DisPatches, Spring 2003ADA Transportation Victory
DOT strongly supports the right of people with disabilities to next-day paratransit service
by Marilyn Golden, executive committee, California Disability Alliance, and policy analyst, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund
On October 25, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Solicitor General's office submitted a brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, firmly establishing the right of ADA-eligible paratransit users to next-day service.
The brief states unequivocally that DOT's Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations require transit agencies to "design, fund and implement a next-day service to meet the foreseeable needs of all ADA-eligible individuals." The pro-consumer content of the brief is a clear victory for disability advocates.
The disability community expresses our strong thanks to DOT Secretary Norman Mineta, who has always acted decisively to establish and protect our civil rights to transportation, both when he was in Congress and oversaw the development of the ADA in 1990, and today as the Secretary of DOT. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has also endorsed these rights, and gets our thanks. Further, hundreds of disability advocates called upon DOT to stand up for the ADA -- thank you to each and every one.
The brief was prompted by a request to DOT from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to interpret its ADA regulations in the case Anderson v. Rochester-Genesee Regional Transit Authority. The brief will hopefully play a good role in the outcome of that important lawsuit and others as well. Further, the brief signals to transit agencies that lax ADA compliance is not acceptable to DOT and DOJ, and it provides another tool to disability advocates.
The brief goes on to state that the DOT ADA regulation "prescribes the [next-day service] obligation in unqualified terms. The regulation accordingly forecloses any planned non-coverage. A transit provider cannot, for example, plan to deny next-day service to some 'insubstantial' number of eligible individuals. The DOT has consistently advised transit providers that they must design, fund, and implement their programs to meet 100% of the anticipated demand for next-day paratransit service from eligible individuals."
Some of you may ask, why didn't we insist on same-day service? Good question. The ADA law requires paratransit to be "comparable" to fixed route (bus and rail) service, and DOT's 1991 ADA regulation interpreted "comparable" to mean "next-day." This regulation, which the court asked DOT to interpret (but not change), was already a compromise of the equal rights of people with disabilities. The recent victory guards that right against further compromise.
[Reprinted by permission from The National Hookup, a publication of ISC.]