December 4, 2007
Re: FTA Complaint Number 04-0191
Dear [name withheld]:
This letter responds to your complaint against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) of Washington, DC, alleging violations of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and/or the Department of Transportation's (DOT) implementing regulations at 49 CFR Parts 27, 37, and 38. 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 properly implement the ADA, the DOT ADA regulations, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
In the FTA complaint investigation process, we analyze the complainant's 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 address it by assisting the transit provider to comply 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 transportation 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.
Specifically, your complaint of July 19, 2004, alleged that:
You were inappropriately denied eligibility for ADA complimentary paratransit service.
We apologize for the delay in our response. FTA investigated your allegations, and sent an information request to WMATA. We received a response that addressed and provided relevant information on your allegation.
DOT’s ADA regulations at 49 CFR § 37.125 require each public entity to establish a process for ADA paratransit eligibility.
FTA reviewed WMATA’s eligibility process, as well as WMATA’s letter of notification that determined that you were ineligible for ADA paratransit because the interview and functional assessment found that you are functionally able to use accessible bus and rail services. While FTA supports that such a decision is a local one, if the determination is that the person is not eligible, § 37.125(d) requires that the written notification must state the reasons for the finding. Your written determination did not specifically provide a justification. As noted in Appendix D to Part 37 at 37.125, simply indicating that the person is not ADA paratransit eligible because it has been determined that they "are able to use the fixed route system" is not sufficient. The letter issued to you following your appeal also lacked sufficient reason for that decision, as required by § 37.125(g)(2).
In reviewing the records from your particular appeal, we are concerned that WMATA’s appeals process failed to focus on the issue of functional ability. For example, we noted from submitted tape recordings that the hearing included discussion by WMATA staff of information about your past complaints, which are irrelevant to the question of functional ability and suggested a bias against granting eligibility.
Subsequent to your compliant and WMATA’s response, we conducted a compliance review of MetroAccess, WMATA’s ADA complementary paratransit service, in December of 2006. The final report is available publicly here. During that review, we looked at WMATA’s eligibility process to ensure that it is meeting the requirements outlined in DOT’s regulations. During that review we noted that WMATA’s eligibility letters do not contain sufficient information, and we cited WMATA for inappropriate involvement in appeals hearings by the Director of MetroAccess. WMATA is in the process of revising their letters as well as adopting a revised appeals policy and we will keep those findings open until satisfied by WMATA’s actions.
After reviewing all documents submitted by WMATA, FTA finds that WMATA did not appropriately handle several stages of your application for paratransit eligibility. By separate letter, we will ask WMATA to reconsider your eligibility. We will also encourage them to provide on-going training to members of their appeals committee to ensure that decisions are based on functional ability.
This concluded our investigation, and we are closing your complaint as of the date of this letter. If new or additional information comes to your attention, or you do not hear from WMATA, please contact myself or Donna R. Walton, Ed.D., at (202) 366-4018 or at her e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention.
David W. Knight
ADA Team Leader
Office of Civil Rights
John Catoe, WMATA General Manager
Christian Kent, WMATA Assistant General Manager, Department of Access Services
Letitia A. Thompson, FTA Region III Administrator
Brian Glenn, Director, FTA Washington, DC Metropolitan Office