Welcome to the ADA Toolkit

Welcome to the National RTAP ADA Toolkit!  The purpose of this toolkit is to help rural transit managers understand the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) requirements for public transit providers under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), and to help rural transit systems comply with the ADA requirements that apply to them.  The ADA prohibits discrimination against and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation.

The information in this toolkit focuses on U.S. DOT regulations in 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. This toolkit also refers extensively to Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Circular 4710.1, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Guidance as well as other federal guidance, standards, and technical assistance. The end of this section of the toolkit provides links to these and other key ADA-related regulations, standards, and guidance documents that are referenced throughout the toolkit.

Section 5311-funded rural public transit systems are the primary audience for this toolkit.  State Section 5311 program staff may also find this toolkit useful in understanding the ADA requirements that apply to their Section 5311 subrecipients. The toolkit focuses on the requirements for public entities that operate fixed-route or demand response bus services.  Rail and ferry transit modes are also covered by the ADA, but are not addressed in this toolkit.  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 or relationship (including a grant, subgrant, or cooperative agreement) with 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.

Importantly, the information presented in this toolkit is presented as technical assistance, and is not legal advice.  A transit agency with a question or specific situation that is not addressed in the U.S. DOT ADA regulations or U.S. DOT or FTA guidance documents 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.  It must be stressed that the U.S. DOT ADA regulations are legal requirements, not FTA program requirements.  Individuals who feel they have been subject to discrimination have the right to seek remediation independently through the legal system.

While this toolkit is not an exhaustive collection of requirements, it is meant to give rural transit managers an overview of their responsibilities under the ADA statute and regulations to provide accessible, nondiscriminatory service.  For some topics, examples of suggested practices are introduced.  The first section is a listing of ADA requirements common to all service types as well as by service type. This is a good place for a new rural transit manager to start.  The rest of the toolkit is broken into various topics that apply to the majority of agencies providing public transportation.  All of the sections contain links to information sources and related resources.  There are also Questions and Answers (Q&As), New Developments, and a Glossary the compiles the definitions that are introduced in this toolkit.  We have also provided ADA Policy Templates for different service types.

To view the topics included in each section, see the table of contents below, or click on any of the sections in the left toolbar to expand your navigation options.  The content of full toolkit can be downloaded as a PDF that can be saved or printed.


Button: Mission Statement and PoliciesDownload Full-Text Toolkit


National RTAP staff would like to thank the following current and former National RTAP Review Board members and additional SMEs whose expertise and experience shaped the development and update of this toolkit:

Deborah Bach, New Mexico Department of Transportation; Glen Bahm, Standing Rock Public Transit, Fort Yates, ND; Kari Banta, Texas Department of Transportation; Colton Brown, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation; Julia Castillo, Heart of Iowa Regional Transit Authority (HIRTA), Urbandale, IA; Marcele Edington, Michigan Department of Transportation; Buffy Ellis, KFH Group; Tim Geibel, Crawford Area Transportation Authority, Meadville, PA; Donovan Gomez, Hopi Senom Transit, Kykotsmovi, AZ; Beth Hamby, KFH Group; Ken Hosen, KFH Group; Angie Jones, Grant County Transportation District (People Mover), OR; Katharine Mitchell, Regional Transportation Authority of Pima County, Tucson, AZ; Kari Ruse, Nebraska DOT; Neil Sherman, Virginia Department of Transportation; Curtis Sims, Jr., South Carolina Department of Transportation; Connie Sipe, Center for Community, Sitka, AK.  Photo credits for the banner: Nusura, Jason Cohn, Sheila Clayton.

Updated June 3, 2020

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