A.D.A. Turns 20: Transportation And The Americans With Disabilities Act

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While everyone was celebrating the 20th anniversary of rail in Los Angeles last week, another important anniversary was approaching without much fanfare: the Americans With Disabilities Act Of 1990.

Twenty years ago today, the ADA was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. This legislation prohibits, under certain circumstances, discrimination based on disability, which it defines as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.”

Public transportation is certainly a major life activity. Title II of the ADA covers Public Entities (and public transportation). While the full text of the legislation can be found here, and the preamble addressing Transportation for Individuals With Disabilities is found here, we wanted to mark this occasion by sharing some valuable resources regarding the ADA and transportation.

Our website provides you with An Approach To Transportation Research, a step-by-step guide to finding information on just about any subject related to our interdisciplinary field of study. After reviewing this suggested “roadmap,” it is worthwhile to explore additional tools on our Library Research webpage.

Of course, a wealth of information can be found in online databases. The first place to search for the latest resources would be TRIS, the Transportation Research Information Services database. The 340 items currently found in a keyword search of “americans disabilities act” are automatically sorted in reverse chronological order, providing you with the most recent resources first.

Numerous resources in the National Transportation Library catalog have full-text links as do NTL’s Digital Repository and other transportation websites providing online access.

The Metro Transportation Library’s vast collections hold numerous items related to ADA. Beyond our own library, the database for the WorldCat online catalog of networked institutions shows at least 720 titles addressing the subject of ADA and transportation as of today. Once you enter some brief information about your location, you can find which libraries near you have the titles you want (or you may use this information to initiate an inter-library loan with a participating library).

In addition to these primary resources, several websites offer information on ADA as it relates to transportation.

The United States Access Board is an independent federal agency committed to accessibility for people with disabilities. Created in 1973, it predates the Americans With Disabilities Act Of 1990 by many years and is now a leading source of information on accessible design.

The ADA Standards For Transportation Facilities became effective in November, 2006. They apply to the construction and alteration of transportation facilities.

The Easter Seals Project Action project promotes universal access to transportation for people with disabilities under federal law and beyond by partnering with transportation providers, the disability community and others through the provision of training, technical assistance, applied research, outreach and communication.

For practical implementations of the ADA, under the sponsorship of the Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP), the Transportation Research Board (TRB) prepares syntheses of current practice in the transit field. Many of these reports, prepared by consultants with expertise and assisted by a technical panel, have dealt with ADA issues. They include:

ADA Paratransit Eligibility Certification Practices
Paratransit Contracting And Service Delivery Methods
Communicating With Person With Disabilities In A Multimodal Transit Environment
Use Of Rear-Facing Position For Common Wheelchairs On Transit Buses
Practices In No-Show And Late Cancellation Policies For ADA Paratransit

If we stop to look around today at all that has been done to increase accessibility (sidewalk curbs that now have ramps, elevators with braille, buses with wheelchair lifts, etc.), we have to pause and think about the impact these actions have had on so many lives.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood wrote:

There was certainly no lack of vision from the policymakers, advocates, and citizens that fought to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. And it’s equally important that we don’t suffer from a lack of vision now. DOT is committed to doing its part.

The bottom line is this: we recognize that our systems of transportation are about much more than just getting around. They are avenues that connect people with the chance to achieve their dreams.

Our challenge is to make sure that everyone has access to the most fundamental of American rights – to dignity, independence, security, and opportunity. And the Department of Transportation fully intends to meet that challenge head on.