The nation’s largest provider of intercity bus transportation has entered into a consent decree with the Department of Justice (DOJ) after allegations that it repeatedly violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the terms of the decree filed by the Justice Department in February of 2016, Greyhound Lines Inc., which serves more than 3,800 destinations and more than 18 million passengers each year across North America, will pay $300,000 in compensation to certain passengers with disabilities identified by the department and will retain a claims administrator to compensate an uncapped number of additional passengers who have experienced disability discrimination.
In the case, the United States alleged that Greyhound failed to provide full and equal enjoyment of its transportation services to persons with disabilities, in violation of Title III of the ADA, and that Greyhound’s discriminatory actions constitute a pattern or practice of discrimination and constitute discrimination against a group of persons that raises an issue of general public importance. Greyhound denied the allegations and asserted that it is and has been committed to complying with the ADA and to accommodating persons with disabilities. However, the bus service company agreed to enter into the DOJ’s decree voluntarily in order to devote its resources to continuing to improve transportation services to passengers with disabilities.
Under Title III of the ADA, requires that public accommodations must —
• Provide goods and services in an integrated setting, unless separate or different measures are necessary to ensure equal opportunity.
• Eliminate unnecessary eligibility standards or rules that deny individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to enjoy the goods and services of a place of public accommodation.
• Make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and procedures that deny equal access to individuals with disabilities, unless a fundamental alteration would result in the nature of the goods and services provided.
• Furnish auxiliary aids when necessary to ensure effective communication, unless an undue burden or fundamental alteration would result.
• Remove architectural and structural communication barriers in existing facilities where readily achievable.
• Provide readily achievable alternative measures when removal of barriers is not readily achievable.
• Provide equivalent transportation services and purchase accessible vehicles in certain circumstances.
• Maintain accessible features of facilities and equipment.
• Design and construct new facilities and, when undertaking alterations, alter existing facilities in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines issued by the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board and incorporated in the final Department of Justice title III regulation.
The consent decree, pending approval by the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, resolves the department’s complaint that Greyhound engaged in a nationwide pattern or practice of violating the ADA by failing to provide full and equal transportation services to passengers with disabilities.
The alleged violations include:
• Failing to maintain accessibility features on its bus fleet such as lifts and securement devices,
• Failing to provide passengers with disabilities assistance boarding and exiting buses at rest stops; and
• Failing to allow customers traveling in wheelchairs to complete their reservations online.
Accessology, a national accessibility consulting company located in McKinney, Texas has been warning private as well as public entities that they must become compliant under the ADA. The president and CEO of Accessology, Kristi Avalos, who has 35 years of experience in this field, points out that with the passage of the ADA over 25 years ago, the disability community is growing weary of agencies who violate the Act. As a result, the Department of Justice has been beefing up their reviews of entities which remain non-compliant under the ADA.
“We are over 25 years after the signing of the ADA and non-compliance has become more and more difficult to defend,” said Avalos.
“We recommend all entities accept that the law will not go away and insert compliance into their culture to ensure it becomes part of the fiber of development. This takes some up front thought and effort but becomes an embraced part of the intricate culture of every entity and makes all in the community feel important and welcomed.”
Under the terms of the agreement, the DOJ reports that Greyhound will compensate several classes of passengers who faced barriers because of their disabilities. Through a claims administrator, Greyhound will compensate individuals who experienced barriers based on disability during the three years prior to today’s filing. There is no cap on the number of individuals who may submit claims or on the total amount to be disbursed by Greyhound through this process. In addition, Greyhound will be required to pay a total of $300,000 among specific individuals identified by the department who experienced ADA violations. Greyhound will also pay a civil penalty to the United States in the amount of $75,000.
In addition, the agreement mandates that Greyhound implement a series of systemic reforms, including the following:
• Hire an ADA Compliance Manager;
• Require all employees and contractors who may interact with the public to attend annual in-person training on the ADA;
• Provide technical training to all employees and contractors on the proper operation of accessibility features of Greyhound’s fleet;
• Report every three months to the department on its compliance efforts; and
ensure that persons with disabilities can make reservations for travel, and lodge disability-related requests, through its online booking system.
• Individuals who experienced disability-related discrimination while traveling or attempting to travel on Greyhound buses during the previous three years may be eligible to receive a monetary award. The claims administrator for the fund will be posted on Greyhound’s website, and on the department’s Disability Rights Section’s website at http://www.ada.gov following entry of the consent decree by the court. Questions about making claims should be directed to the claims administrator.
“The ADA guarantees people with disabilities equal access to transportation services so that they can travel freely and enjoy autonomy,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Today’s agreement marks a major step toward fulfilling the promise of the ADA, and we applaud Greyhound for entering the consent decree.”
NOTE: Accessology is committed to seeing a world without barriers. As a result, Accessology assists private as well as public entities in the development of ADA compliant plans. Since accessibility is all Accessology does, the company is uniquely qualified to identify compliance gaps and offer comprehensive training. If you are in need for an expert accessibility consultant, contact Accessology today. www.accessology.com