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Amtrak Stations Cited For Accessibility Problems

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More than two decades after the Americans with Disabilities Act took effect, many Amtrak stations across the country are not fully accessible to those with disabilities, a new report finds.

In visits to 94 train stations in 25 states and Washington, D.C., advocates with the National Disability Rights Network found accessibility issues at 89 stations.

A new report finds

A new report finds “major barriers” to accessibility for people with disabilities at many Amtrak stations across the country. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT)

Barriers ranged from inaccessible restrooms to platforms that were not level with trains and ticket counters that were too high for people using wheelchairs, according to the group’s report released Wednesday.

What’s more, many stations did not offer ramps or elevators as an alternative to stairways, visual displays allowing people with hearing impairments to access announcements were lacking and accessible parking spaces at some stations were poorly marked, crumbling or uneven, the investigation found.

“Our reviews show that Amtrak’s negligence goes beyond simply ignoring the Americans with Disabilities Act, but demonstrates a deliberate disregard for passengers with disabilities,” said Curt Decker, executive director of NDRN. “If you are a person with a disability who wishes to travel on Amtrak, the message is pretty clear: you are not welcome here.”

The red flags come as passengers with disabilities represent a growing group of train riders. Through June, Amtrak indicated that ridership among those with disabilities rose 20 percent this fiscal year over last.

Amtrak spokesman Steve Kulm said the service is working to beef up access. Improvements have been made at over 200 stations in the last four years including restroom renovations and repairs to platforms, sidewalks and ramps, among other changes, he said.

Additionally, all stations have accessible seating and restrooms and accessible bedrooms are available on all long-distance trains, according to materials provided by the passenger train service.

One barrier is that Amtrak owns just a small percentage of the nearly 500 train stations it services across the country, Kulm said. Amtrak said it is working with owners to make improvements.

In a statement over the summer, Joe Boardman, president and CEO of Amtrak, acknowledged that problems remain, saying “we are not satisfied with our pace of progress on accessibility issues at the stations we serve.”

For the report, advocates with the National Disability Rights Network visited train stations in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.

The disability rights group wants Congress to pressure Amtrak to fix the accessibility problems at its stations. Additionally, NDRN shared its findings with the U.S. Department of Justice and is asking federal justice and transportation officials to help Amtrak develop a plan to achieve full accessibility.

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Comments (4 Responses)

  1. Jo D. says:

    I wrote to them about a station close to my home and how I have to unreasonably travel great distances to get on a train that will literally pass my street where there is already a station called accessible according to their readings online but does not have a way for me to board. so im glad I can legally pee there but I can’t do what I need. The other two stations are not safe to get to if im carrying luggage and alone because of being in a wheelchair. I rarely depend on people for help but this is just too dangerous. I told them this and received a pat on tje head letter saying they would take it under advisement.

  2. Jack Kovalski says:

    I wear two long leg braces daily and a back and neck brace combination most of the time. Two or three times a year I ride Amtrak from Atlanta to Birmingham then from Birmingham back to Atlanta in the same day. I do it because I love to ride the train. The way the return train is scheduled makes it possible.

    In order to get in the Birmingham train station I must ride in the freight elevator along with the luggage. Once in the train station the non-accessible restroom is difficult to use. I’ve written to the president of Amtrak and talked to his representative about how much easier it would be for me and other disabled persons if they simply added grab bars in the restroom. The representative agreed that it would be a simple and inexpensive and promised to look in to it. Almost a year later there are still no grab bars.

    I don’t expect them to install a new passenger elevator at the train station but the addition of grab bars in the rest rooms is not too much to ask. I’m beginning to think that they have no intention of doing anything for the disabled because they do not want to start a precedent and be expected to do it everywhere.

    The personnel on the train and at the train stations are always very helpful. I have no problem with them. I have a problem with management that only gives lip service but does not really care about making train travel easier for us.

  3. Phill Jenkins says:

    There seems to be a big disconnect or gap here in this story. Its reported that “Amtrak owns just a small percentage of the nearly 500 train stations” and the NDRN reported accessibility issues at 89 of the “94 train stations in 25 states”. So, do people need to (but haven’t been?) complain to the owners of those stations? Is Amtrak responsible for the stations it doesn’t own? Amtrak reported “Improvements have been made at over 200 stations in the last four years”, but which ones? any of the 94 visited by NDRN? Why or why not? Seems all this article does is report what each side says without doing any real investigation or even asking why there is a gap in the story, ugh.

  4. Carl Enna says:

    I know personally that there are issues in Kansas City at Union Station. We took trips in two consecutive years from there and experienced accessibility issues both times. We also witnessed issues in Chicago with people who did not have a disability getting on carts meant to transport people who do. We spoke to one lady who had a disability and was traveling with her elderly mother who was in a wheelchair and they almost missed the train because of this. We wrote an e-mail to the Union Station management after each incident in Kansas City and it wasn’t even acknowledged as recieved. So much for taking the train…….

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