Feds find Amtrak violated access rules for disabled passenger

Feds find Amtrak violated access rules for disabled passenger

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has ruled that an Amtrak station in Richmond, Va. violates federal rules for providing access to disabled passengers. 

The agency said the company's Staples Mill Road station in Richmond does not provide closed captioning on signs for passengers who have hearing disabilities, according to the disAbility Law Center of Virginia, which filed a complaint on behalf of a deaf passenger who, in 2014, nearly missed a train because he name was called over a loudspeaker that he could not hear from. 

“Twenty five years after the passage of the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act], there is no excuse for Amtrak to be failing these customers,” disAbility Law Center of Virginia Director Colleen Miller said in a statement celebrating the decision. 

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The FRA said in a ruling that was issued to the disability group on Aug. 5 that the deaf passenger, 61-year-old Gary Talley, is a "qualified individual with a disability" that is protected under Title II of the 1990 disability act that was passed under former President George H. W. Bush's administration. 

Amtrak had argued to the agency that it looked into Talley's complaint about the Richmond station, but the company said its trains are exempt from the disability laws that is was accused of violating. 

"Amtrak has thoroughly investigated Complainant's concerns, and appropriate action is being taken to ensure that Amtrak operates in compliance with applicable law and that those passengers with disabilities have access to Amtrak services," the company wrote. 

"Complaint's claim that the lack of a visual display system in the Amtrak trains reflects noncompliance with applicable laws is not correct because Amtrak is not required by law to provide such visual displays on its trains," the company continued. "Nevertheless, in order to ensure that passengers are provided with effective communication, Amtrak does ensure that any oral announcements made on-board the train are communicated to those customers who are deaf or hearing impaired, who have requested assistance."

The company added that it "responds to a reasonable special assistance request regardless of whether the request is made in advance or upon the passenger's arrival at the station." 

The railroad agency sided with Talley and the disability advocacy group about the Staples Mill station in Richmond, but it agreed with Amtrak's stance about signage on its trains. 

"With reference to captioning on the television, absence of TTY [teletypewriter] and passenger information system, the FRA finds Amtrak is not in compliance with the ADA," the agency said. 

"With reference to information displays on trains, FRA finds Amtrak did not violate the ADA because, as Amtrak correctly notes, intercity rail cars are exempt from such a requirement," the FRA letter continued. "It is important to note, however, that onboard displays are planned for future equipment purchases regardless of the regulatory limitation."