The ADA addresses transportation services provided by both state and local governments (Title II) and private businesses (Title III).
State and local governments often provide a number of public transportation services, including fixed-route bus systems, such as city or commuter buses that operate on designated routes according to established timetables; demand-responsive programs that use vans or buses to provide individually scheduled, destination-specific rides; and a variety of rail systems, such as light (streetcar-type) or rapid (subway-type) rail systems.
Public entities that operate certain types of fixed route systems must also provide complementary paratransit services for individuals whose disabilities prevent them from independently using the fixed route. Eligibility for complementary paratransit services is limited, but some individuals will be eligible even where the fixed route system (including vehicles) meets accessibility standards.
ADA-required complementary paratransit services must be comparable to the fixed route. Paratransit services must be available during the same days and times the fixed route operates. Fares can not be more than twice the amount charged for a comparable trip on the fixed route. Paratransit for bus routes must serve a “corridor” with a width of ¾ of a mile on each side of the fixed route and a “cap” with a ¾ mile radius at the ends of the route; for light and rapid rail systems, the paratransit service area is a ¾ mile radius around each station.
Private entities covered by Title III also offer many transportation services to the public. Sometimes providing transportation is a company’s “primary” business (like a taxi company) and sometimes it is an adjunct to another type of business (such as when a hotel, which is primarily in the lodging business, provides a shuttle service to a nearby airport). These services may operate on a fixed-route basis (with defined routes, stops, and schedules), or on a demand-responsive basis (taking individual passengers when and where they wish to go).
There are a number of obligations these transportation providers have under the ADA. There are requirements related to policies, operations, and communications with people with disabilities; there are also requirements related to the accessibility of vehicles and transportation facilities (such as depots and bus stops). Some requirements vary depending on the type of provider, the type of service, and the types of vehicles used.
Transportation services provided for employees (for example, a shuttle from an employee parking lot to the entrance of a workplace) are addressed by the employment provisions of the ADA, under Title I for private employers with at least 15 employees, or Title II for state and local government employers.
There are transportation services that are not covered by the ADA, although some of them are addressed by other laws. For example, transportation for students with disabilities in public elementary and secondary schools is addressed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and/or the Rehabilitation Act. Air travel is not covered by the ADA, but is covered by the Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA).
Documents and Resources
The ADA Document Portal includes links to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s ADA regulations, accessibility guidelines for various types of vehicles (buses, rapid rail, light rail, commuter rail, intercity rail, over-the-road buses, and others), fact sheets and articles on specific transportation issues, and interpretation letters from federal agencies.
Easter Seals Project ACTION provides information, publications, and training to transportation providers as well as individuals with disabilities.
Disability.gov/Transportation portal includes information on legal requirements, community planning and coordination, training opportunities, research, statistics, and funding sources to enhance accessible transportation options.
DREDF offers publications and training on transportation and disability issues.
The Transit Access Project from Meeting the Challenge (MTC) offers a comprehensive collection of materials, incuding:
Riders’ Guide to Public Transit for People with Disabilities (PDF)
Riders’ Guide to Public Transit for People with Disabilities (text)