February 24, 2012
Re: FTA Complaint Number 12-0066
Dear [name withheld]:
This letter responds to your complaint against Solano County Transit (SolTrans) 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 U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) implementing regulations at 49 CFR Parts 27, 37, 38, and 39.
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 SolTrans regional Baylink buses have lifts that are too small to accommodate your mid-wheel drive power wheelchair. The rear-caster wheels on your chair need to be turned sideways in order for you to fit forward-facing on the lift. Vehicle operators, however, will not turn your tires. On some occasions, you have been able to back onto the lift, but you believe this maneuver is dangerous.
In subsequent communications with the FTA Office of Civil Rights, you indicated that your wheelchair is 49 inches long when measured from the rear-caster wheels to the front of your footplate. You later informed us that the wheelchair is actually 46 inches long.
Relevant ADA Requirements
The DOT ADA regulations at 49 CFR §37.165 require that transit providers carry a wheelchair and occupant if the lift and vehicle can accommodate them, unless doing so is inconsistent with legitimate safety requirements. The regulations at 49 CFR Part 38 set accessibility specifications for lifts and other vehicle features. To be ADA compliant, a lift must be at least 48 inches long, as described in 49 CFR §38.23. This means, at a minimum, all compliant lifts will be able to transport wheelchairs up to 48 inches in length.
As further explained in §38.23, lifts must permit a wheelchair user to board both forward-facing and rear-facing. Except where the only way of successfully maneuvering a device onto a vehicle or into its securement area, or an overriding safety concern (i.e., a direct threat) requires one way of doing this or another, the transit provider should respect the passenger’s preference. The lift platform must be equipped with barriers to prevent any of the wheels of a wheelchair from rolling off the platform during its operation.
Section 37.165(f) requires that vehicle operators assist individuals with disabilities with the use of securement systems, ramps and lifts.
FTA investigated your allegations and sent an information request to SolTrans. We received a response that addressed your allegations and included details such as the manufacturer specifications for the Baylink vehicle lifts.
Information submitted to FTA shows that SolTrans personnel met with you regarding your boarding issue on November 10, 2011, at the SolTrans Transit Center. Your wheelchair was measured and found to be 52 inches long. The lift platform on the Baylink vehicles is 48 inches long. Your wheelchair exceeds the length of the platform and does not fit. SolTrans provided photographs of your wheelchair on the lift when you are facing forward toward the vehicle. The photographs show that the back wheels of your chair rest on top of the outer barrier of the lift, preventing it from rising as required during operation.
In this situation, we have determined that no specific provisions of the DOT ADA regulations have been violated. The Baylink vehicle lifts meet the minimum ADA requirement of providing a clear length of 48 inches. The length of your wheelchair exceeds this space.
The photographs suggest that your wheelchair could possibly fit on the platform if you backed onto the lift when boarding the vehicle. There may be clearance above the outer barrier when it is raised for your footplate to overhang the barrier, allowing the wheelchair’s six wheels to remain on the platform surface. While we understand it can be more difficult for some users to operate a power wheelchair in reverse, especially in tight spaces, you may want to explore this possibility with SolTrans if you have not done so. We recognize that this possibility may have already been ruled out during your November 10 meeting.
This concludes the processing of your complaint and no further action will be taken. If you have any questions, please contact me or Dawn Sweet at (202) 366-4018 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any further correspondence should reference FTA Complaint No. 12-0066. Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention.
John R. Day
ADA Team Leader
Office of Civil Rights
FTA Region 9