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The ADA & Accessible Ground Transportation

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to both public and private ground transportation providers. The ADA rules that apply to transportation are regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Overview of Requirements

  • Both public and private organizations must meet ADA requirements: A public entity entering into a contract or agreement with a private entity to operate transportation services must ensure that the private entity meets all ADA requirements for the public entity. Specific requirements for private transportation providers like airport shuttles, hotel shuttles, private buses, and taxis are reviewed later in this document.
  • Rider information: A public transportation system must provide adequate information on services in accessible formats for persons with different types of disabilities (e.g. 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. If a feature is out of order, it must be repaired promptly. In the interim, an alternative accessible vehicle or option must be available.
  • Adequate time to board: Public transit operators must allow adequate time for people with disabilities to board and exit from vehicles.
  • 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 (those operating along a prescribed route) must have signs designating seating for passengers with disabilities. At least one set of forward-facing seats must be marked as priority seating (for people with disabilities).
  • Operator training: Each public and private transportation operator must ensure that personnel are trained to operate vehicles and equipment safely; properly assist individuals with disabilities in a respectful, courteous way; and recognize that individuals with disabilities have different abilities and needs requiring different types of assistance.

Architectural Requirements

Note: A fixed route transportation system is one that operates along a prescribed route according to a fixed schedule. Public transportation systems primarily consist of fixed route systems, such as city bus systems, commuter and over-the road bus systems, subways, light rail systems, and intercity rail transportation. A demand responsive system is any other transportation system. Demand responsive transportation typically includes taxis, limousine services, van services, and shuttle bus systems.

Fixed-route service requirements include:

  • 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