Justice Department Settlement Forces Amtrak To Fix ADA Violations
Amtrak will make big changes at over 100 train stations across the country to ensure that 30 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, people with disabilities can finally access its rail network.
Under a settlement this month with the U.S. Department of Justice, Amtrak will fix inaccessible stations and pay $2.25 million to people with disabilities who sought to travel at 78 stations with significant issues.
When the ADA was passed in 1990, lawmakers gave Amtrak 20 years to come into compliance. But the Justice Department found that the rail system did not follow through and continues to discriminate against those with disabilities.
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“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,” said Eric Dreiband, assistant attorney general at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
The agreement stipulates that Amtrak will design at least 135 accessible stations over the next 10 years. Construction of 90 of the stations should be completed within that time frame and changes should be underway at a minimum of 45 more. In addition, the rail system created an Office of the Vice President of Stations, Properties & Accessibility to handle ADA compliance and a settlement fund is being set up to compensate affected travelers.
Amtrak has also agreed to train its staff on ADA requirements and implement a process for ADA complaints.
Kimberly Woods, a spokeswoman for Amtrak, said that information about eligibility for compensation through the settlement fund will be posted on Amtrak’s website by the end of the month. Additionally, Woods noted that the rail system invested $109 million toward accessibility improvements in its last fiscal year.
“The settlement reached by DOJ and Amtrak not only resolves the lawsuit, but more importantly it builds upon and protects important aspects of Amtrak’s longstanding ADA compliance efforts,” Woods said.