July 21, 2010
Re: FTA Complaint Number 10-0220
Dear [name withheld]:
This letter responds to your complaint against the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA). 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. The ADA does not provide FTA authority to directly seek compensatory, punitive, or other types of relief on behalf of a complainant.
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.
Specifically, your complaint dated May 11, 2010, alleges the following:
- On March 14, 2010, at approximately 8:15 p.m. a PSTA fixed-route operator on Bus #722 physically and verbally abused you as he secured your wheelchair in the vehicle securement area. You characterize the incident as “battery” and allege that the operator “slammed” you into the seats and proceeded to attach the securement straps to your chair “in an angry way.” He also complained falsely about the brakes on your chair not being locked and called you a “trouble maker.”
- On November 28, 2009, an operator refused to secure your wheelchair. You reported this incident to PSTA; however, you subsequently informed PSTA that you were retracting this complaint but pursuing the March 14, 2010, incident.
You also mention an incident that occurred in April 2009; however, this issue was not filed in a timely manner and cannot be addressed. Under the DOT ADA regulations, a complaint must be filed within 180 days of the alleged act of discrimination for the complaint to be considered timely.
FTA investigated your allegations and sent an information request to PSTA. We received a response from PSTA that addressed your allegations and provided relevant information. Your allegations are addressed below.
Relevant ADA Requirements
The DOT ADA regulations at 49 CFR §37.165(f) state: “Where necessary or upon request, the entity’s personnel shall assist individuals with disabilities with the use of securement systems, ramps and lifts.” The regulations at §37.173 also require that operators be trained to proficiency in using a vehicle’s securement equipment to accommodate the different types of common wheelchairs.
Section 38.23 of the regulations requires all ADA-compliant vehicles to have securement equipment; however, transit agencies have discretion in adopting a mandatory securement policy or allowing wheelchair users to travel unsecured. Regardless of the policy, however, operators must assist individuals as needed with securement.
In response to our information request, PSTA submitted the video recording from the vehicle security camera at the time of the alleged incident on March 14, 2010. After reviewing the incident, we find that your account differs substantially from the security camera video. The video shows the operator calmly securing the wheelchair, first in the rear of the device and then in the front. He does not appear to have “slammed” you or the wheelchair. Once the securement is complete the operator walks back to his seat. The video does not suggest any verbal dispute occurred.
The allegation that another operator refused to secure your chair on November 28, 2009, is general in nature and cannot be corroborated. The record shows, however, that PSTA has a training program in place that covers wheelchair securement. You should expect to receive assistance from drivers in properly securing your wheelchair, as needed. You are encouraged to report any future securement issues promptly to PSTA so that it can verify and address the incident with the operator involved as appropriate.
In this situation, we have determined that no specific provisions of the DOT ADA regulations have been violated. Accordingly, we are taking no further action and are closing your complaint as of the date of this letter. While FTA’s decision in your case is administratively final, it does not prevent you from pursuing this matter privately in the appropriate court.
If you have any questions regarding this determination, please contact me or Dawn Sweet of my staff at (202) 366-4018 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any further correspondence should reference FTA Complaint No. 10-0220. Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention.
John R. Day
Acting ADA Team Leader
Office of Civil Rights
FTA Region 4