Thou Shalt Not Put a Stumbling Block Before the Blind: The Americans with Disabilities Act and Public Transit for the Disabled
64 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2006
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), ordered local governments to make bus and train systems more accessible to the disabled, and imposed costly requirements upon local public transit systems - but did not give local governments funds with which to satisfy this mandate. By reducing the funds available to transit systems, the ADA has sometimes forced cutbacks in transit service for everyone including, ironically, the disabled to the extent that disabled people were able to use public transit before the ADA's enactment). Thus, the ADA has occasionally (at least in times of budgetary austerity) been counterproductive. The ADA's inadequacy is rooted in its approach to transportation policy: rather than requiring that disabled transit users be made equal to the auto-using majority, that statute requires merely that disabled transit users be made equal to other transit-dependent Americans. It follows that if a state or local government is not interested in aiding the transit-dependent disabled, it can freeze the disabled out of the transportation system by slashing service for all users of public transit - even if it increases spending on highways and other driver-related services. Thus, government can and does make the transit-dependent disabled second-class citizens by making all nondrivers second-class citizens. This article critiques the ADA's inadequacy, and suggests a variety of possible solutions to the ADA's problems.
Keywords: disabilities law, transportation
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