Disability advocates investigate potential Amtrak ADA violations

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The National Disability Rights Network held a nationwide week of action July 21 to 27 to investigate Amtrak’s continued failure to make its commuter rail stations disability accessible.

ADA violations alleged

ADA violations alleged

During the week, representatives from state protection and advocacy groups visited Amtrak stations nationwide to identify accessibility problems. The groups plan to report the information to the Department of Justice and to take legal action if necessary.

“Amtrak’s record on accessibility is terrible,” NDRN’s executive director Curt Decker said in a news release. “It is unconscionable that 23 years after the (Americans with Disabilities Act) was passed, Amtrak trains and stations remain inaccessible to people with disabilities. Amtrak’s refusal to comply with the ADA has left many people with disabilities unable to access trains to get to work or to travel and sometimes even left people stranded.”

When Congress passed the ADA in 1990, it gave Amtrak 20 years to make its system fully disability accessible. In a 2010 report, Amtrak reported that it had fell woefully short, with just 10 percent of its stations in compliance.

Many of the stations lack platform lifts, making it nearly impossible for people in wheelchairs to board the trains, according to the news release. Other common problems include “inaccessible bathrooms, parking lots, and ticketing kiosks, audio systems with no visual equivalent for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, and a website and mobile app that many people with disabilities cannot use.”

“Amtrak doesn’t even sell tickets to people with disabilities to some destinations because they have no way for them to get off the train once they arrive,” Decker said. “Uncertainty along Amtrak’s routes means people with disabilities just avoid the system altogether.”

Disability Rights Washington, the publisher of Galaxy, is part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and a member of the National Disability Rights Network

One thought on “Disability advocates investigate potential Amtrak ADA violations

  1. Cathy says:

    I am 63 years old and suffer from severe, disabling rheumatoid disease. I rarely travel anymore but was looking forward to traveling on Amtrak. On 6/19/15, I purchased a reserved Lower Level coach seat for travel on 7/14/15 between Oceanside, California to Shelby, Montana. There was an overnight delay in PDX Union Station on 7/15/15 as a result of an issue with the Empire Builder Train 28. The next day I returned to Portland Union Station to board Train 28 to Shelby, MT to my surprise, the Lower Level seat I purchased was not honored. I learned that Dave, Amtrak’s agent had switched me to an upper level seat! This Amtrak employee does NOT TREAT DISABLED SENIORS with dignity or respect. When I refused to accept an upper level seat as it is troublesome for me to climb stairs due my disability, I was told by Dave to either suck it up or get a refund. He made my life HELL! I really wanted to continue my trip but Dave was adamant and forceful about not providing me with my prepaid Lower Level seat on Train 28 instead Dave gave me a $90 refund and said he would not sell me a ticket on ANY Amtrak trains. This resulted in my being stranded in the Portland Amtrak station. I was crying, shaking and numb with pain. It took me awhile to gain my bearings. I called a friend in California who suggested I try to buy a ticket home from a different Amtrak agent. I attempted to buy an Amtrak ticket in Portland, OR to Oceanside, CA via ticket agent Dan who started checking prices when Dave told his coworker Dan not to sell me a new ticket home to California. My friend MaryEllen heard this via my mobile phone’s speaker I was fearful and kept her on the phone during my attempt to purchase the ticket. I receive Social Security Disability and have a very limited budget. I asked Dave repeatedly to reissue my original ticket but he refused claiming that I could not be allowed to board any Amtrak trains because I might fall down their stairs. The fact of the matter is when I traveled from Oceanside, CA to Portland, OR on the Lower Level of Amtrak’s train I had NO issues as I was provided with a Lower Level seat! I really do not understand Amtrak’s employee Dave’s not honoring my reserved Lower Level seat purchase. Many people witnessed this incident and I have proof of my purchase. My final destination was Calgary, Alberta, Canada, as a result of Amtrak’s denial of service, I am now out the $220 airfare I purchased to travel on 7/29 to return home from Calgary. Furthermore, I incurred an additional $154 bus ticket expense for a Greyhound ticket home from Portland. I barely had enough money for that bus ticket. I was hungry, scared and alone until 11:30 pm in PDX, Greyhound station. Why does Amtrak permit their employees to bully disabled customers? Why does a disabled passenger have to beg and plead for what they paid for? Then when a disabled person insists on their accommodation Amtrak blacklisted me from ANY train travel! How can Amtrak get away with treating disabled customers like second-class citizens? To date, NO ONE from Amtrak has contacted me to resolve this issue. No apology, no compensation for my unexpected financial losses caused by Amtrak’s blatant, malicious denial of service based on my disability that requires me to sit on the Lower Level of their trains!
    I also witnessed the following: a woman dressed in a white blouse described as the Conductor of Train 28 made a general announcement stating that anyone, including disabled persons, traveling beyond Shelby, MT would be subjected to sitting on the train from 24 to 48 hours and that there were no other options except either take it or leave it. Next, on the Coastline California Train 14 ride from Los Angeles to Portland, the handicapped bathroom entrance in my boxcar was obstructed by an enormous box which was being used as a trash vessel. I was assigned seat 84 on the Lower Level of Train 14 and reported it to Javier, Amtrak’s employee working our section of the train. I observed that the trash vessel was then placed in the hallway again creating another obstruction to the other bathrooms in that corridor. For these reasons, I respectfully request that the issue of Amtrak’s blatant disregard for the civil rights of disabled persons be legally reviewed.

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