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.
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.