The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) establishes design requirements for various types of transportation vehicles. These requirements are known as the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Transportation Vehicles (Vehicle Guidelines). These guidelines provide criteria for new and re-manufactured buses and vans, rail vehicles, and other modes of public transportation. The Access Board develops the requirements as "guidelines" to serve as a basis for "standards" enforced by the Department of Transportation (DOT). Regulations issued by DOT (49 CFR Parts 27, 37, and 38) cover access to transportation under the ADA. These regulations indicate which vehicles are subject to the guideline-based standards .
What do the vehicle guidelines cover?
The guidelines cover buses, vans, rail vehicles, and other types of public transportation. The requirements for each vehicle type are explained in a series of technical assistance documents:
How were the vehicle guidelines developed?
Like most Federal regulations, the Vehicle Guidelines were developed under a rulemaking process that invites public comment through publication in the Federal Register. They were published in September 1991, as were the DOT regulations containing the standards. Changes and additions to the guidelines are also published through the same rulemaking process that provides public notice and the chance to comment. Note that any changes the Board makes to the vehicle guidelines do not become enforceable until they are adopted into the standards maintained by DOT.
How are the vehicle guidelines enforced?
Because the ADA is civil rights law, enforcement of its design requirements are not overseen by a local building code official. Enforcement of these requirements, and other provisions of the law, are enforced through private suit or by certain Federal agencies when discrimination is alleged. DOT enforces most of the ADAs transportation requirements.
"Is my copy of the Vehicle Guidelines current?"
To date, the original guidelines and DOT standards have been revised in one area: over-the-road buses. These are the types of buses that Greyhound and charter services use that have an elevated passenger deck over a baggage compartment. In September 1998, the Board and DOT issued new requirements for these types of buses. The new guidelines address design features that will make new over-the-road buses accessible to people who use wheelchairs and other mobility aids and include specifications for ramps, wheelchair lifts, and wheelchair securement devices. These provisions will allow passengers with disabilities to board and ride buses without having to transfer from their mobility aids. Boarding devices provided at stations can be used instead of vehicle-borne devices where vehicles operate between designated locations. At least two wheelchair securement locations are required on a bus. Consistent with the ADA, the guidelines do not mandate the provision of accessible restrooms but do provide advisory information for restroom access where an accessible restroom is provided voluntarily. The guidelines also update existing specifications for doors, steps, and lighting.
What lies ahead for the guidelines?
The Board plans to develop guidelines for passenger vessels, which are currently reserved. These guidelines will address ferries, excursion boats, and other vessels.