All deserve to ride

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issues and enforces accessibility standards for transportation facilities based on the ADA’s 2006 accessibility standards. Title II of the ADA applies to public transportation services such as municipal buses, railways, subways, and streetcars. Title III applies to private transportation services such as hotel shuttles, private buses, and taxis.

The ADA standards are intended to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to public transportation and cannot be refused service because of their disability. People with disabilities can’t be required to relinquish a seat, use special seating, or be accompanied by an attendant.

The standards apply to all transportation facilities that began construction after January 25, 1992 as well as to alterations made to facilities that were built before that date.

Overview of requirements       

Both public and private organizations must meet ADA requirements, including private entities engaged to operate transportation services by public entities. If private transportation provider vehicles are not accessible, they must offer equivalent service to the same traveling points at the same cost within the same time frame.

Public transportation systems must provide service information in large print, Braille, or electronic format.

Equipment such as lifts, ramps, devices to secure equipment such as wheelchairs, signage, and communication must be in good operating condition. People with disabilities must be given adequate time to board and disembark.

Service animals, such as guide dogs, must be allowed to accompany people with disabilities in vehicles and facilities.

Services that operate along a prescribed route must have designated seating for passengers with disabilities, including at least one set of forward-facing seats.

Both public and private transportation operators must ensure that personnel are trained to operate vehicles and equipment safely as well as assist individuals with disabilities in a respectful, courteous way.

Requirements for fixed-route services

Fixed-route services, which operate along a prescribed route according to a fixed schedule, are distinct from demand-responsive systems such as taxi, limousine, and van services.

Stops must be announced in a way that enables people with visual impairments to know their location.

Destination and route information must be clearly displayed on the front and boarding side of a vehicle in specified letter and number sizes.

Boarding aids such as lifts and ramps must be provided with a minimum design load of 600 pounds.

Adequate illumination, contrast, and slip-resistant surfaces must be provided.

Fareboxes may not obstruct passenger flow.

There must be sufficient turning and maneuvering space for wheelchairs as well as accessible handrails, vertical rails, and stop controls.

Rules for private operators

For the most part, private entities must provide services comparable to public ones. Any private entity operating a fixed-route service must provide accessible vehicles and comparable alternative service must be provided for vehicles that are not accessible. Owners of taxi fleets are not required to furnish accessible vehicles for automobiles but must do so for all other types of vehicles.

Rules for transit facilities

Rail and bus stations and platforms must meet accessibility standards established by the U.S. Department of Transportation for both new construction and alterations. These include accessible paths of travel, boarding ramps, wheelchair-accessible bus stops and shelters, curb ramps, elevators, fair collection equipment, turnstiles, drop off areas, and comfort facilities such as restrooms and water fountains.

Helpful resources for public transportation providers