Management & Operations

Court decision mandates paratransit upgrades for disabled

Posted on March 1, 2001

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania last month ruled that the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by not attempting to provide rides to all disabled persons. By not providing rides to all disabled persons, SEPTA effectively issued a high number of trip denials. In the official statement, Judge Lowell A. Reed Jr. said that SEPTA “constrains paratransit service by operating in a pattern or practice that significantly limits the availability of rides to ADA-eligible patrons.” The court ruled that violations of Title II are attributable to substantial numbers, as opposed to substantial percentages, of trip denials. That ensures organizations like SEPTA cannot content themselves solely on a high percentage of successful rides, rather, they must make an effort to cater to every person who qualifies for ADA protection, without exception. In fact, SEPTA’s request for a 98% performance standard was specifically denied. The case originated from a claim filed by two organizations, Liberty Resources Inc. and Consumer Connection, which alleged that SEPTA was not complying with either ADA or Rehabilitation Act of 1973 regulations. After their apparent victory, the plaintiffs were pleased. “This is the first time we’ve really had backing that our rights have been violated and any denial of a ride is unacceptable,” said Linda Richman, a manager for Liberty Resources who is disabled. The decision stipulated that the parties involved must consult with each other and reach an agreement on how to resolve the issues. “We are still looking at the ruling and trying to figure out the best way of complying,” said Jim Whittaker, chief press officer for SEPTA. He also indicated that he wasn’t sure how the ruling might affect other major transportation authorities in the future. “All I know is we have been implementing a number of changes to make paratransit more efficient, and we will continue to do that,” he said. The ruling will more than likely lead to improvements in transportation services for disabled persons in Pennsylvania and the rest of the nation.

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