Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Give it up!

By Lucinda Shannon

Sometimes it is hard for transit personnel to persuade passengers to yield their seats for people with disabilities and older adults, especially on a busy route. To ensure accessibility and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, all fixed-route vehicles must have designated seats for people with disabilities and older adults[1], though the operator cannot require a person with a disability or older adult to sit in that area[2]. Operators are required to request that passengers vacate priority seats if the seats are needed. They cannot, however, force a person to move from his seat. In addition to posting signs and holding driver trainings, some transit agencies are developing creative solutions to encourage passengers to yield their seats.

Bus riders in ghost costumes
Screenshot from The Muni Mash
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and Lane Transit District have found simple solutions to bring attention to reserved seating for people with disabilities and older adults. The San Francisco MTA Accessibility Advisory Committee (MAAC) created a three-minute music video to encourage passengers to yield bus seats to people with disabilities and older adults. MAAC produced the video in house with volunteers, including by having committee members, SFMTA staff, and students from the Access SF Unified School District program for transitioning students with developmental disabilities as actors. Annette M. Williams, manager of the SFMTA Accessible Services Program, shared the video with ESPA staff for Halloween.

The Muni Mash (full length, three minutes)
The Muni Mash (short version, two minutes)

Bus seats with the wheelchair symbol in the upholstery
Priority seating on an LTD bus
Another strategy to reserve seats for people with disabilities and older adults is to incorporate a sign in the transit seat or seat cushion. Lane Transit District, serving the areas of Eugene and Springfield, Oregon, reports that this is an effective way of reminding people to reserve those seats for people with disabilities and older adults. Through a little creativity and some community involvement, cities and towns can ensure that all transit riders are aware of their ADA responsibilities.

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[1] 49 CFR 38.27: “(a) Each vehicle shall contain sign(s) which indicate that seats in the front of the vehicle are priority seats for persons with disabilities, and that other passengers should make such seats available to those who wish to use them. At least one set of forward-facing seats shall be so designated. (b) Each securement location shall have a sign designating it as such.”

[2] 49 CFR 37.5(c): “An entity shall not require an individual with a disability to use designated priority seats, if the individual does not choose to use these seats.”

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