Disabled passengers who experienced accessibility issues when using Amtrak.
A class action lawsuit alleges that Amtrak has failed to comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disability Act.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Amtrak is required to make its trains and stations accessible to passengers with disabilities. One of the goals of the class action lawsuit is to compel Amtrak to upgrade its trains and stations so that they can be used by disabled passengers.
Type of Lawsuit
A class action lawsuit has been filed alleging that Amtrak has failed to comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disability Act (“ADA”). When the ADA was enacted in 1990, Congress gave Amtrak a 20-year grace period to comply with the accessibility requirements of the law. The lawsuit demands that Amtrak comply with the ADA and install upgrades to trains and stations served by Amtrak so that they are fully accessible to passengers with disabilities.
Attorneys are investigating reports that Amtrak stations and trains do not meet even the most basic requirements of the ADA. If you or a loved one has experienced accessibility issues in Amtrak train stations or on Amtrak trains, you may be eligible to participate in a class action lawsuit. In addition to compensating you for any damages that you suffered as a result of Amtrak’s non-compliance, one of the goals of the lawsuit is to require Amtrak to immediately upgrade its trains and stations to make them fully accessible to disabled passengers.
Why Was the Class Action Filed?
The plaintiff in the Amtrak class action lawsuit suffers from multiple spinal disc herniations, cannot stand or walk for more than three to five minutes at a time, and uses a wheelchair. As alleged in the lawsuit, the plaintiff was traveling on an Amtrak train from Tampa to New York City when she allegedly encountered architectural barriers at a rail station serviced by Amtrak. According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff was instructed to enter the Tampa, Florida train station using her own limited ambulatory ability, and would thereafter be given a wheelchair operated by an Amtrak employee.
While at the train station in Tampa, the plaintiff allegedly encountered a number of barriers including locked doors at the handicapped entrance and a front entrance without a sloped ramp. Because of these barriers, the plaintiff alleges that she was forced to walk up the stairs to the front entrance where, contrary to her requests, no wheelchair was available upon her arrival.
The plaintiff was allegedly told that she needed to request a wheelchair at the ticket counter, which was a long distance from the front door. According to the class action, the plaintiff was forced to stand in line at the ticket counter waiting for an appropriate wheelchair, and when she could not stand up any longer, other passengers, rather than Amtrak employees, helped her make her way to a bench to sit down. When a wheelchair was brought to her, the Amtrak employee quickly departed, even though the plaintiff expressed that she could not move the chair herself, the suit claims.
As alleged in the lawsuit, the plaintiff continued to encounter a number of discriminatory barriers and practices. She was forced to wait for a wheelchair to be transported to the rail platform, and as a result, missed her train, according to the class action suit. The plaintiff further alleges that she received no financial assistance from Amtrak, and was forced to sit in the public waiting area without food or help. She claims that she was unable to reach the restrooms in the rail stations, as she was left unattended in the wheelchair.
Reports Highlight Amtrak’s ADA Compliance Gaps
Two recently-issued reports highlight Amtrak’s failure to comply with the requirements of the ADA.
“After 23 years, Amtrak should be a shining example of accessibility. Instead, some stations appear to have had no work done to even make the front doors and restrooms accessible. There are many platforms and parking lots where Amtrak appears to have done little to provide or maintain accessible parking and paths into the stations and to the platforms. Even where designated parking spaces have been marked and accessible routes created, Amtrak has not commonly maintained them. For individuals who are deaf, many Amtrak stations that provide audio announcements of train status fail to provide complementary visual notification even when the equipment to do so is available at the station. For individuals who are blind, many station platforms lack detectible warnings at the platform edge and accessible communication such as announcements made over loudspeakers or corresponding braille text on all signs.”
In publishing the report, the Executive Director of the National Disability Rights Network, Curtis Decker, Esq., asked, “Does it really take more than 23 years to provide a ramp into a station with only stairs, provide and properly mark accessible parking, and remodel inaccessible bathrooms and counters to make them accessible?”
The report found that train stations served by Amtrak in Fort Lauderdale, Kissimmee, Winter Haven, and Lakeland did not have accessible restrooms and noted that the Hollywood, Florida station pavement contained many abrupt level changes that pose barriers to people using wheelchairs or with other mobility impairments. The report also noted that the Tampa station had “significant uneven pavement.”
Furthermore, in September 2011, the Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”) issued a report that also found Amtrak has not met the requirements to make all stations accessible by July 2010 and that “few stations are fully ADA-complaint.” The OIG report, “Americans with Disabilities Act: Leadership Needed to Help Ensure that Stations Served By Amtrak Are Compliant,” concluded that “Amtrak’s approach to managing the ADA program lacks clear lines of authority, responsibilities, and accountability” and recommended that Amtrak develop a strategy and a spending plan as to how it can become ADA compliant as soon as possible.
Examples of Accessibility Problems at Amtrak Train Stations
Amtrak stations across the country reportedly fail to comply with the requirements of the ADA in a number of ways.
Failure to install ramps, elevators, or wheelchair lifts to allow passengers with limited mobility to access stations and board trains
Failure to ensure that ticketing and baggage counters are accessible to all passengers
Failure to provide braille text on signs and auditory announcements of train arrivals and departures
Failure to provide detectible warnings to allow passengers who are blind or visually impaired to know when they are getting close to the edge of a train platform
Failure to construct doorways wide enough to allow a wheelchair user to pass through
Failure to ensure that accessible parking areas are not on an incline
Failure to install accessible water fountains, telephones, and bathrooms
Failure to improve accessibility of Amtrak’s internet and telephone reservations systems for people with disabilities
Failure to build restrooms large enough to allow a person who uses a wheelchair to maneuver
If you have experienced any of the above accessibility issues at a train station served by Amtrak, on an Amtrak train, or while attempting to purchase Amtrak tickets online or over the phone, you're going to want to speak with an attorney in your area.