37.173  Training

Each public or private entity which operates a fixed route or demand responsive system shall ensure that personnel are trained to proficiency, as appropriate to their duties, so that they operate vehicles and equipment safely and properly assist and treat individuals with disabilities who use the service in a respectful and courteous way, with appropriate attention to the differences among individuals with disabilities.
A well-trained work force is essential in ensuring that the accessibility-related equipment and accommodations required by the ADA actually result in the delivery of good transportation service to individuals with disabilities.  The utility of training was recognized by Congress as well.  (See S. Rept. 100-116 at 48.) At the same time, we believe that training should be conducted in an efficient and effective manner, with appropriate flexibility allowed to the organizations that must carry it out. Each transportation provider is to design a training program which suits the needs of its particular operation.  While we are confident of this approach, we are mindful that the apparent lack of training has been a source of complaint to UMTA and transit providers.  Good training is difficult and it is essential.

Several points of this section deserve emphasis.  First, the requirements for training apply to private as well as to public providers, of demand responsive as well as of fixed route service.  Training is just as necessary for the driver of a taxi cab, a hotel shuttle, or a tour bus as it is for a driver in an UMTA-funded city bus system.

Second, training must be to proficiency.  The Department is not requiring a specific course of training or the submission of a training plan for DOT approval.  However, every employee of a transportation provider who is involved with service to persons with disabilities must have been trained so that he or she knows what needs to be done to provide the service in the right way.  When it comes to providing service to individuals with disabilities, ignorance is no excuse for failure.

While there is no specific requirement for recurrent or refresher training, there is an obligation to ensure that, at any given time, employees are trained to proficiency.  An employee who has forgotten what he was told in past training sessions, so that he or she does not now what needs to be done to serve individuals with disabilities, does not meet the standard of being trained to proficiency.

Third, training must be appropriate to the duties of each employee.  A paratransit dispatcher probably must know how to use a TDD and enough about various disabilities to know what sort of vehicle to dispatch.  A bus driver must know how to operate lifts and securement devices properly.  A mechanic who works on lifts must know how to maintain them.  Cross-training, while useful in some instances, is not required, so long as each employee is trained to proficiency in what he or she does with respect to service to individuals with disabilities.

Fourth, the training requirement goes both to technical tasks and human relations.  Employees obviously need to know how to run equipment the right way.  If an employee will be assisting wheelchair users in transferring from a wheelchair to a vehicle seat, the employee needs training in how to do this safely.  But every public contact employee also has to understand the necessity of treating individuals with disabilities courteously and respectfully, and the details of what that involves.

One of the best sources of information on how best to train personnel to interact appropriately with individuals with disabilities is the disability community itself.  Consequently, the Department urges entities to consult with disability organizations concerning how to train their personnel.  Involving these groups in the process of establishing training programs, in addition to providing useful information, should help to establish or improve working relationships among transit providers and disability groups that, necessarily, will be of long duration.  We note that several transit providers use persons with disabilities to provide the actual training.  Others have reported that role playing is an effective method to instill an appreciation of the particular perspective of one traveling with a disability.

Finally, one of the important points in training concerns differences among individuals with disabilities.  All individuals with disabilities, of course, are not alike.  The appropriate ways one deals with persons with various kinds of disabilities (e.g., mobility, vision, hearing, or mental impairments) are likely to differ and, while no one expects bus drivers to be trained as disability specialists, recognizing relevant differences and responding to them appropriately is extremely significant.  Public entities who contract with private entities to have service provided -- above all, complementary paratransit -- are responsible for ensuring that contractor personnel receive the appropriate training.