Comment on Draft Revisions to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Accessibility Guidelines for Transportation Vehicles
Office of Technical and Informational Services
Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
1331 F Street NW, suite 1000
Washington, DC 20004-1111
Coalition for Accessible Transportation
(518) 273-1110 VOICE/TDD
(518) 273-3092 Fax
Troy, NY 12181
CDCAT is a regional (4 counties: Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer and Saratoga, NY) coalition with goals of safe, effective, and accessible transportation for people with disabilities. We find that the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buses and Vans are invaluable to us.
There are many transportation entities that only try to meet the minimal standards that are set by Access Board. Without that guaranteed standard, there would be little in the way of accessible transportation in some cities. While we would like to believe in good will, we value our rights as well, and our right to transportation is absolutely necessary for our inclusion in our society, our ability to worship as we choose, and our ability to work, see friends and family and enjoy our lives. This affects our quality of life.
In short, it includes living as an included part of our communities, which is at the heart and purpose of the ADA. Because of this, we find ourselves commenting on these Access board changes that will ultimately affect us at local level, to ensure our rights as disabled citizens. We appreciate the opportunity to add comments that help shape this valuable document.
There are a few points on which the Coalition wishes to comment in the Access Board Draft.
“(a) General. Vehicles covered by this subpart shall provide the following:”(1) “A level-change mechanism or boarding device (e.g., lift, bridgeplate or ramp) complying with paragraph (b) or (c) of this section at all doors intended for use by persons using wheelchairs or mobility aids wherever the separation between vehicle floor and boarding and alighting area exceeds either 2 inches horizontally or 5/8 inch vertically.”
This part sounds adequate.
(2) “Sufficient clearances to permit a wheelchair or other mobility aid user to reach securement locations. At least one route to each securement location shall have a clear width of 36 inches minimum, measured from floor level to a height of 40 inches, and a clear width of 30 inches above a height of 40 inches. Where a turn is required, sufficient maneuvering space shall be provided to allow a wheelchair or mobility aid having a width of 30 inches maximum and a length of 48 inches maximum to turn with a minimum of back-and-forth movement.”
You also state in your discussion of the revisions “The revised section attempts to add more specificity by requiring a route from the entrance to securement locations with a minimum 36 inch width. This is consistent with accessible routes in buildings, but has not previously been applied to vehicles. The Board recognizes that vehicles are constrained by road lane width and some restrictions in tunnels and bridges. The Board requests comments on the feasibility of this requirement. If a 36 inch width is not possible, would a 32 inch minimum width be achievable? In addition, front door entry necessitates a right angle turn. The available space is constrained by the fare box, driver seat, modesty panels and wheel wells. A 5-foot turning circle is not possible. In building standards, a 42-inch minimum aisle is required to turn into a 36-inch wide aisle. Can this be achieved in a bus? How can the maneuvering and turning space be defined so that compliance is more verifiable?”
CDCAT is concerned about scooters that can be longer and have a higher turning radius than wheelchairs, being able to turn within a 32 inch minimum width, especially if the available space is constrained by the fare box, driver’s seat etc. We are unsure how this can be solved. Scooters are also unique in that turning around to face forward in a small area (or area filled with standing passengers and perhaps other customers with mobility devices) is almost impossible especially scooters that may be near 48 inches in length or those closer to or 30 inches wide. The only way that this may be able to be resolved is by the option to enter a bus from the back and back into a rear space reserved for passengers (this would require much less maneuvering) and exiting the same way. This obviously is a large change from the standard but may be something to think about for the future if it can’t be accomplished now. This would allow transit customers the option of using the front, if they can maneuver there, or to use the back door if they need more space for maneuvering. In theory, one would enter from the back and find a space on the left side of the bus (or right though this may be more difficult if a panel is near the exit.) Perhaps that left space can be larger and allow more maneuverability for longer mobility devices. We thought it was worth mentioning.
This also avoids the fare box potentially being in the way, driver seat etc., though the ability to pay fares from the back door would be an issue. Possibly, a pay fare button could be installed in the back to alert the driver that a customer needs to pay who is unable to go to the front of the bus or a smaller wall fare box installed in the back. Currently, many scooter users must back onto a lift or bus ramp and try to navigate the right angle turn backwards which is slow and cumbersome at best and many people (myself included) simply can’t accomplish this, especially with pressure from impatient drivers, and sometimes from non-disabled customers – including standing customers that had to move or squish (during peek hours) towards the back of the bus for a scooter to fit. Scooters also take much more and forth movement to fit into tight spaces. Should another mobility device be in one securement location already, it may be almost impossible to fit in the securement location without a lot of time and effort.
(3) At least two securement locations and devices, complying with paragraph (d) of this section on vehicles in excess of 22 feet in length and at least one securement location and device complying with paragraph (d) of this section on vehicles 22 feet in length or less.”
We’ve found that only 2 securement places does not seem to allow for maneuverability into them, especially if one location already has a passenger. This is just a comment on this as it has been a problem here with smaller buses. Again, scooters and some of the larger wheelchairs are longer and have difficulty getting into and out of these positions.
Transportation regulations (49 CFR Part 37) currently use Access Board’s “common wheelchair” definition as follows:
“Wheelchair means a mobility aid belonging to any class of three or four-wheeled devices, usable indoors, designed for and used by individuals with mobility impairments, whether operated manually or powered. A "common wheelchair" is such a device which does not exceed 30 inches in width and 48 inches in length measured two inches above the ground, and does not weigh more than 600 pounds when occupied.”
Appendix D to Part 37 goes on to state, “The definition of “wheelchair” includes a wide variety of mobility devices. This inclusiveness is consistent with the legislative history of the ADA (See S. Rept. 101-116 at 48). While some mobility devices may not look like many persons’ traditional idea of a wheel chair, three and four wheeled devices, of many varied designs, are used by individuals with disabilities and must be transported. The definition of “common wheelchair,” developed by the Access Board, is intended to help transit providers determine which wheelchairs they have to carry. The definition involves an “envelope” relating to the Access Board requirements for vehicle lifts. A lift conforming to Access Board requirements is 30inch×48inch; and capable of lifting a wheelchair/occupant combination of up to 600 pounds. Consequently, a common wheelchair is one that fits these size and weight dimensions. Devices used by individuals with disabilities that do not fit this envelope (e.g., may “gurneys”) do not have to be carried.”
Because this “common wheelchair” definition has been misused in the past and even incorrectly used as a regulation, this definition has been removed entirely (from the writer’s understanding) and replaced.
The coalition still believes that some sort of definition of “wheelchair”, or “mobility device” as open ended as possible should be stated. It has been our experience that leaving out a statement defining something of this nature leaves a loophole for transportation entities who wish to exclude certain types of wheelchairs they may wish to avoid such as 3 wheeled scooters or Segways. Reasons of insurance and difficulty of securement are other reasons in the past that have been used to exclude certain mobility devices.
Even a definition of a mobility device or wheelchair that says, “The definition of "wheelchair" includes a wide variety of mobility devices. This inclusiveness is consistent with the legislative history of the ADA (See S. Rept. 101-116 at 48). While some mobility devices may not look like many persons’ traditional idea of a wheel chair, three and four wheeled devices, of many varied designs, are used by individuals with disabilities and must be transported.” (More or less the wording in the ADA transportation regulations currently) is a good general open definition that allows for a variety of mobility devices and future inventions.
With the “common wheelchair” definition being removed, you have added 1192.21 (c) – below, to replace it with the emphasis that these are securement location measurements.
Subpart B — Buses, Vans and Similar Vehicles
“(c) Vehicles shall provide an unobstructed volume, from the level change or boarding device to the securement locations, 30 inches wide minimum by 48 inches long minimum by 40 inches high minimum, plus additional space as may be required by sections 23(a)(2), 23(d)(2) and 25(c). A vehicle shall not be required to be designed or modified to accommodate wheelchairs and mobility aids which exceed these dimensions or which weigh more than 660 pounds when occupied.”
You state in the discussion to the revisions, “Lift manufacturers have told the Board that some jurisdictions specify a higher weight for lifts (e.g., 720 lbs). On the other hand, a review of available ramp specifications indicates 660 lbs is the weight limit. Even though lifts may be designed for more, most transit agencies intersperse ramp and lift buses. If lifts and ramps had different requirements, a passenger might make a trip on a lift-equipped bus and then discover he or she could not get home because a ramp bus arrived for the return trip. Therefore, the draft proposes raising the design to 660 lbs, from the current 600 lb requirement. Another factor to be considered is that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued standards prescribing a whole series of tests based on the 600 lb requirement, in particular, the outer barrier test. What are the safety implications for a 700 lb wheelchair, for example, if the barrier is only designed to contain 600 lbs? The Board intends to coordinate its rulemaking with NHTSA.”
While we understand why Access Board hesitates to require lifts over more than 660 lbs because transit agencies intersperse ramp and lift fixed route buses (which could be problematic for disabled consumers) and that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued standards prescribing a whole series of tests based on the 600lb requirement we would like to see a more permanent solution to this lift weight requirement. We respectfully suggest, that this above way of determining weight limits could be an self-perpetuating cycle where the limits are never raised because of transit agency compliance with then current access board requirements or a Federal study on then current requirements. This would constantly mean that Access Board would likely coordinate it’s rulemaking with any ongoing studies of importance.
Another point to be made is that 1192.B states that, “This provision does not require that inaccessible buses be retrofitted with lifts, ramps or other boarding devices.”
Will this not also create trips a passenger may have difficulty with their trip if the trip outbound is on a lift-equipped bus, but on their return trip the passenger discovers he or she “could not get home” for perhaps hours or if the lift bus has been removed from the route that day for some reason, the passenger may not be able to get home at all, because of inaccessible buses being used?
It is also important to state that Access Board has not updated this requirement in over 10 years while wheelchair and mobility aids are becoming more and more high tech, are heavier, larger, and have more equipment options that are also heavy that can be added (portable oxygen, motors for reclining, raising one’s chair, portable ventilator and other devices). Transit entities could have, on their own, kept pace with newer technology but instead chose to maintain minimum standards. With wheelchairs in the range of 200lbs – 350lbs as a base — adding custom seating, multiple motors, and extra equipment can easily take the weight to 300 – 400 pounds without adding the weight of the person, packages etc. As for different limits for ramps and lifts, these should be the same so that the situation where a disabled person must worry if a ramp is a different weight limit than a lift doesn’t exist. Yes, this means ramps may need to be replaced, but this is much better than people who are unable to leave their homes because there is no public transportation that can accommodate their mobility device at all. In the situation of the “passenger who makes a trip on a lift-equipped bus and then discover he or she could not get home because a ramp bus arrived for the return trip”, the passenger would be eligible for a paratransit trip home should there be no accessible bus on that route to take them home.” (I hesitate to mention this option as it burdens paratransit even more than it already is.) The other option, laying the burden on the disabled citizen who then has no transportation options (without an increase in minimum lift and ramp standards), is horrendous and even life threatening. We would rather transit entities spend money on lift and ramp and even stronger outer barriers adjustments than the burden that lower lift and ramp limits will cause for Americans with disabilities who have heavier or larger chairs.
I could not find statistics on specifically what percentage of US citizens with disabilities have larger mobility devices that exceed the Access Board’s current 600lb lift requirement. We do think this will affect many more people than Access Board realizes. The average person doesn’t usually know how much their mobility device weights. Larger (obese or morbidly obese) people aren’t going to advertise weights of 250lbs or higher. Medical office scales top off at 250 to 300 so many morbidly obese people may not be able to obtain their weight. (Nor is this an issue of whether obesity or morbid obesity is a disability. Even if one excludes morbid obesity as a disability, the conditions and illnesses that develop from it most certainly do fall within the definition of disability.) Most medical offices don’t have wheelchair accessible scales in them. There is, I believe, a ‘hidden’ percentage of people in the US population that either have larger and heavier mobility devices, or are obese or both, that simply do not travel outside their homes even though they have new access to mobility devices to assist them simply because they have no way of obtaining transportation. Fixed route buses can’t accommodate the higher weight (and sometimes larger chairs) and Paratransit, when available, normally refuses anything over the 600lb minimum requirement.
When you check statistics on the large number of US citizens that are now considered obese, and even morbidly obese, this becomes more understandable. There are many citizens dealing with obesity as primary or secondary to mobility disabilities, who are, quite literally, trapped in their homes — as they can’t travel even through accessible transportation because of lift or ramp limits. They may have a mobility device, but there is no transportation provider that wishes to transport them. These disabled consumers have been told in various, many times crude and insulting ways, that they won’t be taken on a fixed-route buses by bus drivers. Paratransit buses say that they will be happy to transport them – but tell them they will need to meet the “common wheelchair definition” (weight) with their mobility device before they will do so.
No information given to consumers about transportation on purchasing mobility devices
Medicare and Medicaid both pay for mobility devices without regard to if these devices can be transported, with their rider, or not. People obtaining the devices are all too worried on if they will be covered by their insurance or Medicare/Medicaid and their need to be able to move around their house and simply assume they will be able to use the mobility device outside the home. (Why wouldn’t they as it seems to be a logical assumption.) Some mobility sales agents don’t give the disabled consumer the information that the chair will be too heavy or to wide or long to be transported on public transportation (or wheelchair accessible taxi or Medicaid transportation to medical appointments.)
Medical Transportation and lifts
Medicaid transportation service is usually provided through either Social Services or contracted out to a combination of paratransit, taxis and ambulettes (a NY term mostly meaning wheelchair van or bus service). In the rest of the country I believe this is basically called medical transportation van services. All of these transportation providers base their lift or ramp requirements on Access Board’s lift weight limits. In other words, this will affect medical transportation as well.
What does public transportation with up to date lift and ramp minimum level requirements mean to people who are higher weights or who have heavier chairs? It means that these disabled citizens can participate again actively in society; it means the ability to reach medical care. It means quality of life, and when speaking of medical care, it will make the difference in medical care that saves lives. When looking at statistics on how many deaths are due to obesity, it’s doubtful that all but the most meticulous researcher will think to include the person’s inability to reach regular medical care because of transportation weight restrictions. Simply put, routine medical care may catch a condition sooner than later and save the life of the person in doing so. This is not an exaggeration, the coalition has received calls from desperate seriously ill people in our area who could not use public transportation, sometimes literally begging for help, who are unable to reach chemotherapy treatments, regular psychiatric visits for near suicidal level depression, because public transportation (including paratransit) refused to accept their chair’s weight of generally 600 – 700lbs. Your decision here makes the difference in lives.
Recommendation: We’ve gone into such detail above to “make a case” and show how much it matters to people with heavier chairs and larger customers, and even for medical access, for raising the lift requirement to higher than 650 pounds. Our recommendation is to set future milestone(s) to meet a higher lift weight requirement while allowing an interim time that a moderate increase of 660 – 700 is allowed. (An example would be that as of x date in 2007 the requirement changes from 600 to 700 (or as your draft states, 660) but with the stipulation that buses/vans purchased from the year 2010 must have a weight limit of 800lbs for ramps and for lifts. This way, transit entities have time to work on increasing their lifts to a level that will include many higher weight mobility devices and future devices. Federal studies will then know to base studies near 2010 on the higher weight requirement. In this way, Access Board (understandably) attempting to accommodate national studies that, though, gained their data from Access Board’s current requirements, won’t perpetuate the outdated weight limitation of 600lbs. We suggest that outer barrier strength be raised to contain 800lbs by 2010 as well. Please do not allow current lifts and ramps to be grandfathered in at their current weight. A date for lift and ramps to be updated to 600 – 700lbs could be easily stipulated in the text. (such as by January 1, 2008)
Regarding buses that choose to buy ramps and lifts that exceed Access Board weight requirements & measurements
We recommend that buses that purchase ramps or lifts that choose to buy ramps and lifts that exceed the minimum standards set by Access Board be required to carry chairs up to their ramp/lift’s weight limits. There are transit entities nationally that have lifts that exceed Access Board’s lift limit of 600lbs. Some of these still choose to only allow only mobility devices up to 600lbs even though their lift’s limit is higher or exclude a mobility device for being 31 inches wide or 49 inches long (even though their lift can fit the mobility device on it and it can be secured) for no other reason than to reduce use of (especially) paratransit service. Because of this, we ask Access Boards assistance in wording things carefully to deter this deplorable practice. Our local transit agency in Albany has for instance, stated their wheelchair lift limits are 800lbs for their paratransit buses (fixed route buses use kneelers and ramps), but still try to limit paratransit customers who with their mobility device and equipment are even a little above the 600lb “common wheelchair” definition. [One local customer a few years back (who had made several complaints about the paratransit service), was suddenly told their scooter could not be safely carried and secured (because it measured 50 inches long) even though this was the same mobility device that was used for 5 years on the same paratransit buses and there had been no problems on the lift (that measured larger than Access Board requirements) or in securing the device on the bus. (This was rescinded after a quick appeal by our Coalition when it was determined that the scooter was actually ‘surprisingly’ measured incorrectly by CDTA).] Wheelchair weights and measurements must not be allowed to be as a means to exclude wheelchairs that can be accommodated.
Summary: We believe that raising the weight to 700 for a current requirement — or at least keeping to the 660lb weight limit you suggest in your draft is absolutely necessary. Adding a provision for an 800lb weight limit requirement by 2010 allows transit entities notification of future requirements so they have the choice to update their lifts and ramps to either the new minimum requirement or save money by choosing the 800lb future minimum requirement sooner as they purchase more buses/vans and update older ones.
Subpart B — Buses, Vans and Similar Vehicles
(a) New, used or remanufactured buses, vans and similar vehicles (except over-the-road buses covered by subpart G of this part), to be considered accessible by regulations issued by the Department of Transportation in 49 CFR part 37, shall comply with the applicable provisions of this subpart.
(b) If portions of a vehicle are modified in a way that affects or could affect accessibility, each such portion shall comply, to the maximum extent feasible, with the applicable provisions of this subpart. This provision does not require that inaccessible buses be retrofitted with lifts, ramps or other boarding devices.
In all honesty, that inaccessible buses still exist after 16 years of ADA effort and regulations is a travesty to begin with. We believe that buses, vans etc. should be modified, replaced and phased out by a future date set by Access Board. In cases of hardship, we are sure some arrangement can be made to phase out older non-accessible vehicles.
(c) “Vehicles shall provide an unobstructed volume, from the level change or boarding device to the securement locations, 30 inches wide minimum by 48 inches long minimum by 40 inches high minimum, plus additional space as may be required by sections 23(a)(2), 23(d)(2) and 25(c).”
It seems that this measurement to securements seems to make it difficult for a mobility device fitting exactly 30 inches wide by 48 inches long to fit within the above area. This may lead transit providers to believe that chairs should be smaller than the proposed volume, from the level change or boarding device to the securement area even with the statement that says “plus additional space as may be required by sections 23(a)(2), 23(d)(2) and 25(c)”.
1192.23 Mobility aid accessibility.
Location and size.
(d) Securement devices.
The securement system shall be placed as near to the accessible entrance as practicable and shall have a clear floor area of 30 inches minimum by 48 inches minimum. One full unobstructed side of the clear floor area shall adjoin or overlap an access route. If a clear floor area is located in a bay or otherwise confined on all or part of three sides, additional maneuvering clearances shall be provided in accordance with the following:
(i) Forward Approach. Bays shall be 36 inches (915 mm) wide minimum where the depth exceeds 24 inches (610 mm). See figure 1.
(ii) Parallel Approach. Bays shall be 60 inches (1525 mm) wide minimum where the depth exceeds 15 inches (380 mm). See figure 2.
Securement areas may have fold-down seats to accommodate other passengers when a wheelchair or mobility aid is not occupying the area, provided the seats, when folded up, do not obstruct the clear floor space required.
Your figures below illustrate the measurements:
Perhaps I’m not reading this correctly but it seems that it may be more difficult for mobility devices 30 × 48 to fit within a 30 × 48 space. Then again, the bay areas do seem wider and longer than 30 × 48.
1192.23 Mobility aid accessibility.
Mobility aids accommodated.
“The securement system shall secure wheelchairs and mobility aids which can enter and maneuver within a vehicle complying with this subpart and shall either be automatic or easily attached by a person familiar with the system and mobility aid and having average dexterity.”
I do see how this is likely to be used by some transit entities. The part that says, “and shall be automatic or easily attached by a person familiar with the system and mobility aid and having average dexterity” should be clarified further. I believe it is there to help customer’s whose transit entities expect them to secure their own chair if possible but it can be seen another way. It seems self-explanatory but if someone were to pick it apart, I believe a transit entity could try to refuse chairs that are considered “difficult” for them to secure. Newer mobility devices including some power chairs and some scooters are included in this group. Our objective is to ensure that these mobility devices are not excluded on the basis of what could be a transit entity’s broad idea of “difficult” or “easy” to secure.
Other provisions in the draft seem adequate.