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.
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