WASHINGTON (CN) - Transportation entities must make reasonable changes to policies and procedures to avoid discrimination and ensure individuals with disabilities access, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
This requirement is not a new obligation for public transportation entities receiving federal financial assistance, including the National Passenger Railroad Corporation (Amtrak), courts have identified an unintended gap in the Department of Transportation's Americans with Disabilities Act regulations, according to the action.
The department's ADA regulations required accommodations to individuals using public transportation services that use federal funding, but it did not specifically state that policies and procedures must change to avoid discrimination or to provide program accessibility to services, according to the action.
This final rule is meant to fill the gap.
The real-world effect will be that the nature of an individual's disability cannot preclude a public transportation entity from providing full access to the entity's service unless some exception applies, according to the act. For example, an individual using a wheelchair who needs to access the bus will be able to board the bus even though sidewalk construction or snow prevents the individual from boarding the bus from the bus stop; the operator of the bus will need to slightly adjust the boarding location so that the individual using a wheelchair may board from an accessible location, the department said.
In addition, section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act has long been interpreted by the courts to require recipients of federal financial assistance--virtually all public transportation entities subject to this final rule--to provide reasonable accommodations by making changes to policies, practices, and procedures if needed by an individual with a disability to enable him or her to participate in the recipient's program or activity, unless providing such accommodations are an undue financial and administrative burden or constitute a fundamental alteration of the program or activity.
This rule is effective July 13, 2015.
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