Written By: Andy Jones
The nation’s largest passenger rail network has reached an agreement with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to bring its services into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was enacted in 1990.
Under the ADA, Congress gave Amtrak 20 years—until July 26, 2010—to make all its stations disability accessible. Similar requirements under the ADA for bus services and for airlines forever changed the lives of millions of people with disabilities.
But Amtrak fell woefully short. The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) submitted a complaint to the DOJ in 2013, and its report that year, “All Aboard (Except People with Disabilities)” documented that numerous Amtrak stations lack boarding platforms and bathrooms accessible to wheelchair users and other people with mobility disabilities; many stations fail to provide ways for people who are blind or deaf to purchase tickets; and elevator breakdowns are systemic.
As part of the agreement reached with DOJ and announced December 3, 2020, Amtrak must design 135 barrier-free stations within the next decade. Amtrak has created an Office of the Vice President of Stations, Properties & Accessibility to oversee construction.
Amtrak must also establish a compensation fund and pay $2.25 million to people with disabilities who were harmed at 78 particularly out-of-compliance stations. The railroad will also create a new complaint procedure and implement staff training on ADA requirements.
“Transportation is the linchpin of access for people with disabilities to the full economic, social, and cultural benefits of our country…,” said Eric Dreiband, assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, in a statement. “Amtrak failed or refused to comply with the Congressionally-manded 2010 deadline, and Amtrak’s noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act injured individuals with disabilities. Passengers with disabilities have waited long enough.”
The full settlement agreement can be read here.