(STL.News) The Justice Department today announced that it reached an agreement with Amtrak, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, to resolve the department’s findings of disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the agreement Amtrak will fix inaccessible stations and pay $2.25 million to victims hurt by its inaccessible stations.
The accompanying complaint filed by the department alleges that Amtrak has violated and continues to violate the ADA by failing to make existing stations in its intercity rail transportation system readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs. The ADA gave Amtrak 20 years from the law’s 1990 enactment to make its stations accessible, requiring Amtrak to comply by July 26, 2010.
“When Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, it recognized the crucial role transportation plays in our lives,” said Eric Dreiband, Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division. “Transportation is the linchpin of access for people with disabilities to the full economic, social, and cultural benefits of our country. The Americans with Disabilities Act gave Amtrak until 2010 to make its stations accessible for individuals with disabilities. Amtrak failed or refused to comply with the Congressionally-mandated 2010 deadline, and Amtrak’s noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act injured individuals with disabilities. Passengers with disabilities have waited long enough. Today’s agreement is a historic victory for individuals with disabilities, Amtrak, the rule of law, and the promise of equal opportunity for all Americans. We welcome Amtrak’s commitment today to bring its system into compliance with the law so that all individuals have an equal opportunity to barrier-free rail transportation.”
Under the agreement, Amtrak has committed to make its intercity rail stations accessible, prioritizing stations with the most significant barriers to access. Over the next 10 years, Amtrak will design at least 135 stations to be accessible, complete construction at 90 of those stations, and have at least 45 more under construction. Amtrak will also train staff on ADA requirements and implement an agreed-upon process for accepting and handling ADA complaints. As part of this commitment, Amtrak recently established an Office of the Vice President of Stations, Properties & Accessibility to coordinate its compliance with the ADA.
To compensate those harmed by inaccessible stations while trying to travel by train, Amtrak will establish a $2.25 million settlement fund. Individuals with mobility impairments who traveled or desired to travel at 78 specified stations with significant accessibility issues may be compensated from the settlement fund.