Disabled and Public Transportation
and Public Transportation
by Ruth Neal
People without cars and people with limited access to cars are disproportionately low-income people of color, low-income women, the elderly and disabled. Inadequate access to affordable, dependable public transportation limits their access to jobs, medical services, food stores, churches, and other basic necessities of life.
The disabled are at particular risk in securing public transportation services to meet their needs. Mobility impaired persons are frequently left to wait by the side of the road because wheelchair lifts are not in working order, or because drivers simply don't want to stop to pick them up. Blind persons are left lost and in a daze because drivers fail to announce stops. Paratransit riders are subjected to excessively long delays and trip lengths to reach their destinations.
Minority disabled are disproportionately disadvantaged due to their double minority status. The government report, Disability Among Racial and Ethnic Groups, http://www.ed.gov/offices/OSERS/NIDRR/ shows clear disparities among various racial and ethnic groups. Minorities are subjected to prejudice and discrimination based on their race when the oldest and most dilapidated, pollution-generating buses are routed through their communities, and they experience the discourtesies of transportation officials due to the devaluation of their race. The minority disabled are also subjected to prejudice and discrimination based on their disability when buses routed through their communities have inoperable or malfunctioning accessibility features and when they encounter the negative attitudes and behaviors of public transit providers due to their special needs.
According to 1991 and 1992 census data collected in its Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), African Americans and other minorities are over represented among the disabled. The rate is highest among Native Americans (21.9%), followed closely by African Americans (20%). Census data further revealed that the rate of severe disability is highest among African Americans (12.2%), followed by Native Americans (9.8%). Data also revealed a higher level of disability among women, with minority women, Native Americans (21.8%) and African Americans (21.7%) leading the pack.
Race and gender also place some disabled at special risk. Eddie Glenn, author of African American Women with Disabilities: An Overview, http://www.4woman.org/wwd/index.htm, notes that African American women with disabilities are victims of the impact of "triple jeopardy" syndrome: race, gender, and disability. Glenn's research addresses the issue of the multiple jeopardy in which most African American women with disabilities find themselves, and points to the dire need for research, which focuses on the status, needs and aspirations of African American women with disabilities.
The Howard University Research and Training Center (HURTC) http://www.law.howard.edu/HURTC/HURTC.html is working to fill the void in research involving minorities with disabilities. The HURTC conducts research that focuses on the delivery of services to persons with disabilities representing diverse cultural populations. Sylvia Walker, Director of HURTC, points out that while racial and ethnic minorities who are disabled face the same challenges as other individuals with disabilities, they experience unique problems due to socioeconomic, health, cultural and other factors. High on that list is prejudice, discrimination, and economic barriers that continue to exclude minorities from full participation in our society. Dr. Walker notes that relatively little research has been conducted to examine ethnicity, disability and health status, income, education, geographic location, employment and marital status. In exploring the status of African Americans with Disabilities, Dr. Walker cites the following statistics:
Sylvia Walker, et al, An examination of the Impact of Federally Supported Community Services and Educations Systems on Underserved People with Disabilities form Diverse Cultural Populations. Howard University Research and Training Center for Access to Rehabilitation & Economic Opportunity (1996).
In December 1999, the National Council on Disability (NCD) issued Lift Every Voice: Modernizing Disability Policies and Programs to Serve a Diverse Nation, http://www.ncd.gov/newsroom/publications/lift_report.html, that challenged the nation to address issues affecting people with disabilities from diverse racial and cultural backgrounds. The report pointed out the continued disparity in employment and educational outcomes between people with disabilities and the non-disabled in the United States, which is a pronounced disparity for racial and ethnic minority disabled groups.
The report highlighted problems that the minority disabled groups encounter with public transportation, which contribute to these continued disparities. The primary issue that emerged from testimony that the NCD heard from minority disabled persons in compiling data for the report was that public transit personnel are unwilling to implement existing laws and policies to accommodate minority individuals with disabilities, unwilling to assure that the blind and mobility impaired have priority seating, to assure that stops are announced for the blind, and that the minority disabled receive common courtesies and are assisted with accessibility features of the buses.
The NCD made the following recommendations to address the problems faced by the minority disabled in the public transportation arena:
Some groups have not waited for government to act but have taken action on their own to force local transit agencies to level the playing field for the disabled. In Los Angeles, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the local Metropolitan Transit Authority. In August 2000, the ACLU announced a landmark settlement, http://www.aclu.org/news/2000/n081000b.html, with Los Angeles County transit officials for mobility impaired bus passengers in Los Angeles, which guarantees access for passengers who use wheelchairs and other assistive devices.
Los Angeles' disabled transit riders are not unique. In November 2000, disabled transit riders challenged the quality and quantity of services provided in metropolitan Atlanta. The group filed an administrative complaint with the Federal Transit Administration charging the Metropolitan Atlanta Transit Authority (MARTA) with discrimination against its minority disabled customers through service disparities such as overcrowded bus lines, dirty, dilapidated, pollution-generating buses, inoperable and malfunctioning accessibility features, inadequate paratransit service, and disrespect and discourtesy on the part of MARTA's personnel in its delivery of services to minority disabled patrons.
MARTA reports that in the year 2000 12,939 disabled patrons utilized MARTA's regular route service. MARTA serves roughly 30,000 customers who use MARTA's regular route service and pay the one-half senior/disabled fare. MARTA further reports that there are 2,800 paratransit-eligible customers in MARTA's servicing area. MARTA serves 600 paratransit riders per day, 78.8% of which are African American. African Americans who form the core or MARTA's regular route service as well as those utilizing MARTA's paratransit service are therefore disproportionately burdened by MARTA's noncompliance with ADA requirements for public transit providers.
Resources available to metropolitan Atlanta disabled can be accessed on the Southeast DBTAC web site, http://www.sedbtac.org/se_region/se_regionTemplate.cfm?st=GA. The Southeast Disability & Business Technical Assistance Center (Southeast DBTAC) provides a listing of metropolitan Atlanta collaborating groups and individuals representing the disability, business, and government entities dedicated to informing their constituents, people with disabilities, and the public about the ADA.
For a comprehensive listing of ADA resources nationally, see the Disability Rights Activist web site, http://www.disrights.org/dr-dis-rights.html. This site provides links to disability rights organizations, individuals and agencies across the nation.
For articles, reports, books, and other resource materials on accessible transportation, lift buses, paratransit and the debate over approaches to accessibility, see Michael Vickers, Gerald H. Parker, and David Pfeiffer "A Bibliography on Accessible Public Transportation" at http://www.beyond-ability.com/transbib3.html.
Ruth Neal serves as Staff Attorney to the Environmental Justice Resource Center. She formerly worked with the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights handling ADA and Title VI race discrimination complaints.
THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A BLACK DISABLED TRANSIT ACTIVIST
Although Horace Kilgore was confined to a wheelchair, he was a fighter and an advocate for disabled transit riders in metro Atlanta for over 10 years. The 55-year old African American activist was a strong supporter and critic of the Metropolitan Atlanta Transit Authority or MARTA. He was a regular fixture at MARTA board meetings and often led protest demonstrations in his wheelchair for improved services to the disabled.
On September 22, 2000, he was struck down by an automobile and killed at the intersection of Cleveland Avenue and Metropolitan Parkway in Atlanta, while trying to catch a MARTA bus. Atlanta lost a warrior.
There are hundreds of Horace Kilgore's in metro Atlanta. Over 300 pedestrians were killed in Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, and Gwinnett Counties during 1994-1998. Pedestrian fatality rates for non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics were two and six times greater, respectively, than for non-Hispanic whites. Although people of color account for less than one third of the population in the region, they account for nearly two thirds of all the pedestrian fatalities in the region. This metro Atlanta pedestrian fatality study is found at http://www.cdc.gov/epo/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm4828a1.htm. A national study entitled Mean Street 2000 reports that for each mile traveled, walking is 36 times more dangerous than driving and more than 300 time more dangerous than flying.
The study can be viewed at http://www.transact.org/Reports/ms2000/default.htm. Mr. Kilgore was an active member of the Santa Fe Villas Tenants Association and the Metropolitan Atlanta Transportation Equity Coalition (MATEC), a coalition of eleven black Atlanta community organizations that filed a complaint charging MARTA with noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The complaint summary can be viewed HERE.
Following is an edited interview with Mr. Horace Kilgore. For the full interview click HERE.
People of color disabled MARTA riders were interviewed by EJRC legal staff as part of a research project related to the complaint allegations. Mr. Kilgore was interviewed on July 13, 2000. The following excerpts were taken from his interview.
Q. Please state your name, disability and how it impacts your
Kilgore. Horace Kilgore, Jr. I've had arthritis for a number of years--10 or 15 years. I've only been in a wheel chair for four years.
Q. Is MARTA your primary source of transportation?
Kilgore. Basically, MARTA is my primary source.
Q. Do you have access to an automobile?
Kilgore. No. Not at the moment I don't.
Q. What is your annual household income?
Kilgore. I draw social security and disability.
Q. Will MARTA's fare increase impact your ability to use MARTA?
Kilgore. It most certainly will. It will have a great impact. You just don't pick up a quarter everywhere. It will have an impact.
Q. How do you usually pay when you use MARTA? Do you pay the
half-price disabled/senior rate?
Kilgore. Well, normally I use my half-fare card. Sometimes when I got a little extra money I buy a MARTA card.
Q. Does paying the one-half fare work well for you? Do you get
to do everything that you need to do?
Kilgore. I guess it does. It's just that I ride the bus sometimes a lot. Like I say, I go a lot. Sometimes I use the system five to six times a day. Sometimes more than that. And if you use the system that much and pay $.75 each way, you figure out what you're paying to what you pay for a card by the week.
Q. Where do you go on MARTA? Do you use it for all of your basic
essentials of life, such as medical care and grocery shopping?
Kilgore. Yes, basically everything I do. You know if I have to go somewhere, I have to use MARTA, wherever I'm going, whatever I'm doing. Wherever I go I use it. That's why I get so angry about it. When you go out to catch a bus and it's supposed to be a lift bus in that slot and there's no lift bus there. You know you get your time down to where you'll make your trip comfortable, and you go out to catch a bus and there's no lift bus in that slot. It closes you off. You have to wait sometimes 30 to 40 minutes for another one.
Q. What special services do you need to use MARTA?
Kilgore. I need lift equipment. If I can get the bus I usually make my destinations wherever I'm going.
Q. Do you use MARTA's paratransit service?
Kilgore. No, I've never tried that, because I go so much. To my understanding about MARTA, their paratransit works a little different from regular service. And if I use paratransit it would cost me a lot more.
Q. Does MARTA provide the services that you need? Have you had any difficulties using MARTA because of your disability?
Kilgore. If I went out to catch a bus now, and that bus was supposed to be out there at 5:45, and that bus comes by and it's not a lift bus, then I'm stuck there until the next bus comes by. And that's regardless to what kind of weather you're in, you know. Then, sometimes you go out there and the bus has a lift on it, the operator will tell you that the lift doesn't work, so you're still stuck.
Q. What's the longest that you've had to wait on a bus?
Kilgore. I've waited out here an hour on a bus because either the bus was broke down or the bus was not a lift-bus as it was supposed to be.
Q. Have you had any of these occurrences with the lift buses in the last six months?
Kilgore. Oh sure, I just had some. I tried to catch a bus last night. The guy that was driving the bus last night knows that a lift bus is supposed to be in the slot. And when he pulled up to me he said that his other bus broke down and they brought him this one. And he didn't notice that it wasn't a lift bus until he had gotten on the route with it. But I think that was his negligence, because if he's the driver and he knows that he's supposed to have a lift bus, he should check these things before he moves that bus. This was last night. I wanted to catch the bus, but I couldn't because it didn't have a lift on it.
Q. Have you had any other difficulties using MARTA's services because of your disability? Any problems with the MARTA rail?
Kilgore. Basically, it's the buses. Every once in a while you encounter a station where the elevator is out and you have to make preparations to do something else, but basically it's the buses. I've been on several buses where teenagers sit, and an old woman and man get on the bus with a cane and the driver doesn't tell them to get up to let them have a seat. Now some drivers will. I have seen some drivers that will and some drivers that won't.
Q. Have you had problems getting a seat?
Kilgore. The only problem I've had with getting on a bus is at the West End Station. When the bus pulls into the loading area of the West End Station, the driver should see that the elderly and handicapped people get on first, but they don't. They don't do this here. And if the bus is filled up before I get on, I have to sit there and wait. If it's crowded, he doesn't say, "I have a handicapped person, let him ride." He says, "Well I have a full load." This is what one told me, "Well the bus is full now, what do you want me to do?"
MARTA Hit with ADA Complaint
This past November, a group of residents from Atlanta's Santa Fe Villas Tenant's Association, a group comprised of residents who were formerly homeless and includes a 70% disabled population, filed a Americans with Disabilities Act complaint against the Metropolitan Atlanta Transit Authority (MARTA). The residents charged MARTA with pursuing a pattern and practice of discriminating against the disabled in its delivery of services.
Many of the problems experienced by MARTA's disabled riders result from inadequate provision of lift-equipped bus services. Buses often are not lift-equipped or the lift-equipment is inoperable or malfunctioning. MARTA often provides faulty communications listing buses as lift-equipped, which do not have lift-equipment. Also, MARTA buses are deceptively marked with disabled stickers, but they are not lift equipped. This miscommunication causes unreasonable delays for wheelchair-bound patrons.
Wheelchair patrons often have to wait three to four hours for appropriately equipped buses or a paratransit van. Wheelchair patrons often cannot get home at night on MARTA because the last buses leaving the rail stations are not lift-equipped. Disabled riders have notified MARTA's service department that bus lifts are broken, yet MARTA has been unresponsive and continues to use buses that cannot service riders with physical disabilities.
Other service inadequacies include: insufficient number of kneeling buses to serve disabled riders; insufficient numbers of benches and bus shelters in neighborhoods with large populations of disabled/senior citizens; dry rotted or broken seat belts used by disabled passengers; inoperable elevators at MARTA rail stations; and failure to provide appropriate signage at rail stations for the visually impaired. The paratransit system is also inadequate and fails to provide sufficient numbers of vans to accommodate the disabled who need paratransit service. Also, the disabled utilizing MARTA's paratransit service are subjected to long delays and excessively long trips before reaching their destinations. MARTA drivers of fixed route service as well as paratransit service are inadequately trained to use boarding and safety equipment for individuals with disabilities, which has resulted in physical injuries to disabled riders. Bus drivers often fail or refuse to pick up disabled passengers waiting at bus stops and are discourteous to the disabled when they are successful in securing space on an accessible bus.
The MARTA has a practice, policy and/or custom of not performing regular and necessary maintenance and service on mechanical bus lifts that are required to provide access to persons with mobility impairments or on the safety equipment such as straps and clamps, designed to protect persons in wheel-chairs or motor scooters while they are on buses as required under DOT's ADA regulations. MARTA's failure to adhere to the dictates of the ADA and Section 504 in its provision of nondiscriminatory public transit services to the disabled has resulted in physical injury, humiliation, time lost from education and work, expenses for alternative transportation, telephone charges, emotional distress and pain and suffering. MARTA's acts and omissions described herein limit the opportunities of the disabled to participate in numerous programs, activities, and services including work, school, church, medical appointments and social engagements, and imposes an illegal obstacle to their mobility.
There is evidence that while MARTA's delivery of services to the disabled is poor overall, service inadequacies to the disabled are greatest in minority communities. Innumerable complaints have been made to MARTA's customer service line by residents from predominately African American South Atlanta, yet MARTA does not acknowledge that they have received any complaints from South Atlanta residents regarding inadequate services for disabled patrons and continues to deny them full and equal access to its bus services.
The ADA complaint is currently under investigation by the Federal Transit Administration.
The Sante Fe Villas Tenant's Association complainants are asking MARTA to correct the disparity in service delivery to disabled riders by:
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: AN
OVERVIEW OF THE LAWS GOVERNING DISABILITY ACCESS TO TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS
by Georgia Kay Lord
Although local and long-distance travel still presents many challenges to persons with disabilities, several laws prohibiting discrimination against persons with disabilities and requiring the reasonable accommodation of persons with disabilities make travel much easier than it used to be.
Public Buses, Subways, and Trains
Both publicly and privately operated public transportation systems (such as buses, subways, commuter trains, and Amtrak) that operate on a regular route are prohibited by the Americans with Disabilities Act from discriminating against persons with disabilities. It is against the law for these services to refuse to provide transportation to an otherwise qualified rider on the basis of the rider's disability, to segregate passengers with disabilities, to give them unequal treatment, or to impose surcharges for accommodating disabilities. They are required to provide reasonable accommodation for disabilities.
When public transportation systems purchase new equipment they must select equipment that is accessible to persons with disabilities. They must also make good faith efforts to improve the overall accessibility of their services by purchasing or leasing accessible used buses, remanufacturing buses in an accessible manner, and keeping their accessible equipment reasonably repaired. Many stations and stops must incorporate accessibility features.
The law recognizes that some individuals who need public transportation services have physical or mental impairments, which make it very difficult, or even impossible, for them to use a regular transit system independently. It therefore requires government-operated, fixed-rail or bus route systems to provide parallel paratransit services to these individuals unless the provision of such services would place an undue burden upon the system. In a paratransit system, riders are picked up and dropped off at their specific destinations. Riders must be able, at a minimum, to receive next-day service. Paratransit providers are permitted some flexibility to negotiate pick up and drop off times within a "two hour window." Although applicable regulations recognize that a paratransit provider may be prohibited from fulfilling some requests through circumstances beyond its control, a pattern of inadequate service constitutes a violation of the law.
Long distance bus services must also be made accessible to persons with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Justice recently entered into a settlement agreement with Greyhound under which the company is now required to make accessible, lift-equipped buses available at most locations if a traveler requests such services at least 48 hours in advance of travel. After October 1, 2001, Greyhound will be required to provide lift-equipped bus service on 48 hours' notice at every location they serve. Even if the traveler does not give 48 hours notice, Greyhound is required to make a reasonable effort to provide service to persons with disabilities.
The Air Carrier Access Act prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities with regard to many air transportation services. The Act covers air carriers that provide regularly scheduled services for hire to the public and applies to flights that originate and/or terminate in the United States.
An airline is permitted to refuse transportation to a passenger "on the basis of safety" and "may require a medical certificate for (an individual) with a disability . . . whose medical condition is such that there is reasonable doubt that the individual can complete the flight safely, without requiring extraordinary medical assistance during the flight." Thus, an airline could refuse to board a woman in active labor or an unaccompanied individual who is unable to understand and comply with reasonable safety instructions. The airline's refusal to board an individual, however, must be reasonable and must not be based on discrimination or a refusal to provide reasonable accommodation. Airlines may require wheelchairs or scooters to be disassembled and stowed as luggage, but such assistive devices should be among the first items retrieved from the baggage compartment, should be returned to the passenger as close to the door of the aircraft as possible, and should be disassembled and reassembled by the airline. The airline is required to assist the passenger in boarding and in making transfers between planes. In the event that an airline transports a passenger with a disability in a device in which the passenger is not independently mobile, the airline is not to leave the passenger unattended for more than 30 minutes.
Non-governmental taxi services are not required to offer wheelchair accessible vehicles. They are prohibited, however, from discriminating against persons with disabilities in the services they offer. For example, a taxi operator may not refuse to pick up disabled persons or refuse to stow a wheelchair in the trunk. For more information regarding these rights and what to do if you believe your rights have been violated, see the U.S. Department of Justice Americans with Disabilities Act home page at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada.
Civil rights attorney Georgia Lord practices in areas of constitutional law, employment discrimination, employee rights, and disability rights.
Day in the Life of
a Minority Disabled Female
by Flora M. Tommie
My name is Flora M. Tommie and I am 40 years old. In 1998, I was stricken with fibromyalgia, a disability involving a muscle pain condition, osteoarthritis, which flares up severely, along with costochondritis, a condition that causes the bones around the heart to becomeinflamed. I also have seizure-like episodes, which cause me to pass out, asthma and other respiratory conditions. My disabilities involve the usage of my hands, fingers, toes and feet. Because of severe tingling and burning I cannot always stand on them, so I have to have support to keep my balance. I also have a curvage of the spine, which causes problems for me after standing for short times. I therefore must have something to lean against to help stop the muscle spasms from occurring.
I am dependent of public transportation due to my disability. I am a regular MARTA rider. My disability impacts my ability to use MARTA because most, if not all, of the time I have to sit. I cannot stand because I am not able to catch my balance if I am swaying on the trains and buses. Because of my disability I cannot drive myself all the time. There's a danger of me passing out at certain points. I have to make sure I utilize MARTA in order to go to the doctor, to go grocery shopping, to pick up things, to go visit any friends that are assisting me, anything that I have to do.
To use MARTA I need kneeling buses, because those buses are able to lower so I can step up easier. Kneeling buses allow me to board the bus without creating spasms in my body. The kneeling buses have flat surfaces, with lifts that extends from their lower level. It has an airtight system that lowers the bus, so you can just take a little step up, a natural step, without having to climb stairs. If you have accessibles to carry things in, then you can lift it easy without having to strain your upper muscles to try to get on the bus. On the South side, which is overwhelmingly black, I noticed that we have all the older buses, the buses with the high steps, the buses with the lifts that don't work most times or that don't work properly. They're always getting stuck.
The MARTA drivers on the South side don't want to lower the kneeling buses, not even for the senior citizens. They just sit there and say, "It's as low as it can go." And I say, "Okay, but it's supposed to be a kneeling bus because it has the symbol on it. You're supposed to drop it down lower for me." I've had some drivers sit there and argue with me. One I told, on bus route #10 before, "We can stand here arguing or you can just drop the bus and let me on easier, or you can just get up out your seat and help me get on." He lowered the bus then. MARTA drivers have been told by the MARTA police that it is not their duty to assist people to make sure that they have seats on the buses and trains. Before I rode the train with two of our residents who were visually impaired, and none of us had seats. The blind people were standing and I was standing. And everybody in the seats were people who were healthy and strong. When I made an inquiry to the MARTA police about whether they are supposed to assure that the disabled have a seat, I was told that it is not their duty to make sure that we get a seat. The bus drivers also say that it is not their duty to make sure that the disabled get a seat. Once we had people on crutches riding the MARTA bus who had to stand and try to lean on the bus to keep their balance, and the bus driver told us, "Y'all better hold on." Don't ask me how we were supposed to hold on.
I have filed complaints with MARTA, especially on bus route number 95, because I lived on both the North side and the South side of town. I was therefore very much aware of the difference in service when I first moved over here. There are disparities in the services provided by MARTA on the North versus the South side of town. These disparities include customer service and the treatment of the passengers. I moved to the South side of town in 1999. Previously, I lived in the downtown/midtown/Buckhead area since 1983. When I moved on the South side I was immediately aware of drivers that were not respectful. You could say good morning and you would get an attitude. Then the drivers would make statements such as, "I don't want to deal with these people." I'd say, "These people, who are these people?" "You know, all these black people." I noticed on the black side that you're not allowed to sit down on a bus before the bus driver pulls off. Blacks are approached by security at MARTA rail stations when they've done nothing wrong. I was approached once at the Lindberg Station and accused of fare evasion. I told him, "The operator is telling you to get the man with the bicycle, who is a white male, and pick him up." And he kept harassing me.
There is no attempt to keep the buses on this side of town clean. There have been complaints about buses with blood left on the seats and with food wasted. When we complain about the dirty and unsanitary condition of the buses, the MARTA personnel say, "Well the drivers don't have to clean the buses." And, I'm going, "Well, excuse me, you're supposed to make sure this bus is sanitary and safe for all patrons. We do not want to repeat the bug and roach infestation problem that MARTA experienced in the 1980's." Also the drivers refuse to display their nameplates at the front of the bus like they're supposed to. I've reported this consistently, and told them that MARTA must assure that the drivers nameplates are displayed in the front of the bus for accountability, so the riders will know who's who and who's doing what. That's been a real issue.
The drivers don't make an effort to tell riders to clear the seats because there are disabled people coming. A MARTA driver once commented, "Oh no, it's not a wheel chair is it? I don't have no room to let a wheel chair get on." I said, "We'll you're supposed to. I don't care if you have to clear folks to let him get on, you're supposed to let him get on." I made complaints to MARTA through their customer service line. I complained about MARTA sending out buses that don't always have the statements on the front saying "senior citizens/handicapped persons - this section" and sending out buses that say that they are handicapped, with the symbol on the door, but the bus would not actually be handicapped. It would just have a sticker on it saying that it was.
MARTA's customer service representatives always express how sorry they are and they try to apologize, but the problems remain. I told them, "It seems to me that you and the garage and everybody needs to be communicating in order to make sure that the buses are actually lift-equipped buses or kneeling buses that can help the people in the community." And they said that they would be working on it to try to improve it. On general complaints, MARTA customer service will call for you to explain what occurred that led to the complaint, and then they'll get back to you and affirm that what you complained of did indeed happen, and then they will apologize. But that does not take care of the situation. That's why I told them, I said, "You're using customer service in the wrong way. You're not actually following through on the higher end of management like you're supposed to. I've made repeated requests for MARTA to provide a copy of its Customer Service Report, which lists the nature of complaints that they received and how they addressed each complaint. I was told that the report could not be shared with the public, that it's only given to the MARTA General Manager." We therefore have no way to verify whether MARTA is actually addressing the customers' complaints. We only get apologies and no follow-through.
Basically, we have to go on what you tell us. I've complained about MARTA dispatching all the older buses on my route with malfunctioning accessibility features. Yet, we still have the older buses. They called me back regarding the kneeling buses, and said, "Well, we're getting new buses at the end of the summer." And I told them, "Yes, but that doesn't do us any good, because all the new buses coming in are going to go the North side. They said, "Yes, and we'll send the old buses from the North side down to you guys." I said, "Well that still doesn't help us out, because we're still going to have the same problems and the same disabilities." I asked them why this side of town has all the old buses and not any of the newer ones. They said, "Well, because of the way the streets are made." And I said, "What do you mean about the way the streets are made?" "Well, you don't always have side walks there, so you can't get the newer buses." So I told one, I said, "But, Peachtree Dunwoody Road is the same way. There are not always sidewalks there in those areas." And he said, "That's just the way our plan is structured." I said, "So your plan is structured so that the black community and the Hispanic community will always get the older buses and never the newest, even though they are your most frequent riders." He said, "There is nothing that we can do about that part except, this is what we were told to tell you." That's what they told me at MARTA customer service. That's what they told me at the MARTA garage.
I've made repeated requests for benches and outdoor shelters on route number 95 to different MARTA personnel. And it was only this year that MARTA admitted that they have no real policy in place to handle bus shelter requests. I informed them that their contractor of outdoor advertising, seemed to be discriminating against black communities in its placement of shelters. I told them that I counted bus shelters on this route. And I said, "For the numbers of people who are riding and the distances that these large numbers of people are going, they have less shelters than routes in white communities with less ridership."
At the MARTA rail stations on the Southside, such as West End, I've noticed that all the lights on the advertising boards are blown and that the ads are not clean and clear. The boards are rather dingy. If you go to the Ashby Station you will find concrete and railings missing, roaches and rats climbing up on the escalator beams. You'll see that happening because the concrete was left exposed. You'll also see at the black stations that they will close off an elevator and not say a thing or post signs saying, "Elevator closed." They will not do it. They will just board it up and you will just get there and find out, oh, it's closed. And then you ask them, "How am I supposed to get to my destination? And they'll say, "Well, you'll have to get back on the train, I guess, and go the next station, and come back over, catch another train coming back in this direction and then get off." No explanation. I tell them, look at West End, because they said West End has a high ridership. Yet, West End Station, which is similar in nature to Dunwoody Station, does not have the weather protection features. In Dunwoody you have a plexy that was put up to protect the people from the elements, so that you have the benches inside the plexy. You get to the West End Station and there's none of that, no plexies put up to protect them in a booth-type settings, none at all, and the backlights of advertising boards dingy. Then they will also have the taxi stands and they don't even bother to post the signs in the correct direction. After they repair something at the black stations, they don't bother to clean up and repaint the fixtures where the repairs were made. If the area surrounding the repairs was rusted and ragged before the repairs, then it will be rusted and ragged when they finish. They won't bother to fix it at all.
I have complained about the differences in amenities provided by MARTA at the South and West versus the North side MARTA rail stations. In response I was told, "Well, we're under budget constraints now. I said, "It's mighty funny we're under budget constraints when it comes to fixing our stations, but you can spend 464 million when it comes to putting up those other stations." I said, "That's mighty funny guys." They put in amenities at the time that they built the Dunwoody Station, and they added more amenities after they built it. They went through and did renovations and they keep the stations up to par. If anything gets ragged they will replace it. I called once to report a bulb being out on the elevators at the West End Station. It stayed that way for approximately 3 months. It took them 90 days to replace a bulb. You could not see whether the elevator was coming or not, the bulb was blown. The up or down bulb that a person needs to see whether the elevator was working or not, they didn't bother to replace it. At the Ashby Station, it took them another 3 months to fix the gate for the handicapped to be able to enter and exit. Our rail cards kept getting stuck in the handicapped gate. So, then they told us, "Well, you have to wait for a police." I'm going, "Hello, your police are taking a half-hour to get here. Folks are missing buses and trains and everything because you don't want to get the handicapped gate repaired like you're supposed to."
There are inequities in the system. At the black stations MARTA personnel refuse to open the restrooms. The attendants are supposed to be there to open the restrooms, but they don't open them. Also at black MARTA rail stations it's very hard to know which way to go to catch a bus. Signage to direct people is not the same as the stations in white communities. And, that's why I told them, "You are discriminating because you are not doing the same things that you do at the predominately black stations as you do at the white stations. There is a lack of benches for people to sit at the black stations. There is a difference in the number of benches that you put at a black station and the number put at other stations." I told them, "Think about the Peachtree Center and others on the North line, with their fancy art, classical music, and top of the line amenities, and I come down here and we can't even get common courtesy." The services that MARTA provides is like two separate worlds, only the best will do for their white, North side riders while the black South side riders, who form the core of MARTA's ridership, are thrown the scraps.
Flora Tommie is a member of the Santa Fe Villas Tenants Association, one of eleven black Atlanta community organizations that filed a complaint against MARTA with the Federal Transit Authority for discrimination against minorities and the disabled in their provision of transportation services on November 30, 2000.
A Forgotten Minority?
Transportation and Persons with Disabilities From Diverse Ethnic Backgrounds
by Paul Leung,Ph.D.
Persons from diverse ethnic backgrounds in the U.S. are at higher risk for disability than the majority population. The reasons are poverty, unemployment, and poor health status. Time and again, studies show that "minorities constitute a disproportionate share of the population of persons with disabilities."(National Council on Disability (NCD), 1993,p.14) Other researchers have suggested that there are "synergistic effects of dual or triple minority status (disabled, racial or ethnic minority, female, elderly) which too often result in unemployment, poverty, and isolation."(Olkin, 1999, p.23) and what has been called by some a "double or triple whammy".
Race and ethnicity have a stronger association with disability than any other factor (Smart & Smart, 1997). Whether it is the overall disability rate in the United States, rates for people ages 15-64 (i.e., what is often considered "working age"), or rates of severe disability, African Americans and American Indians consistently have the highest rates (Bradsher, 1995)of disability. Data from the National Center for Health Statistics show that African Americans and Hispanic Americans are overrepresented in all disability categories including chronic physical, sensory, language impairments as well as nervous and mental disorders (Walker & Brown, 1996). Data from the 1990 federal census, report that although African Americans were 12.1 percent of the total U.S. population, they were 14 percent of all persons with disabilities (Bowe, 1990). Among African Americans who have a disability, 71.8 percent have a severe disability, as opposed to only 52 percent of white Americans with a disability. In addition, 78.2 percent of African Americans with disabilities are unemployed or not working, and 41 percent are at or below poverty-level income. Among Hispanic Americans with a disability, 67.8 percent have a severe disability, and 27 percent live at or below poverty-level income (Bowe, 1990).
A major impact of disability on everyday life and a barrier to full participation in society and community is getting where one needs to go. It is much more difficult for a person with a disability to use any type of transportation than for a person who does not have a disability. This becomes all the more problematic when lifts are not available or don't work or when one must wait for a vehicle that has been modified. While there has been progress toward improving transportation access of persons with disabilities, gaps continue to exist and especially for persons with disabilities from ethnic minority communities.
What is important for transportation equity for persons of color (Bullard, 2000) also apply to persons with disabilities from diverse ethnic groups but multiplied many times over. All of the factors that relate to persons of color in terms of urban sprawl, the movement of jobs to suburbs, and the availability of education apply to persons with disabilities. In recent testimony at hearings held by the NCD 1999), persons of color suggested that there are tremendous problems associated with transportation for people with disabilities "who need to visit doctors, go shopping, or simply to visit their relatives and friends." One person who is blind said regarding his participation in the hearing, "I was an hour and a half late today because I, obviously, was in a place where a cab wouldn't pick me up until I finally went blocks and blocks to an area where I guess they pick up people if they call, and I got here."
Following these hearings the NCD concluded that many factors contribute to poor accessible transportation options for persons with disabilities. The factors were "unwillingness of public transportation to provide accommodations and to implement what the law requires, language and communication barriers, and in particular, the long waiting time associated with both public and paratransit transportation.
The availability of transportation is essential to the full participation of persons with disabilities in their communities. Communities have sometimes felt that just because public transportation is available that their job is complete. The Department of Transportation has issued regulations for the implementation of transportation provisions of the ADA. But Federal regulations are really a lesser standard and the establishment of a 'floor' for service below which one may not go. As one individual put it, ADA simply means that persons with disabilities will have the same mass transportation that everyone gets whether it be good, bad, or mediocre (Department of Transportation, 1991). Persons with disabilities are unable to access more mainstream options often rely on 'para' transit systems requiring advance notice. While these may be fine for routine day to day transportation such as going to and from employment, they can be very restricting and limit the choices an individual by requiring planning most of us without a disability are unwilling to accept. ADA is not an attempt to provide for all of the transportation needs of individuals with disabilities. And, perhaps that is the crux of the matter. Until there is a full commitment to meeting the transportation requirements of all people including those from diverse ethnic communities and who have disabilities, a large segment of these communities will remain forgotten and left behind.
Dr. Leung is a Professor at the Department of Rehabilitation, Social Work and Addictions at the School of Community Service, University of North Texas. He has an extensive background in rehabilitation medicine and has been a contributing writer on the subject.
Bowe, F. (1990). Adults with disabilities: A portrait. Washington, DC: President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.
Bullard, R. D. (2000). Race, equity and smart growth, Transportation Equity, 3(1) 1-3.
Bradsher, J.E. (1995). Disability among racial and ethnic groups, Disability Statistics Abstract, 10, 1-4.
Department of Transporation (1991). 49 CRF Parts 27,37, and 38. www.fta.dot.gov/library/legal/ada/preamble.html.
National Council on Disability. (1993) Meeting the needs of minorities with disabilities, Washington, DC.
National Council on Disability. (1999) Lift Every Voice: Modernizing disability policies and programs to serve a diverse nation, Washington, DC.
Olkin, R. (1999). What psychotherapists should know about disability, New York: The Guilford Press.
Smart, J.F. & Smart, D. W. (1997). The racial/ethnic demography of disability, Journal of Rehabilitation, 63(4), 9-15.
Walker, S. & Brown, O. (1996). The Howard University Research and Training Center: A unique resource, American Rehabilitation, 22(1).
*The author wishes to thank Dr. Sylvia Walker and the Howard University Rehabilitation Research and Training Center funded by the U.S. Dept. of Education for support as a research partner.
in and Around Washington, DC with Cerebral Palsy
by Lillie and Angela Hammonds
The Washington, DC, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is one of the best transit systems in this country. The system is extremely clean and patrolled by its own police. The drivers on both the buses and the subway trains have radios to call for help if and when needed. A person who does not have a disability will just love the system.
They laid a platform area at most subway stations which is a rough tile closest to the edge. This was done so those who are blind or have low vision can with their canes determine if they have gotten too close. Now if you are not ambulatory or if you need assistance to travel your story may be somewhat different.
This brings the situations affecting Angela and others using wheelchairs to the surface. Angela is a 15-year-old high school sophomore diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Other complications are low vision, asthma, and seizure disorder. When using the WMATA we have been faced with many negative situations.
At the subway stop near our home, we have found that the elevator will only accommodate at the most three small wheelchairs. Don't get caught attempting to go somewhere and folks with baby carriages, a device much easier to maneuver, are going too. You are out of luck.
The platform and the trains are not the same height. A person in a manual chair may not be able to get their chair up onto the train without assistance. When traveling into Virginia with friends we had a mishap. A wheelchair fell over because a wheel got caught in the gap of height and distance between the train and platform. I have noticed that this unevenness is not the case at many of the subway stops in some of the more affluent neighborhoods.
Many of the WMATA buses are equipped with chair lifts. However, I do not believe they are inspected regularly. On rainy and cold days the lifts will often get stuck. Many of the drivers do not seem to be trained to use the manual cranks to operate the lifts. They must call for a supervisor.
When traveling to our favorite shopping center we must walk through a parking lot because the WMATA did not install an elevator. We often must travel between tightly parked cars because there is not a marked walkway. There are cars parked directly in the path after leaving one elevator. Like most inside parking lots there are inclines. Without the elevator, a person in a manual chair must work really hard to climb the inclines and at the same time dodge moving automobiles. Perhaps at one time there were plans to install an elevator but now there is only an empty shaft.
With all said and done, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority hopefully will offer an accessible transit system. The groundwork has been laid; it is just a matter of time before it all comes together. Angela is looking forward to her solo subway trip.
Lillie and Angela, both are hard workers in the Disability community. They have served on committee founded and or formed by Dr. Sylvia Walker, and the Howard University Center for Disability and Socioeconomic Policy Studies. Lillie served on the Parent Action Committee and Angela as a member of the Achievers. Together, Lillie and Angela founded and formed Missies With Physical Disability. Missies is a peer support organization geared toward girls and young women between the ages of eight and twenty. The organization's main focus is to assist its members to overcome the pains of growing into adulthood with a disability. For more information please call 202-215-4161 or write Missies with Physical Disabilities, P.O. Box 59204, Washington DC 20012.
755 Commerce Drive, Suite 415 Decatur, GA 30030
Phone: 404-687-8890 (voice/tty)
GA only Fax: 404-687-8298
Contact: Becky Remage-Tuttle
Easter Seals Of North Georgia
3035 North Druid Hills Road Atlanta, GA 30329
Contact: Donna Davidson, President
Cindy Arceneaux, SE Coordinator Regional Network
501 Club Lakes Parkway Lawrenceville, GA 30244
Georgia ADA Exchange
4164 Admiral Drive Chamblee, GA 30341
Contact: Nancy Duncan, President
Georgia Association of Disability Service Providers In Higher
Coordinator of Disability Services Emory University
110 Administration Atlanta, GA 30322
Contact: Tricia Jacob
Georgia Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities
Division of Rehabilitation Services
2 Peachtree Street, 35th Floor Atlanta, GA 30303
Direct Line Phone: 404-657-3000(voice/tty)
Contact: Denise Wilson, Administrative Assistant
Georgia Commission On Equal Opportunity
710 International Tower, Peachtree Center 229 Peachtree Street, NE Atlanta, GA 30303-1650
Phone: 404-656-1736(voice); 404-656-9295(tty)
Contact: Mark Cicero, Division Mgr., Fair Housing Enforcement
Contact: Lisa Burroughs, Division Mgr., Equal Employment Enforcement
Georgia Department of Education
Division for Exceptional Students Department of Special Education
1870 Twin Towers East Atlanta, GA 30334-5040
Contact: Phil Pickens
Georgia Legal Services Program
1100 Spring St., NW, Suite 200-A Atlanta, GA 30309
Phone: 404-206-5175 (voice/tty)
Contact: Torin Togut
Governor's Council On Developmental Disabilities
2 Peachtree Street, Suite 210 Atlanta, GA 30303
Phone: 404-657-2126 (voice); 404-657-2133 (tty)
Contact: Eric Jacobson
604 Mathis Airport Road Suwanee, GA 30174-1008
Contact: Jon Burk, President
Parents Educating Parents and Professionals, Inc.
6613 East Church Street Douglasville, GA 30134
Fax: 770-577-7774 (GA only)
Contact: LaVerne Bomar
Parent To Parent Of Georgia, Inc.
2900 Woodcock Blvd., Suite 230 Atlanta, GA 30341
Contact: Laura Prough
Partners In Policymaking Atlanta Alliance on Developmental
828 W. Peachtree Street, Suite 304 Atlanta, GA 30308
Phone: 404-881-9777 ext. 215 Fax: 404-881-0094
Contact: David Blanchard
Protection And Advocacy System Georgia Advocacy Office
100 Crescent Center Parkway, Suite 520 Tucker, GA 30084
Phone: 404-885-1234 (voice/tty);1-800-537-2329(v/tty; GA only)
Contact: Olwyn Demarco
Shepherd Center Advocacy Coordinator
2020 Peachtree Road Atlanta, GA 30309
Contact: Mark Johnson
State ADA Coordinator Georgia State Financing & Investment
2 MLK Jr. Drive, SE East Tower, Room 1554 Atlanta, GA 30334
Phone: 404-463-6533 (voice) 404-657-9993 (tty)
Contact: Mike Galifianakis, Esq.
Tools for Life
2 Peachtree Street, Suite 35-415 Atlanta, GA 30303-3142
Phone: 404-657-3084 (voice/tty) Phone: 1-800-497-8665
Contact: Christopher Lee
United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Atlanta
3300 Northeast Expressway, Building 9 Atlanta, GA 30341
Phone: 770-676-2000 (voice/tty) Phone: 1-888-827-9455 (voice/tty)
GA only Fax: 770-455-8040
Contact: Diane Wilush
The Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers
These centers are funded by the U.S. Department of Education through the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) in ten regions of the country to provide resources and technical assistance on the ADA.
The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund ADA Hotline
This hotline is funded by the Department of Justice to provide technical assistance to the public on all titles of the ADA.
The Job Accommodation Network (JAN)
JAN is a free telephone consulting service funded by the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. It provides information and advice to employers and people with disabilities on reasonable accommodation in the workplace.
This project is funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation to provide ADA information and publications on making transportation accessible.
Southeast DBTAC UCP National Center for Rehabilitation Technology
at Georgia Tech
The U.S. Department of Transportation through the Federal
This agency offers technical assistance concerning the transportation provisions of title II and title III of the ADA.
The U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance
Board, or Access Board
This board offers technical assistance to the public on the ADA Accessibility Guidelines.
Balog, John N., H. Norman Ketola, Frank A. Varker, T. Thomas McInerney, and Robert E. Scott. Evacuation and Rescue of Elderly and Disabled Passengers from Paratransit Vans and Buses. (Cambridge: Transportation Systems Center, 1984).
Booz, Allen & Hamilton, Inc. and Synergy Consulting Services. Planning for the Phase-In of Fixed Route Accessible Buses. (Washington: Urban Mass Transportation Administration, 1982).
Brail, Richard K., James W. Hughes, and Carol A. Arthur. Transportation Services for the Disabled and Elderly. (New Brunswick: Center for Urban Policy Research, Rutgers University, 1976).
Bradsher, Julia E. "Disability Among Racial and Ethnic Groups." U.S. Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. Washington, DC, (January 1996).
Bryce, D. (Eds.), Multicultural Access: Disability Resources in the Washington Metropolitan Area. Washington: Howard University Research and Training Center, 1994.
Davila, Robert R. "Goals for Improving Services to Minority Individuals with Disabilities." OSERS News In Print: Disability And People From Minority Backgrounds, vol. 3, No. 4 (Spring 1991).
Dunham, Jerome R. Transportation and the Needs of the Disabled, Disabled People as Second-Class Citizens edited by Myron G. Eisenberg, Cynthia Griggins, and Richard J. Duval. (New York: Springer Publishing Company, 1982).
Gilderbloom, John I.; Rosentraub, Mark S. "Creating the Accessible City: Proposals for Providing Housing and Transportation for Low Income, Elderly, and Disabled People." American Journal of Economics and Sociology; July 1990; 49(3): 271-82.
Glenn, Eddie. "African American Women with Disabilities: An Overview." Disability and Diversity: New Leadership for a New Era. Washington: (Januray, 1995). Howard University Center for Disability and Socioeconomic Studies.
Katzman, Robert A. Institutional Disability: The Saga of Transportation Policy for the Disabled. Washington: Brookings Institution, 1996.
Kendall, Don, Robert Casey, David Koffman, and Joan Walker. Making the Difference: Transportation Alternatives for Elderly and Handicapped Persons. (Washington: Urban Mass Transportation Administration, 1979).
National Council on Disability. A Guide to Disability Rights Laws. (June 27, 2000).
National Council on Disability. National Disability Policy: A Progress Report November 1, 1998-November 19, 1999. Washington, DC. (May 15, 2000).
National Council on Disability. Lift Every Voice: Modernizing Disability Policies and Programs to Serve a Diverse Nation. Washington, DC. (December 1999).
Norrbom, C.E. Mobility & Transport for Elderly & Disabled Persons, Transportation Studies. New York: Gordon & Breach Publishing Group, 1991.
Odutola, Adeniji A. and Addis C. Taylor. "Services and Longevity of Paratransit Operation," Transportation Quarterly, 44 (January 1990).
Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Dept, of Labor. Americans With Disabilites Act, Focus on Transportation. Washington, DC (August 1993).
Pfeiffer, David. "MBTA Call-a-Lift Bus Program." Transportation Quarterly; April 1991; 45(2): 243-58.
Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development. Transport for Disabled People, Developing Accessible Transport: The Role of Demand Responsive Services. Paris: Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development, 1994.
Pfeiffer, David. Public "Transit Access for Disabled Persons in the United States." Disability, Handicap & Society; 1990; 5(2): 153-66.
Rennert, S. All Aboard: Accessible Public Transportation for Disabled Persons. New York University Law Review, 1988, 63: 360.
Smart, Julie F. and David W. Smart, "The Racial/Ethnic Demography of Disability." Journal of Rehabilitation, vol. 63, no. 4 (October/November/December 1997).
Tennyson J. Wright and Paul Leung, Meeting the Unique Needs of Minorities with Disabilities: A Report to the President and the Congress. Washington, DC, 1993. National Council on Disability.
Thornburgh, Dick. "The Americans with Disabilities Act: What It Means to All Americans." Labor Law Journal, 1990, 41(December): 803-807.
Thornhill, H.L. and D.A. HoSang, "Poverty, Race, and Disability." In Building Bridges to Independence: Employment, Successes, Problems, and Needs of African-Americans with Disabilities, edited by S. Walker et al., Washington: (1988). Center for the Study of Handicapped Children and Youth, School of Education, Howard University.
Walker, Sylvia, et al, An examination of the Impact of Federally Supported Community Services and Education Systems on Underserved People with Disabilities from Diverse Cultural Populations. Howard University Research and Training Center for Access to Rehabilitation & Economic Opportunity. (1996).
Williams, Katherine A. Civil Rights Act for People with Disabilities, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), (Rockville: TransCen, Inc.), 2001.
ABOUT THE EJRC
The Environmental Justice Resource Center (EJRC) at Clark Atlanta University was formed in 1994 to serve as a research, policy, and information clearinghouse on issues related to environmental justice, race and the environment, civil rights, facility siting, land use planning, brownfields, transportation equity, suburban sprawl, and Smart Growth. The overall goal of the center is to assist, support, train, and educate people of color students, professionals, and grassroots community leaders with the goal of facilitating their inclusion into the mainstream of environmental decision-making. The center is multi-disciplinary in its focus and approach. It serves as a bridge among the social and behavioral sciences, natural and physical sciences, engineering, management, and legal disciplines to solve environmental problems. The center's programs build on the work that its staff has been engaged in for over two decades.
Transportation Equity is published four times a year by the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University, 223 James P. Brawley Drive, Atlanta, GA 30314, (404) 880-6911, fax: (404) 880-6909, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Web site: www.ejrc.cau.edu.
Transportation Equity is a newsletter of the Atlanta Transportation Equity Project. Editor, Robert D. Bullard. Editorial Staff: Marie Green, Glenn S. Johnson, Ruth Neal, and Angel O. Torres. We welcome the submission of short articles, notices of publications, videos, conferences, and other announcements. Copyright© 2001 by the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University. [All rights reserved.]