Transportation/Civil Rights – U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Fines United Airlines $2.75 Million

Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation ordered United Airlines to pay $2.75 million as a result of the carrier’s notable increase in disability complaints filed in 2014. These grievances were uncovered while the Department was investigating United’s compliance with the Air Carrier Access Act.  Many of the violations concerned United’s failure to provide appropriate assistance to fliers when boarding and disembarking planes. Others cited failure to return wheelchairs and other mobility aids in a timely fashion to travelers. If you would like to read more about the grievances as well as United’s plans to improve access for people with disabilities, you may do so here.

Transportation – President Signs Highway and Transit Reauthorization

On Friday, December 4, President Obama signed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act).  The FAST Act is the first long term reauthorization of the nation’s highway and transit law in 10 years.  The five year reauthorization provides more stability in funding for new highway and transit projects.  The FAST Act will increase transit funding by over 10 percent the first year and over 17 percent in 2020.  The law also includes funding increases for the 5310 program which provides transportation services to individuals with disabilities and the elderly.  A new pilot program is also included to increase mobility services to people with disabilities.  Funding is also provided to revitalize a federal interagency initiative to improve local transit coordination, including coordinating non-emergency medical transportation.  The Arc will monitor the implementation of this law.

Transportation – Department of Transportation Issues Guide for Airlines Accommodating Passengers with Developmental Disabilities

The Department of Transportation, with the assistance of The Arc and Autistic Self Advocacy Network, has issued a new guide for airlines regarding their requirements to accommodate passengers with developmental disabilities under the Air Carrier Access Act. The document is not a new law or regulation, but a clarification of existing requirements. Topics covered include what questions airlines are allowed to ask passengers seeking accommodations, how to seek assistance, special seating, service and emotional support animals, when airlines may deny boarding, when airlines may require someone to travel with an individual with a developmental disability, escort and personal care services, what do if your rights have been violated, and tips for airline employees interacting with people with developmental disabilities. It clarifies that airlines may not deny boarding to passengers because of their disability unless they pose a “significant risk to the health or safety of others” that cannot be eliminated by a reasonable accommodation. A diagnosis alone is not sufficient for determining a passenger poses such a risk. The Arc was pleased to provide suggestions for the guide as it complements the work being done through The Arc’s Wings for Autism program, an airport rehearsal program.

National Council on Disability Releases Transportation Report

The National Council on Disability (NCD) released a report entitled “Transportation Update:  Where We’ve Gone and What We’ve Learned” a comprehensive update of a 2005 study sponsored by the NCD.  The report provides an overview of transportation in the United States, the changes since the last report, and recommends public policy to address new and persistent problems.

Share Your Ideas on Accessible Transportation Technology Solutions

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Accessible Transportation Technologies Research Initiative (ATTRI) is hosting a national online dialogue to explore whether developing apps or using other technological devices would be most helpful for individuals with disabilities.

The dialogue, which ends on June 6, is open to inventors, advocates, and tech-savvy citizens who wish to propose ideas to improve mobility and travel planning as well as increase visibility. To participate, visit http://nationalonlinedialoguetadt.ideascale.com/ and register to post, share, and vote on ideas. Please contact projectaction@easterseals.com or call 800-659-6428 with questions about the online dialogue.

Opportunity to Provide Your Feedback During An Online Dialogue on FTA’s Section 5310 Performance Measures

This is the last week to offer your feedback on the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Section 5310 Measures through an open dialogue hosted by Easter Seals Project Action (ESPA).  The Section 5310 program is intended to enhance mobility for seniors and persons with disabilities by providing funds for programs to serve the special needs of transit-dependent populations beyond traditional public transportation services and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) complementary para-transit services.

Participants can discuss:

  • What performance measures reflect the benefits of the Section 5310 program
  • Top ways Section 5310 funding can be used to meet transportation needs
  • The extent to which your agency will be able to collect data
  • FTA is considering combining the reporting requirements of Section 5335(c) into a single requirement for recipients of Section 5310. The method will utilize the National Transit Database (NTD) system for recipients of Section 5310, Section 5311, or Section 5307 to report on behalf of their sub recipients.

You can share your thoughts on specific questions, post your own questions, or vote on ideas through this online dialogue. To register, visit the ESPA website.

 

New Report Documents Inaccessibility at Amtrak Stations

The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) released a report demonstrating Amtrak’s negligence in following the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The ADA gave Amtrak 20 years to reach compliance with the law and 3 years past the deadline much remains to be done.  NDRN and other disability organizations visited 94 stations in 25 states and the District of Columbia, to find and document the evidence in the report.  The report contains a full review of Amtrak’s non-compliance with the ADA, state-by-state findings of the reviews, and recommendations for Amtrak, Congress and the Administration. A copy of the report can be downloaded here.

Transportation bill approved by House and Senate

On Friday, the House and Senate voted to pass the Conference Report to H.R. 4348, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21).  Under the bill, federal highway, transit and other surface transportation programs will continue through Sept. 30, 2014, at current levels with some inflationary increases, providing states with more than two years of funding certainty.  The bill was the product of extended negotiations and was passed with bipartisan support.  The bill will consolidate the Elderly and Disabled program (Section 5310) which provides grants to nonprofits for transportation services and the New Freedom (Section 5317).  The new program will fund activities designed to enhance mobility for seniors and people with disabilities.  A variety of measures are being used to pay for the bill including changes to the Medicaid federal match provided to Louisiana.  The Arc opposes reducing Medicaid funding and using it for non-Medicaid related spending.

Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012

The House and Senate have passed the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012 (H.R. 4281), a three-month extension of the surface transportation programs.   The spending authority for Highway Trust Fund programs would have expired March 31 without the extension, potentially halting road and transit projects throughout the country.  Congress has had difficulty agreeing to a longer term extension of the programs.

Senate to Vote on Transportation Extension

The Senate is expected to continue debate this week on a two-year, $109 billion surface transportation bill.  This bill would extend the highway and transit programs authorized by the surface transportation bill.  The current temporary extension is set to expire March 31, 2012.  The House is still trying to find a compromise over the funding levels that would garner enough support to pass a bill.