Train Operator Amtrak Agrees to Pay $2.25 Million to Passengers With Disabilities Over Inaccessible Stations

By Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts is a news writer for The Epoch Times, focusing primarily on the United States, world, and business news.
January 13, 2022Updated: January 13, 2022

Train operator Amtrak has agreed to pay $2.25 million to more than 1,500 people and fix inaccessible stations as part of a disability discrimination complaint, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday.

The DOJ filed a complaint against Washington, D.C.-headquartered Amtrak in December 2020 over alleged violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

Under the ADA, enacted by Congress in 1990 “to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities,” Americans with disabilities must not be discriminated against in a number of areas, including employment, transportation, public accommodations, and communications, among others.

The act gave Amtrak until 2010 to comply and make its stations accessible for individuals with disabilities.

The DOJ said it opened an investigation into Amtrak after receiving complaints from disabled individuals in 2011 and 2012 who alleged that certain Amtrak stations were inaccessible.

The DOJ said it has also received a complaint from the National Disability Rights Network, the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy Systems and Client Assistance Programs for individuals with disabilities in 2013. They alleged that Amtrak stations across the United States were inaccessible to disabled individuals, including to those who use wheelchairs.

Among the complaints were issues regarding a lack of wheelchair access at stations, a lack of ramps at the entrance of stations, high ticket counters, inaccessible telephones, inaccessible bathrooms, and broken lifts at stations.

Amtrak operates some 500 stations in 46 states and the District of Columbia and is “responsible for the accessibility aspects of over 400 of the approximately 514 stations it serves,” the DOJ notes.

The DOJ found that Amtrak had not only discriminated against persons with disabilities but had also violated the ADA by “incorrectly classifying stations as ‘flag stop’ stations and thereby avoiding responsibility to make those station facilities accessible.”

Roughly 78 stations across the United States were inaccessible, the DOJ said.

Amtrak train
An Amtrak train is parked at the platform inside Penn Station in New York City on July 7, 2017. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters File Photo)

Under Amtrak’s agreement with the DOJ, the company has pledged to make its intercity rail stations accessible, and will prioritize stations with “the most significant barriers to access.”

Over the next 10 years, the train operator has also agreed to design at least 135 stations to be accessible for individuals with disabilities, will complete construction at 90 of those stations, and have at least 45 more under construction.

The company will also train all its staff on ADA requirements and “implement an agreed-upon process for accepting and handling ADA complaints,” the DOJ said, noting that Amtrak has recently established an Office of the Vice President of Stations, Properties & Accessibility to coordinate its compliance with the ADA.

Furthermore, the passenger railroad service will compensate victims who were unable to access the stations when traveling by train via a $2.25 million settlement fund.

“Individuals with mobility impairments who traveled or desired to travel at 78 specified stations with significant accessibility issues may be compensated from the settlement fund,” the DOJ said.

“Transportation is the linchpin of access for people with disabilities to the full economic, social, and cultural benefits of our country,” said Eric Dreiband, assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division. “Amtrak failed or refused to comply with the Congressionally-mandated 2010 deadline, and Amtrak’s noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act injured individuals with disabilities.”

“Passengers with disabilities have waited long enough,” Dreiband said. “Today’s agreement is a historic victory for individuals with disabilities, Amtrak, the rule of law, and the promise of equal opportunity for all Americans. We welcome Amtrak’s commitment today to bring its system into compliance with the law so that all individuals have an equal opportunity to barrier-free rail transportation.”

An Amtrak spokesperson told Newsweek the company had “made significant progress in bringing numerous facilities into higher levels of accessibility ” and planned to “spend more than $143 million in 2022 on accessibility planning and construction to more than 43 additional stations.”

The Epoch Times has contacted an Amtrak spokesperson for comment.

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