Webinar: Amtrak Settlement Agreement

 

audio version (opens in a new tab)

 

 

Introduction

I have known for years that the train service

Amtrak

has not been fully accessible for wheelchair users. Consequently, I chose to attend a webinar about a recent

settlement agreement between Amtrak and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Hosted by the

Great Lakes ADA Center,

the April 29, 2021 event was entitled

Special Session: What You Need to Know about the Justice Department Settlement Agreement with Amtrak”. 

The link above provides presentation materials and event recording. Although my disability is blindness, I recognize the agreement’s crucial importance for those with mobility disabilities. In this blog post, I will summarize what I learned in an effort to get the word out about the Amtrak settlement agreement with DOJ.

 

Settlement Agreement Summary

The presenter is an attorney representing the

civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Access to transportation is crucial for people with disabilities. DOJ determined that Amtrak stations were not accessible for wheelchair users. Amtrak did not make its stations accessible by 2010 as the ADA required. A recent settlement agreement requires training of Amtrak employees about ADA requirements and compensation for people with disabilities negatively affected at particular stations. Amtrak is only responsible for accessibility under the ADA if it is owned by a private entity or Amtrak itself. An explanation of what the train service is required to do as a consequence of the settlement.

 

Amtrak will install display systems which include audio for accessibility. Amtrak must design at least 15 accessible stations per year during the next decade. 90 of those stations must be completely constructed by 2030. Amtrak must create and implement a process for handling disability complaints. Such complaints must be addressed within 4 days. If complaints made to Amtrak are not satisfactory, people are encouraged to file a complaint through

ada.gov.

The presenter then discussed how to seek disability-related compensation from the settlement.

 

Amtrak has established a $2.25 million settlement fund to compensate people with mobility disabilities. The time-frame covered is July 2013 to December 2020. The deadline to file a complaint is May 29, 2021. A complaint can be filed through

Amtrak disability settlement web site.

The site includes contact information and what data is necessary for complaint filing. To file a complaint, the presenter stated that a Social Security number is required for payment purposes. Information about disability is also necessary and confidential, as is information about any mobility device used. Accessibility barriers which may be consider include steps, parking space issue, narrow platform or insufficient signage. The presenter emphasized necessity of what the barrier was. Participants were encouraged to spread the word about this settlement. There was then a question and answer period.

 

Questions and Answers

DOJ welcomes complaints from anyone, including people who do not have a disability themselves. When stations are made accessible, the presenter anticipates that information about Amtrak stations will be updated accordingly. Anyone with station accessibility uncertainty can call Amtrak directly to inquire. Another person asked about accessibility of rail cars. Railroad car accessibility standards are through the U.S. Access Board and Department of Transportation. Someone asked if an accessibility complaint can be filed long-term. It was recommended to file a complaint at ada.gov. Bottom line: a significant settlement agreement has been reached with the goal of improving accessibility for Amtrak customers with disabilities.

 

Question

Question for readers: If you experienced disability-related difficulties, what happened? I will return with another article.

 

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