instructions related to customizing the template. Please make sure to delete these comments in the final policy document.


___(insert name of transit agency)__

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)

Policy and Procedures

Date: _______



Introduction and Purpose:  This ADA policy is written to establish operating and service guidelines and procedures for the implementation of the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) regulations for implementing ADA (49 CFR Parts 27, 37 and 38), and applicable state laws and regulations.  [Note: This policy template reflects federal requirements. The transit agency will need to research if there are any state-specific disability nondiscrimination requirements that apply to them.  If there are no relevant state-specific requirements, the transit agency may want to delete “and applicable state laws and regulations” in their policy.  If there are state-specific requirements, they will need to be addressed in the transit agency’s policy.]  ___(insert name of transit agency)__ operates services on a fixed route basis, commingled on the same vehicle as ADA complementary paratransit.  ___(insert name of transit agency)__ complies with ADA requirements with respect to such services. 


Policy Statement:    It is the policy of ___(insert name of transit agency)__ to comply with all the legal requirements of federal and state laws and regulations as they pertain to individuals with disabilities.  If state laws and federal regulations are contradictory, the federal ADA regulations prevail.  The transit system provides quality transportation services without discrimination to all persons including individuals with disabilities.  Discrimination on the basis of disability against any person by transit system employees will not be condoned or tolerated.


Goals:   Service is provided in a manner that meets these goals to:

  1. provide safe, accessible, and dignified services to all persons, including individuals with disabilities.
  2. expedite the safe and efficient boarding, securing, transporting, and alighting of all passengers, regardless of mobility status.
  3. accommodate the wide range of mobility aids within the confines of available vehicles and commercial standard equipment.


Applicability:  This policy applies to all transit system employees, services, facilities and vehicles.  It applies equally to all persons needing and/or using the services provided by the system.



Disability:  With respect to an individual, a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual; a record of such an impairment; or being regarded as having such an impairment. 


Fixed Route Service:   Operates along a prescribed route according to a fixed (regular) schedule.


Mobility Device:  A device that is designed to assist an individual with disabilities with locomotion. Examples include wheelchairs, canes, crutches, and walkers.  Also called mobility aid.


Route Deviation Service: A system that permits user-initiated deviations from routes or schedules. A transit service that operates along established routes that typically have designated stops.  Between these stops, vehicles deviate (depart) from an established route to pick up or drop off riders within a defined off-route service area.


Securement Area or Station: A designated location for riders using wheelchairs, equipped with a securement system.


Securement Device, Equipment or System:  Equipment used for securing wheelchairs against uncontrolled movement during transport.


Service Animal:  Any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal that has been 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 minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items.      


Wheelchair:  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.



General Guidance and Procedures for Implementing Policy

Recruitment and Employment:  As stated in the transit system’s personnel policies, the agency is an Equal Opportunity Employer (EOE) and fully complies with ADA in its recruitment, hiring and continued employment practices.


Facility and Vehicle Accessibility: The transit system administrative facility, passenger facilities and vehicles shall meet or exceed the requirements of 49 CFR Parts 27, 37 and 38 and requirements of the State of __________________.   If state requirements do not meet federal requirements, the federal ADA regulations prevail.  All vehicles purchased for fixed route and route deviation service will be accessible.  Vehicles purchased for demand response service will only be non-accessible to the extent that the demand response system, when viewed in its entirety, provides the same level of service for individuals with disabilities as for individuals without disabilities. The transit system will conduct an analysis of service equivalency prior to the acquisition of any inaccessible vehicles for demand-responsive service.


Vehicle and Route Assignment:  To the extent possible, the assignment of particular types of vehicles will be based upon rider needs.  All vehicles assigned to deviated routes will be accessible.


In addition to route deviation service, ___(insert name of transit agency)__  also operates demand response service.  [Note: Select one of the next two scenarios depending on whether or not your agency’s demand response vehicle fleet is 100% accessible.  If your transit system does NOT operate demand response service other than route deviation, delete tthe remainder of this section.]


All demand response vehicles operated by___(insert name of transit agency)__ are accessible and persons with disabilities, including wheelchair users, can board any vehicle.  To the extent possible, the assignment of particular types of vehicles will be based upon rider needs.




The demand response system of ___(insert name of transit agency)__, when viewed in its entirety, is accessible.  All trips by wheelchair users will be assigned to accessible vehicles. To the extent possible, the assignment of particular types of vehicles will be based upon rider needs.  Trip denials will be tracked by whether or not a rider requires use of the lift or ramp, to monitor that service is not disproportionately denied to individuals with disabilities because an accessible vehicle is not available.  ___(insert name of transit agency) __ provides demand response rural public transportation and provides equivalent service to individuals with disabilities, that is consistent with U.S. DOT ADA regulations under 49 CFR Part 37, Section 37.77. This transportation will be provided in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of the individual and will be equivalent to the service provided other individuals with respect to:


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


Maintenance of Accessible Features:  Accessibility features on vehicles, including lifts, ramps, wheelchair securement devices and public address systems, will be maintained in operative condition.  The preventive maintenance program of ___(insert name of transit agency)__ provides for regular and frequent maintenance checks of these features as well as preventive maintenance as recommended by the equipment manufacturers.  In addition, the lift must be cycled as part of each pre-trip inspection.  [Note: lift cycling as part of the pre-trip inspection is not required by ADA but is recommended by some states as a way to comply with the federal ADA requirement that transit systems conduct regular and frequent lift checks, sufficient to determine if lifts are actually operative.]


Inoperative Lifts and Ramps: Drivers are required to report lift or ramp failures immediately.  Vehicles with inoperative lifts will be removed from service and replaced with an accessible vehicle until the inoperative lift is repaired.  For vehicles equipped with ramps, it may be possible to continue in service as long as the ramp can be and is deployed manually when necessary. If an inoperative ramp cannot be (or is not) deployed manually, the transit agency will apply the policy for a vehicle with an inoperative lift.


In the interim, ___(insert name of transit agency)__ will provide alternative transportation to passengers who require the use of the lift.  This alternative transportation will be equivalent to the route deviation service provided to other individuals with respect to the equivalent service characteristics listed under Vehicle and Route Assignment.


Wheelchair Accommodation:  All accessible vehicles meet or exceed the requirements of 49 CFR Part 38. Transportation providers are required to carry a wheelchair and its user, as long as the lift can accommodate the size and weight of the wheelchair and its user, and there is space in the securement area for the wheelchair on the vehicle without blocking the aisle.  If a vehicle lift/ramp and securement area can accommodate a wheelchair (or other mobility device), ___(insert name of transit agency)__ will transport the device (and its user).

An individual who uses a wheelchair that, when occupied, exceeds the weight rating of the vehicle lift/ramp, will be offered the opportunity to board and disembark from the vehicle separately from the wheelchair.  However, transit agency personnel are not (required OR permitted) to operate a passenger’s wheelchair. [Note: Select appropriate word depending on your agency policy. It is not required under the ADA regulations, and for safety reasons your local policy may wish to prohibit personnel from operating a passenger’s wheelchair.]  The individual may travel with another individual who can assist with operating the unoccupied wheelchair to maneuver it on and off the lift/ramp.


Boarding:  Drivers and scheduling practices will provide adequate time for a passenger with a disability to board and/or disembark the vehicle, which includes adjusting the schedule if necessary and waiting for passengers to be seated before moving the vehicle.  Only a properly trained transit system employee can operate the lift or ramp and secure the wheelchair in the securement station.  Passengers may board facing toward or away from the vehicle. 


Wheelchair Securement:  [Note: Select one of the next two paragraphs depending on your agency policy.  U.S. DOT regulations do not mandate securement unless requested by a rider using a wheelchair.]  


___(insert name of transit agency)__ does not require that wheelchairs be secured on board the vehicle.  However, the driver will secure a passenger’s wheelchair if requested by the passenger. 


___(insert name of transit agency)__ requires that all wheelchairs be secured.  Drivers should not allow a passenger to ride if they are not secured properly unless the securement system will not accommodate the wheelchair.  Drivers cannot deny a passenger a ride based on the inability to secure the wheelchair.  However, drivers must warn the passengers of the danger of riding in a non-secured wheelchair.  Passengers who refuse to allow their wheelchairs to be secured may be denied service. 


Securement of wheelchairs is the responsibility of the driver.  Drivers are trained in the proper operation of all securement equipment based on the equipment manufacturer’s specifications.  Drivers will listen to and respect riders’ instructions on how to secure their equipment. Drivers cannot be expected to be familiar with each and every wheelchair type that may come aboard, and securement attachment points may differ by wheelchair manufacturer.  The rider may be in the best position to instruct the driver on how to properly secure their mobility device.    


If the securement system is not compatible with the wheelchair the passenger is using, the driver will still make an attempt to safely secure the wheelchair.  If the wheelchair cannot be secured because of the wheelchair design, the passenger still has the right to ride in the vehicle. 


Drivers must secure wheelchairs in the designated securement area only, even if the passenger wants their mobility device to be secured in a non-designated area.  The wheelchair is not allowed to block the aisle.


[Note: Select one depending on your agency policy. Make sure you treat all riders with and without disabilities the same.] Seat belts and shoulder harnesses are recommended but not required for passengers riding in their secured wheelchair.  OR: Seat belts and shoulder harnesses are required for ALL passengers. Seat belts will never be used instead of independent securement of the passenger’s wheelchair.


In cases where an individual using a wheelchair attempts to board and requires use of a securement location that is currently occupied by another passenger that is not using a wheelchair, the driver will ask that passenger to allow the individual using a wheelchair to use the securement position.


Driver Assistance: Drivers will make themselves available to assist individuals with disabilities and will assist upon request of the passenger.  Drivers will assist a passenger with using the vehicle ramp, lift and/or securement systems using the accessibility-related equipment and features on their vehicles.


Use of Lift or Ramp by Individuals with Disabilities Not Using a Mobility Device:  The driver will deploy the lift or ramp for an individual with a disability who is not using a mobility device to board or alight the vehicle upon request.


Accommodation of Other Mobility Devices: Mobility devices that are not wheelchairs, but which are primarily designed to for use by individuals with mobility impairments, will be accommodated to the extent that the ADA-compliant lift or ramp and securement areas can safely do so.  However, these devices are the responsibility of the individual passenger, and must be secured in a manner that does not interfere with the safe operation of the vehicles and the transport of other passengers.  


Transfer to Fixed Seating: All passengers using wheelchairs have an option of transferring to fixed seating once on board the vehicles.  Drivers may recommend, but never require, wheelchairs users to transfer to fixed seating. No waivers are allowed to be required. 


Accommodation of Portable Oxygen:  Individuals are allowed to travel with respirators and portable oxygen supplies on board, consistent with applicable U.S. DOT rules on the transportation of hazardous materials in 49 CFR Subtitle B, Chapter 1, Subchapter C. [Note: U.S. DOT requirements related to transportation of hazardous materials not part of the U.S. DOT ADA requirements and thus are not spelled out in this ADA policy template.]


Priority Seating:   With the exception of the wheelchair securement stations, the transit system does not require any passenger to sit in designated seating. 

Priority seating for seniors and individuals with disabilities is to be designated by permanent signage in each vehicle.  In cases where an individual with a disability requests use of priority seating that is currently occupied by another passenger, the driver will ask that passenger to move so as to allow the individual with a disability use of the priority seating.  In cases where a wheelchair user requires the use of a securement location, the driver will ask any passenger (including other passengers with disabilities) to vacate the securement location.


Service Animals:  In compliance with 49 CFR Part 37, the transit system allows trained service animals to accompany passengers with disabilities.  The driver will not ask for proof of the qualifications of the animal, but may ask what tasks the animal has been trained to perform.  However, any animal which is not under the passenger’s control or which becomes a direct threat to the health or safety of other passengers may be restricted from riding.


Alighting:  It is the responsibility of the driver to determine that the location for passenger alighting is safe.  For fixed route, the driver will allow a passenger who uses the lift or ramp to alight at any stop, unless the lift or ramp cannot be deployed, will be damaged if deployed, or conditions at the stop would present unsafe conditions for all passengers.  Only the driver will unsecure the wheelchair and operate the lift or ramp to return the passenger to the ground level. 


Staff Training:  All drivers and transit system staff are trained to proficiency in use of accessibility equipment, the operating policies related to each of the service requirements described, and in properly and respectfully assisting and treating individuals with disabilities with sensitivity.   Mechanics are also trained to properly maintain lifts and other accessibility equipment.


Rider Information:  All printed informational materials are made available in accessible formats upon request, for example, large print for individuals with low vision or audio for blind individuals, as well as accessible electronic formats.


Complaint Procedure:  All complaints of discrimination on the basis of disability will be promptly and objectively investigated and forwarded to the __(insert title of employee responsible for responsible for coordinating the transit agency’s compliance with 49 CFR Part 37) ____ and promptly and objectively investigated.  ___(insert name of transit agency)__ will promptly communicate its response to the complaint allegations, including its reasons for the response, to the complainant.  The response will be documented.  Corrective or disciplinary action will be taken for behavior prohibited by this policy, up to and including termination of employment.  [Note: attach the instructions that the transit agency provides to the public, as well as the complaint form if one has been established.]  Documentation of each complaint will be kept on file for __(insert local recordkeeping policy)___.   [Note: the DOT regulations require FTA grantees to maintain all complaints of noncompliance with 49 CFR Part 27 for one year, and a record of all such complaints, which may be in summary form, for five years.]    


Reasonable Modification of Policy:  If a passenger with a disability requires modification of any of ___(insert name of transit agency)__’s policies and practices to accommodate their disability to use the service, the passenger may request such a modification by contacting __(insert name or office to which requests for modification of policy should be directed)____.  The transit system will work with the individual to find an acceptable accommodation solution.

Where a request for modification cannot practicably be made and determined in advance operating personnel will make a determination of whether the modification should be provided at the time of the request. Operating personnel may consult with ___(insert name of transit agency)__ management before making a determination to grant or deny the request.


Requests for modification of policies and practices may be denied only on one or more of the following grounds:

  • Granting the request would fundamentally alter the nature of ___(insert name of transit agency)__’s services, programs, or activities;
  • Granting the request would create a direct threat to the health or safety of others;
  • Without the requested modification, the individual with a disability is able to fully use ___(insert name of transit agency)__'s services, programs, or activities for their intended purpose.


If ___(insert name of transit agency)__ denies a request for a reasonable modification, the agency shall take, to the maximum extent possible, other actions (that would not result in a direct threat or fundamental alteration of service) to ensure that the individual with a disability receives the services or benefit provided by ___(insert name of transit agency)__.



Guidelines and Procedures for Implementing Policy Specific to Route Deviation Services

Deviation Parameters:  Upon request by any rider, ___(insert name of transit agency)__ will deviate up to ___-mile from any established route.  [Note:  if the general public can request a deviation, there is no minimum deviation distance.]


Deviation Request Procedures:  Riders may request a route deviation by calling___(insert name of transit agency)__ at least ___ hours before the desired trip. The rider will be assigned a pick-up time.   Riders will be required to travel to the curb outside of their trip origin in time for their scheduled pick-up.   Vehicles operating on route deviation service will be unable to wait for a passenger who is not at the designated stop on time.  [Note: if the system deviates only for individuals with disabilities, you may need to provide some origin-to-destination (door-to-door) services based on individual passenger needs]. 


Passenger Assistance:  Route deviation services will be provided on a curb-to-curb basis. ___(insert name of transit agency)__ drivers will assist riders with disabilities in boarding and disembarking from vehicles and in securing wheelchairs.  All drivers who operate ___(insert name of transit agency)__ services will be proficiently trained in passenger assistance and sensitivity towards persons with disabilities.


The staff of the ___(insert name of transit agency)__ will not lift a passenger, leave a vehicle unattended or out of visual observation for a lengthy period of time, enter a rider’s home, care for service animals, operate a power wheelchair, provide personal care attendant (PCA) service, or take actions that would be clearly unsafe.  If more extensive assistance is needed by the individual than ___(insert name of transit agency)__ can provide as a provider of public transportation, the individual will be responsible for arranging for personal assistance.  Staff of ___(insert name of transit agency)__ will work with the individual and/or their caregiver/social worker to clarify parameters of the assistance that can be provided by the driver and formally document this in a letter sent to the individual.


Fixed Stop Procedures:  Riders can also access route deviation service without advanced request by boarding or alighting at one of the designated fixed stops.


Fares:  The one-way fare for riding the route deviation service without requesting a deviation is $____.  The additional one-way fare per deviation is $_____.  If a deviation is requested for both boarding and alighting, this is considered two deviations.