ADA Going Strong at 30
The Americans With Disabilities Act reached deep into American life to improve the way Americans with disabilities live, work and play, and its impacts are felt and seen nearly everywhere.
Sidewalks with ramps at the curbs, buses that “kneel” down to the curb with ramps that deploy to help people with wheelchairs enter, the rise of paratransit services to help the disabled commute are but some of the numerous changes the law brought to American life.
Broadly, the ADA prohibits discrimination based on disability and ensures equal opportunity and access for persons with disabilities. It guarantees individuals with disabilities equal access to transportation. As a result, limits on accessibility to transportation for persons with disabilities must be removed if it is reasonable to do so.
For persons with disabilities who are not able to use fixed route service, ADA requires that public transit operators like HRT provide complimentary demand-response service. Passenger trips on demand-response services increased from 68 million in 1990 to 209 million in 2019.
In Hampton Roads, Paratransit services have provided an average of 370,000 trips to persons with disabilities, everyone from those with mobility limitations to the seeing impaired, the elderly. Southside customers make up about 67 percent of the total, with Northside the remaining 32 percent.
Accessibility of public transit vehicles has improved markedly in the decades since the passage of ADA. According to the American Public Transportation Association, from 1993 to 2019 — the most recent period for which data are available — the percentage of buses that are accessible increased from 51 percent to 99.8 percent.
Over the same period, the accessible portion of the commuter and hybrid rail fleet went from 32 percent to 89 percent, the light rail and streetcar fleet from 41 percent to 89 percent, the heavy rail fleet from 83 percent to 100 percent, and the trolleybus fleet from 47 percent to 100 percent.
The accessible portion of the demand-response fleet, where specific vehicles can be assigned to trips to meet a passenger’s individual needs, increased from 85 percent of vehicles accessible to 89 percent.
The Federal Transit Administration works to ensure nondiscriminatory transportation in support of its mission to enhance the social and economic quality of life for all Americans. The FTA Office of Civil Rights is responsible for civil rights compliance and monitoring to ensure nondiscriminatory provision of public transit services.