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Frequently Asked Questions

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Answer: Under Department of Transportation (DOT) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations at 49 C.F.R. Section 38.23(b)(1), wheelchair lifts must accommodate a design load of at least 600 lbs., with a safety factor of at least six (3,600 lbs.) for working parts, such as belts, pulleys, and shafts that can be expected to wear, and a safety factor of at least three (1,800 lbs.) for nonworking parts, based on the ultimate strength of the material. For vehicles equipped with ramps, the design load must be at least 600 lbs. for ramps in excess of 30 inches in length, with a safety factor of at least three (1,800 lbs.); ramps less than 30 inches in length are required to have a design load of at least 300 lbs. Transit agencies are not prevented from acquiring vehicles and equipment with a higher design load but are not required to accommodate mobility devices that exceed the capacities of their lifts or ramps.
Answer: Under Department of Transportation (DOT) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations at 49 C.F.R. Section 37.163(f), if a lift fails in service and the headway to the next accessible vehicle on the route is more than 30 minutes, the transit provider is required to provide alternative accessible service by a paratransit or other special vehicle within a short response time (i.e., less than 30 minutes). Transit entities may provide this accommodation by having a “shadow” accessible service available along the route (i.e., by having an accessible vehicle “follow” the vehicle with the inoperative lift) or by having the bus driver immediately call in upon encountering a passenger he or she is unable to transport.
Answer: No, if a bus is filled to capacity, a driver is not required to remove other passengers from the bus in order to make room for additional persons with disabilities. However, the driver would still be required to request that persons without disabilities vacate priority seating locations they may be occupying.
Answer: Under Department of Transportation (DOT) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations at 49 C.F.R. Section 37.167(j) bus operators are required to ask the person without a disability to move to another seat. If, after the operator asks, the person refuses to move, the regulations do not require the operator to compel this person to move. However, a transit operator can decide to adopt a policy requiring people to vacate the seats.
Answer: Yes. Under Department of Transportation (DOT) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations at 49 C.F.R. Section 37.127, each public entity required to provide complementary paratransit service must make the service available to visitors as provided under the section. The transit entity must provide service to visitors who present documentation that they are ADA paratransit eligible in the jurisdiction in which they reside, under the criteria of 49 C.F.R. Section 37.125. If a visitor with a disability does not present such documentation, the transit entity may require documentation of the individual’s place of residence and of his or her disability, if the disability is not apparent. A transit operator is not required to provide service to a visitor for more than 21 days during any 365-day period; after that, the visitor may be required to apply for eligibility through the same processes established for residents under 49 C.F.R. Section 37.125.
Answer: No, paratransit providers are required to provide all eligible requested trips, not just trips to and from a single location. A person may take as many individual legs of a trip in a day as their schedule allows (factoring in pickup windows and time to complete their business), just as a fixed route user may take as many trips as he or she desires. For example, just as a person may take a fixed route from their home to work, then from work to an appointment, and then home again, so should a paratransit rider be able to. Each leg may be separately scheduled (that is, paratransit providers are not required to wait while a passenger runs into the post office, just as a fixed route user would be required to wait for the next bus).
Answer: Yes, under Department of Transportation (DOT) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations at 49 C.F.R. Section 27.123(b), an individual must file a written complaint with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) no later than 180 days from the date of the alleged discrimination, unless the time for filing is extended by the FTA.
Answer: There is a time limit on how long a lift may remain unrepaired on a transit vehicle only if the vehicle is not taken out of service. Under Department of Transportation (DOT) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations at 49 C.F.R. Section 37.163(d), when a lift is discovered to be inoperative, the entity must take the vehicle out of service before the beginning of the vehicle’s next service day and ensure that the lift is repaired before the vehicle returns to service. However, if there is no spare vehicle available to take the place of a vehicle with an inoperable lift, such that taking the vehicle out of service will reduce the transportation service the entity is able to provide, Section 37.163(e) permits the entity to keep a vehicle with an inoperable lift in service for no more than five days (if the entity serves an area of 50,000 or less population) or three days (if the entity serves an area of over 50,000 population) from the day on which the lift is discovered to be inoperative.
Answer: Under Department of Transportation (DOT) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations at 49 C.F.R. Section 37.167(d), transit providers are required to permit service animals to accompany individuals with disabilities in vehicles and facilities. Service animals are animals that are individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities, such as guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling wheelchairs, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, or performing other special tasks. A transit provider may ask if an animal is a service animal or ask what tasks the animal has been trained to perform, but cannot require special ID cards for the animal or ask about the person's disability. A service animal may not be excluded unless the animal is out of control and the animal's owner does not take effective action to control it or the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.
Answer: No, passengers must not be asked to disclose their disability before using a fixed route vehicle’s lift or ramp to board the vehicle. Under Department of Transportation (DOT) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations at 49 C.F.R. Section 37.165(g), a transit provider must permit individuals with disabilities who do not use wheelchairs, including standees, to use a vehicle’s lift or ramp to enter the vehicle. People using canes or walkers and other standees with disabilities who do not use wheelchairs but have difficulty using steps must also be permitted to use the lift on request. If a rider asks to use a lift or ramp, the transit personnel should deploy the lift or ramp without inquiring about the individual’s disability. Click here for the text of this regulation.
Answer: Under Department of Transportation (DOT) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations at 49 C.F.R. Section 37.123(f), transit entities are required to permit one person to accompany the paratransit eligible individual. Additional persons accompanying the eligible individual are to be served on a space-available basis to prevent displacement of other ADA paratransit eligible individuals. The transit provider may not limit who the companion may be; the companion may be a family member, friend, or business associate, etc. The transit authority may require that the eligible individual reserve a space for the companion when reserving his or her own ride. A personal care attendant (PCA), someone designated or employed to assist the eligible individual, may always ride with the eligible individual. The transit entity may require that the eligible individual reserve a space for the PCA when reserving the trip. If there is a PCA on the trip, the eligible individual may still bring a companion, as well as additional companions on a space-available basis. To be considered as “accompanying” the eligible individual, a companion must have the same origin and destination points as the eligible individual.
Answer: No, under Department of Transportation (DOT) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations at 49 C.F.R. Section 37.5(d), an entity may not impose special charges, not authorized by this part, on individuals with disabilities for providing services required by this part or otherwise necessary to accommodate them. Section 37.125 requires each operator of complementary paratransit to establish an eligibility process. The details of the process are developed at the local level by transit operators and the communities they serve. As Appendix D to Section 37.125 explains, however, the process developed may not impose unreasonable administrative burdens on applicants, and may not involve “user fees” or application fees to the applicant. This section prohibits applicants from having to pay for transportation to and from an assessment, as the assessment is part of the eligibility process.
Answer: While Department of Transportation (DOT) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulation 49 C.F.R. 38.23(d)(7) requires a seatbelt and shoulder harness to be provided as part of the wheelchair securement system, passengers with disabilities cannot be required to use the seatbelt and shoulder harness unless all passengers are provided with seatbelts and shoulder harnesses and are required to use them. Since few fixed route buses are equipped with seatbelts and shoulder harnesses for all passengers, their use cannot be required for passengers with disabilities. In the case of paratransit vehicles, seatbelts and shoulder harnesses may indeed be available for all passengers, and if all passengers are required to make use of them, passengers with disabilities occupying the securement location may also be required to do so. Note, however, that in some cases the use of seatbelts themselves may be more harmful to passengers with certain types of disabilities than riding without them. Most state seatbelt laws recognize this, and provide for exceptions; policies concerning seatbelt use aboard transit vehicles should provide for similar exceptions.
Answer: Yes. Under 49 CFR Section 37.125 of the Department of Transportation (DOT) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations, a transit provider “may establish an administrative process to suspend, for a reasonable period of time, the provision of complementary paratransit service to ADA eligible individuals who establish a pattern or practice of missing scheduled trips.” A pattern or practice involves intentional, repeated or regular actions, not isolated, accidental, or singular incidents. Transit agencies cannot base a suspension of service on any trips missed by a rider for reasons beyond his or her control, including trips missed due to illness, family emergency, or transit agency error or lateness. Before suspending service, a transit provider must notify the individual in writing, provide an opportunity for an appeal, and issue written notification of the decision and reasons for it. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has permitted transit systems to also count “late cancellations” as no-shows, where they have the same operational impact as a no-show. A transit provider should be able to absorb the capacity of a trip cancelled one or two hours before the scheduled pickup. An hour or two is typically sufficient notice for a transit provider to redirect a vehicle without any negative operational consequences. Because these trips are being regarded as no-shows, the circumstances surrounding late cancellations would be the same as for a no-show; i.e., trips that are cancelled late due to circumstances beyond the passenger’s control would not be grounds for sanctions.
Answer: No. Department of Transportation (DOT) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations do not limit the number of service animals that may accompany a single individual. As long as an animal meets the definition of a service animal and is kept under the control of the rider, a transportation provider may not refuse to carry the animal. It is possible that an individual might have service animals that are trained to provide different tasks.
Answer: Under Department of Transportation (DOT) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations at 49 C.F.R. Section 37.125(i), a transit provider may require an individual to indicate whether he or she travels with a personal care attendant (PCA) as part of the initial eligibility process. The transit entity is also permitted to make further inquiries regarding the individual’s actual need for a PCA. When making any such inquiries, it is important to note an individual’s need for a PCA may be unrelated to the trip itself, and that the passenger may not require the assistance of a PCA while onboard the vehicle. Because of the nature of typical PCA functions, it is most likely that the services provided by a PCA would be required throughout the day at the passenger’s destination. All that is required is that the passenger establish that he or she requires a PCA, and for the PCA and the passenger to be traveling together between the same points. If the rider does not indicate the use of a PCA, then any individual accompanying him or her will be regarded simply as a companion.
Answer: Yes. A transit system may set a minimum age limit for children riding without a parent or guardian present; this is a local decision. The policy must apply equally to both paratransit and fixed route.
Answer: No. A transit provider may not deny transportation to a rider whose wheelchair or mobility device does not have functioning brakes. Under Department of Transportation (DOT) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations at 49 C.F.R. Section 37.3, a “wheelchair” is defined 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.” The ADA regulations do not specify any particular equipment required for personal mobility devices, including brakes. Moreover, it will often be impossible for transit personnel to observe whether a passenger’s wheelchair is equipped with brakes. Most power wheelchairs are equipped with electromagnetic brakes that engage automatically, and are completely internal to the drive system with no visible parts.
Answer: Under Department of Transportation (DOT) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations at 49 C.F.R. Section 37.5(e), a transit entity is prohibited from requiring that an individual with disabilities be accompanied by a personal care attendant (PCA). Transit entities are also not required to provide PCA services. This provision must be considered in light of the fact that under 49 C.F.R. 37.5(h), an entity may refuse service to someone who engages in violent, seriously disruptive, or illegal conduct. If an entity may legitimately refuse service to someone, it may condition service to him on actions that would mitigate the problem. The entity could require a PCA as a condition of providing service it otherwise had the right to refuse. However, a transit entity cannot refuse to provide service solely because an individual’s disability results in appearance or involuntary behavior that may offend, annoy, or inconvenience the entity or other persons.
Answer: Yes. Under Department of Transportation (DOT) Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations at 49 C.F.R. Section 38.23(b)(11), the lift must permit both inboard and outboard facing of wheelchair and mobility aid users. Appendix D to Section 37.165 further specifies that a transportation entity should respect the passenger’s preference for entering a lift platform and vehicle in a particular direction (e.g., entering facing forward or backing on), except where the only way of successfully maneuvering a device onto a vehicle or into its securement area requires a particular orientation or an overriding safety concern (i.e., a direct threat) exists. Given that lifts have been required to accommodate passenger facing either direction since 1991, it is unlikely that successful boarding would require a particular orientation. In any event, the passenger would be in the best position to determine which direction is best suited for boarding under their specific circumstances. A “direct threat” represents a clear and present danger to the health or safety of others; by definition, a direct threat cannot exist on the basis of presumptions about persons with disabilities or their mobility devices. It is difficult to envision circumstances under which the direction that a passenger faces when boarding would constitute a direct threat.


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