April 27, 2011
Re: FTA Complaint Number 11-0076
Dear [name withheld]:
This letter responds to your complaint against Long Beach Transit (LBT) alleging discrimination on the basis of disability. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Office of Civil Rights is responsible for civil rights compliance and monitoring, which includes ensuring that providers of public transportation are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) implementing regulations at 49 CFR Parts 27, 37, and 38.
In the FTA complaint investigation process, we analyze allegations for possible ADA deficiencies by the transit provider. If FTA identifies what may be a violation, we first attempt to provide technical assistance to assist the public transit provider in complying with the ADA. If FTA cannot resolve apparent violations of the ADA or the DOT ADA regulations by voluntary means, formal enforcement proceedings may be initiated against the public transit provider which may result in the termination of Federal funds. FTA also may refer the matter to the U.S. Department of Justice for enforcement.
Each response is developed based on the specific facts and circumstances at issue. A determination resulting from a review of these facts is not intended to express an opinion as to the overall ADA compliance of that transit provider.
In your complaint, you state that on December 1, 2010, an LBT bus operator asked you to move to make room for a wheelchair user who was attempting to board the vehicle. You were sitting in a fold down or movable seat in the securement area holding your walker. When you declined to move, the operator told the waiting passengers that you refused to vacate the seat and, as a result, the wheelchair user could not be transported. This exchange caused other riders to “act in a hostile way” toward you.
In a follow-up conversation with Dawn Sweet of this office on February 2, 2011, you explained that this incident occurred on one of LBT’s smaller buses and there was no other place on the vehicle that could accommodate you with your walker. As Ms. Sweet explained, the DOT ADA regulations at §37.167(j)(1) require vehicle operators to ask people to move from priority seating and securement locations when an individual with a disability enters a vehicle and needs to sit in a seat or occupy a wheelchair securement location. The operator should ask the following persons to move in order to allow the individual with a disability to occupy the seat or securement location: “(i) Individuals, except other individuals with a disability or elderly persons, sitting in a location designated as priority seating for elderly and handicapped persons (or other seat as necessary); (ii) Individuals sitting [in] a fold-down or other movable seat in a wheelchair securement location.” The DOT ADA regulations do not require the operator to compel a person to move from priority seats or a securement area; they must only ask.
If priority or other seating were available in a location other than over the securement area, and the space could accommodate your walker, it would have been reasonable for an operator to ask you to move for the wheelchair user. Any request, however, should have been done in a respectful way. The regulations at §37.173 require that all employees of a transportation provider are trained to proficiency as appropriate under the ADA. This training requirement applies to both technical tasks and human relations, and requires that every public contact employee understand the necessity of treating individuals with disabilities courteously and respectfully. The configuration of this vehicle as you described, however, precluded you from moving to another location.
In addition to following-up with you, we also contacted LBT for more information. LBT noted that you reported the incident directly to their agency and said a staff member called you on December 3, 2010, in response. LBT also informed us that it is taking steps to prevent similar incidents from occurring, such as providing additional sensitivity training to vehicle operators and examining the configuration of its seating to explore whether changes can be made to accommodate more mobility devices.
We find that LBT has been responsive to your complaint; therefore, we are taking no further action and closing your complaint as of the date of this letter. As Ms. Sweet mentioned, however, if you encounter issues involving the transport of your walker or treatment from vehicle operators in the future, you may decide to submit details on the incidents to us and we would consider reopening your complaint. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Ms. Sweet at (202) 366-0529 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any further correspondence should reference FTA Complaint No. 11-0076. Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention and we hope this information is helpful.
John R. Day
ADA Team Leader
Office of Civil Rights
FTA Region 9