February 12, 2019
Public transportation is a hot topic right now, especially in the Toledo area. You may wonder, what is the history of disability and public transportation? What does the Americans with Disabilities Act say about public transportation? And lastly, what is the future of access and public transportation?
In the city of Denver, Colorado in July 1978, protesters in wheelchairs rolled in front of a stopped bus. Minutes later, another bus traveling on the same route pulled up behind him, and more people in wheelchairs stationed themselves behind the second bus. Both buses were unable to move, and traffic in the heart of downtown Denver came to a standstill. The buses spent the next 24 hours locked in place while the protesters chanted, “We will ride!”
Back in 1978, most of Denver's buses were not wheelchair-accessible. Not only were there very few buses that could accommodate wheelchairs, but the cost was prohibitive. Furthermore, at the time, the Regional Transportation District had only ten wheelchair-accessible buses, which meant that it could take upwards of six hours to travel around the city.
A lawsuit had been previously filed in 1977 on behalf of Atlantis, a non-profit disability organization, against Regional Transit District (RTD), which serves Denver and surrounding areas. The lawsuit argued that 213 buses, or approximately one-third of the fleet, should be fully accessible to people in wheelchairs. However, the district court ruled against Atlantis.
And so, the demonstration that followed on July 5 and 6, 1978, led by Wade Blank, a Presbyterian minister who was the co-founder of Atlantis, captured public attention, and the protesters eventually achieved their goal and all buses in Denver were required to be wheelchair accessible. This eventually sparked a nationwide movement aimed at equipping public transportation with ramps, lifts, and other modifications in order to accommodate people with disabilities.
Rider information: A public transportation system must provide adequate information on services in accessible formats for persons with different types of disabilities (i.e. information in large print, braille or alternative and electronic format).
Assistance equipment and accessible features: Equipment and facilities such as lifts, ramps, securement devices (straps for securing wheelchairs on board), signage, and communication devices must be in good operating condition.
Service animals allowed: Service animals may accompany people with disabilities in vehicles and facilities. The DOT ADA regulations define a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability, regardless of whether the animal has been licensed or certified by a state or local government.
Priority seating and signs: Fixed-route systems must have signs designating seating for passengers with disabilities, and at least one set of forward-facing seats must be marked as priority seating for people with disabilities.
Fixed route transportation systems, such as city bus systems and subways, require:
Stop announcements: Stops must be announced at transfer points, major intersections, destination points, and other points so that people with visual impairments understand their location. In addition, the operator must announce any stop at the request of a rider with a disability.
Destination information on vehicles: Vehicles must have destination and route information on the front and boarding side of a vehicle. There are size requirements for the numbers and letters on the route information signs. Destination and route information must be announced.
Lifts and Ramps: Vehicles need a boarding device (e.g. lift or ramp) so that a passenger who uses a wheelchair or mobility device can reach a securement location onboard.
Illumination, contrast, and slip-resistant surfaces: Stepwells and doorways of vehicles must be illuminated. Doors and steps need slip-resistant surfaces.
Farebox: Fareboxes must be located so they do not obstruct passenger flow for boarding the bus.
Turning room, handrails, and pull cords: There must be sufficient turning and maneuvering space for wheelchairs. Handrails and vertical rails in the vehicle must be accessible. A stop control, such as a pull cord or button, should also be within reach of wheelchair securement locations.
Complementary Paratransit Service
ADA complementary paratransit service provides origin-to-destination service and must be available where fixed-route service exists. Transit agencies can establish a policy to provide door-to-door service or curb-to-curb service.
Additionally, private entities providing taxi service cannot discriminate against individuals with disabilities by refusing to provide service to individuals with disabilities who can use taxi vehicles and/or use service animals, refusing to assist with the stowing of mobility devices, or charging higher fares or fees for carrying individuals with disabilities and their equipment than are charged to other persons.
The Future of Public Transportation and Disability
Inspired by the chants of the 1978 Denver protesters, the We Will Ride Campaign was founded by leaders in the disability rights movement to ensure that the coming transportation revolution of autonomous vehicles reaches its potential to serve all Americans.
The availability of transportation is key to full participation in modern society. But for millions of disabled Americans, affordable and accessible on-demand transportation options continue to remain out of reach.
The We Will Ride Campaign believes that fully autonomous vehicles have the potential to reshape the transportation landscape for people with disabilities, especially those who cannot get a driver’s license. But this can only happen if automakers start making vehicles that are accessible to everyone– so we can all ride.
The State of Michigan recently announced the final round of “mobility” grants it gives out to encourage pilot projects to help transport seniors, people with disabilities, and veterans with autonomous vehicles and other technology. The nearly $4.8 million will provide short-term funding for an autonomous electric shuttle at the Battle Creek VA Medical Center and an online booking and trip management platform the meet the transportation needs of people with disabilities in the Detroit area. Other funds will support a ride-sharing app for paratransit users in Grand Rapids and a ride-sharing platform in the central Upper Peninsula.
There is no reason why the State of Ohio couldn’t offer similar grant funding for similar initiatives related to public transportation. It is exciting to see neighboring states doing so much to assist those who rely on public transportation – Ohio shouldn’t get left behind and such initiatives and funding should be advocated for at the state and local level.
DOJ ADA Information Line
Great Lakes ADA Center Information Line
800-949-4232 (V/TTY) M-F 8:00am-5:00pm CT
312-413-1407 (V/TTY) M-F 8:00am-5:00pm CT
312-767-0377 (Video Phone) M-F 8:00am-5:00pm CT
December 14, 2019
The Department of Justice's ADA regulations define a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability. In certain situations, a service animal may also be a miniature horse.
Note: Ohio Administrative Code § 4112-5-02, which defines animal assistants, does not limit protections solely to animal assistants that are dogs. It defines an "animal assistant" as "any animal which aids" a person with a disability, which may include a dog which alerts a person with a hearing impairment to sounds, a dog which guides a person with a visual impairment, or a monkey which collects or retrieves items for a person with a mobility impairment. Thus, if an individual needs a service animal other than a dog in a place of public accommodation, he or she should be protected by this provision of Ohio law.
- Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
- What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
Examples include when a dog is guiding an individual who is blind or is pulling a person’s wheelchair. You also may not:
- ask about the nature or extent of an individual’s disability
- require proof that the animal has been certified, trained or licensed as a service animal
- require the animal to wear an identifying vest or tag
- ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the task or work
Under the ADA, it is training that distinguishes a service animal from other animals. Some service animals may be professionally trained; others may have been trained by their owners. However, the task that the service animal is trained to do must be directly related to the owner’s disability.
The handler is responsible for the care and supervision of his or her service animal. If a service animal behaves in an unacceptable way and the person with a disability does not control the animal, a business or other entity has the right to ask that the dog be removed. A business also has the right to deny access to a dog that disrupts their business or poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others. For example, if a service dog barks repeatedly or growls at customers, it could be asked to leave.
While service animals in-training are not specifically addressed in the ADA, some state laws may afford service animals in-training the same protections as service animals that have completed their training.
While Emotional Support Animals or Comfort Animals are often used as part of a medical treatment plan as therapy animals, they are not considered service animals under the ADA. These support animals provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and sometimes help with depression, anxiety, and certain phobias, but do not have special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities. Even though some states have laws defining therapy animals, these animals are not limited to working with people with disabilities and therefore are not covered by federal laws protecting the use of service animals. Therapy animals provide people with therapeutic contact, usually in a clinical setting, to improve their physical, social, emotional, and/or cognitive functioning.
* Of note, in the case with the emotional support peacock and squirrel, the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) has differing regulations from the ADA on Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals, which they are currently in the process of reviewing. Currently, the ACAA states, “a service animal is any animal that is individually trained or able to provide assistance to a person with a disability; or any animal that assists persons with disabilities by providing emotional support. Documentation may be required of passengers needing to travel with an emotional support or psychiatric service animal.”
The Department of Transportation notes that a wide variety of service animals are permitted in the cabin portion of the aircraft flying to and within the United States; however, most service animals tend to be dogs and cats. Airlines may exclude animals that:
- Are too large or heavy to be accommodated in the cabin;
- Pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others;
- Cause a significant disruption of cabin service; or
- Are prohibited from entering a foreign country.
Note: Airlines are never required to accept snakes, reptiles, ferrets, rodents, sugar gliders, and spiders.