On July 13, 2015, the Department of Transportation revised its rules under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, specifically to ensure that reasonable modifications/accommodations are available to people with disabilities.
The ADA contains requirements concerning fixed routes, complementary paratransit, and other types of transportation services. There might be occasional situations where existing policies don’t meet the needs of some individuals with disabilities, however. That is when the transportation provider must make reasonable accommodations. These underlying provisions tell entities the ends they must achieve; the reasonable modification provision tells entities how to achieve that end in situations in which normal policies and practices do not succeed in doing so.
For example, an individual using a wheelchair who needs to access the bus will be able to board the bus even though sidewalk construction or snow prevents the individual from boarding the bus from the bus stop; the operator of the bus will need to slightly adjust the boarding location so that the individual using a wheelchair may board from an accessible location.
Public transit services must provide a means, accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, to request a modification in policies and practices applicable to their services. The Transportation for Individuals With Disabilities (PDF) has a list of what some accommodations might be, and that people with disabilities have the right to make reasonable requests to obtain full access to public transportation.
Requests for modification can only be denied if:
- Granting the request would fundamentally alter the nature of the entity’s services, programs, or activities;
- Granting the request would create a direct threat to the health or safety of others;
- Without the requested modification, the individual with a disability is able to fully use the entity’s services, programs, or activities for their intended purpose.
If the transportation provider does deny a request for a reasonable modification, they must take “any other actions (that would not result in a direct threat or fundamental alteration) to ensure that the individual with a disability receives the services or benefit provided by the entity.”
Thanks to the ADA, people with disabilities have more independent mobility with equal access to public transportation.