Please be advised that this document has not been reviewed for legal sufficiency by the U.S. Department of Transportation or the U.S. Department of Justice.
This document is part of a series devoted to increasing the understanding and awareness of the transportation provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The U.S. Department of Transportation is responsible for the enforcement of ADA transportation requirements. This information is intended solely as informal guidance. It is neither a determination of legal rights and/or responsibilities under the ADA, nor is it binding on any agency with enforcement responsibility under the ADA.
The requirements of 49 CFR Part 37 address the acquisition of accessible vehicles by public and private entities, requirements for complementary paratransit service by public entities operating a fixed route system and provision of nondiscriminatory accessible transportation service. Accessibility specifications for transportation vehicles are addressed in 49 CFR Part 38. Answers to the questions in this series are quoted directly from the transportation rules, with subsection locations shown in parenthesis.The ADA Transportation Regulations cover public entities operating a demand responsive system (that is, the typical taxi service). This document addresses some of the most common questions about Taxi and Limousine Services.
1. How is disability defined for purposes of transportation?
A person with a disability is an individual with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of the individual such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working. The definition also includes individuals with a record of such an impairment or an individual who is regarded as having such an impairment. (§37.3)
2. When is a transportation system "demand responsive"?
An advance request for service is a key characteristic distinguishing a demand responsive service. Systems, like a dial-a-ride van system or a taxi or limousine service, are clearly demand responsive. With demand-responsive service, an active step must be taken before the individual can access the service, e.g. the individual must make a telephone call.
Some services (e.g., certain commuter bus or commuter rail operations) may use flag stops, in which a vehicle along the route does not stop unless a passenger flags the vehicle down. A traveler staying at a hotel usually makes a room reservation before hopping on the hotel shuttle. This kind of interaction does not make an otherwise fixed route service demand responsive. On the other hand, we would regard a system that permits user-initiated deviations from routes or schedules as demand-responsive. (§37.3)
3. May an entity impose special charges on people with disabilities?
An entity may not impose special charges on individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs, for providing services required by the regulations or otherwise necessary to accommodate them. For example, if a shuttle service charges $20.00 for a ride from a given location to the airport for most people, it could not charge $40.00 because the passenger had a disability or needed to use the shuttle service's lift-equipped van.
Higher mileage charges for using an accessible vehicle would likewise be inconsistent with the rule. Charging extra to carry a service animal accompanying an individual with a disability would also be inconsistent with the rule. If a taxi company charges $1.00 to stow luggage in the trunk, it cannot charge $2.00 to stow a folding wheelchair there.
This provision does not mean, however, that a transportation provider cannot charge nondiscriminatory fees to passengers with disabilities. The taxi company in the above example can charge a passenger $1.00 to stow a wheelchair in the trunk; it is not required to waive the charge. This does not prohibit the fares for paratransit service which transit providers are allowed to charge. (§37.5(d))
4. Is a person with a disability required to travel with an attendant?
An entity may not require that an individual with a disability be accompanied by an attendant. However, the entity is not required to provide attendant services (e.g., assistance in toileting, feeding, dressing, etc.) (§37.5(e))
5. Are there any circumstances under which an entity may deny service to a person with a disability?
An entity may refuse to provide service to an individual with a disability because that individual engages in violent, seriously disruptive, or illegal conduct. If the entity legitimately refuses service to someone, it may condition service to him or her on actions that would mitigate the problem. For example, the entity could require an attendant as a condition of providing service it otherwise had the right to refuse.
However, an entity may not refuse to provide service to an individual with a disability solely because the individual's disability results in appearance or involuntary behavior that may offend, annoy, or inconvenience employees of the entity or other persons, but which does not pose a direct threat. For example, some persons with Tourette's syndrome may make involuntary profane exclamations. These may be very annoying or offensive to others, but would not be a ground for denial of service. Nor may the entity deny service based on fear or misinformation about a disability. For example, a transit provider could not deny service to a person with HIV disease because its personnel or other passengers are afraid of being near people with that condition. (§37.5(h))
6. Are service animals allowed on transportation vehicles and in transportation facilities?
Service animals are always permitted to accompany their users in any private or public transportation vehicle or facility. One of the most common misunderstandings about service animals is that they are limited to being guide dogs for persons with visual impairments. Dogs are trained to assist people with a wide variety of disabilities, including individuals with hearing and mobility impairments. In addition, other animals (e.g., monkeys) are sometimes used as service animals as well. In any of these situations, the entity must permit the service animal to accompany its user. (§37.167(d))
7. Are all transportation providers required to provide paratransit?
Only public entities operating fixed route systems must provide paratransit or other special service to individuals with disabilities. (§37.121(c))
8. Are taxi service operators required to purchase accessible vehicles?
Providers of taxi service are not required to purchase or lease accessible automobiles. When a provider of taxi service purchases or leases a vehicle other than an automobile, the vehicle is required to be accessible unless the provider demonstrates equivalent service. A provider of taxi service is not required to purchase vehicles other than automobiles in order to have a number of accessible vehicles in its fleet. (§37.29)
Other Sources of Information
Regional ADA Technical Assistance Centers: Toll-Free 1-800-949-4232 (V, TTY)
Federal Transit Administration ADA Toll-Free Technical Assistance Line: 1-888-446-4511 (Voice) or 1-800-877-8339 (TTY); http://www.fta.dot.gov/