May a wheelchair user enter a lift platform and vehicle in the manner they prefer (e.g., entering facing forward or backing on)?
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.