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H.R.2273 prohibits these operators from purchasing any vehicle capable of carrying more than 12 passengers that is not accessible to disabled persons unless they provide equivalent levels of service to disabled persons and the general public.
Although 5.933 has nominally separate standards for fixed route and demandresponsive systems operated by such businesses, both standards effectively prohibit such operators from purchasing any vehicle carrying more than 16 passengers that is not accessible to disabled persons unless they provide equivalent levels of service.
ITA believes that the 16-passenger standard is more appropriate, and urges this Committee to adopt the Senate language on this point. In addition, because these providers of incidental transportation service compete directly with private providers of taxicab and other demand-responsive service, the standard adopted here -- whether it be 12 passengers or 16 -- must be identical to the standard applicable to private, demand-responsive providers.
ITA's second concern regarding public accommodations is the liability of private, for-hire, demand-responsive operators who provide services under contract to public accommodations, including a wide array of both private and public sector clients. These may include, for example, private companies, hotels, and welfare and rehabilitation agencies. In these cases, the client company or agency controls the type of vehicle and frequency of service. For this reason, we ask this Committee either to amend the bill or to include language in its report to clarify that when services are being provided under
a contract between: 1) a public operator or a public accommodation, and 2) a private operator, accessible equipment need be used only to the extent required to ensure that the public operator or public accommodation is satisfying its duties under the Act.
Private Sector Providers
As applied to private sector providers of transportation service, such as taxicab and paratransit operators, H.R.2273 and 5.933: 1) require private sector providers to reasonably accommodate disabled passengers through changes in policies and practices, including the addition of auxiliary services (other than hydraulic or other lifts); and 2) prohibit private providers from purchasing or leasing any new vehicle (other than an automobile or over-the-road bus) that is not wheelchair accessible. The Senate bill also would exempt providers from the full accessibility requirement if the provider is otherwise able to provide disabled persons with service equivalent to that provided to the general public.
ITA supports these rules, but requests that the Committee amend the bill to define an "automobile," which the Senate failed to do. Consistent with the Federal Highway Safety Act, ITA recommends that any vehicle whose capacity is 16 or fewer passengers should be treated as an automobile.
In addition, this Committee should adopt the Senate bill's "equivalent service" provision, which recognizes that demand-responsive providers should not be required to purchase more expensive equipment than is required to actually
provide equivalent service to disabled persons. To require all non-automobile vehicles to be equipped to serve disabled persons who only require a small portion of the service would unnecessarily increase transportation costs for disabled persons and the general public alike.
This provision also would recognize the special opportunities and characteristics
of the demand-responsive transportation provider. These providers are usually
easily able to provide equivalent levels of service to disabled persons
because the trip normally begins with a call from the passenger, who can notify the dispatcher of any special needs. Knowing this need, the dispatcher
is then able to ensure that the driver who takes the call is equipped and able
to provide the required service. Such a driver tends to be sensitive to and enthusiastic about serving disabled persons, and therefore provides better service than might otherwise be available.
Equivalent Level of Service
ITA has three concerns about the definition of the phrase, "equivalent level
of service." First, even if the term "automobile" is appropriately defined,
and if this Committee adopts a provision allowing private operators to purchase
non-automobile vehicles if they provide equivalent levels of service to
disabled persons, the bill
the Conmittee report should clarify that providing
an "equivalent level of service" does not require that the operator use the
same type of vehicle. Thus, for example, if a small operator has 15 taxicabs
and 2 non-automobile vans, and neither of the vans is wheelchair equipped, the
operator may satisfy his obligation to provide an "equivalent level of service" by providing transportation in a taxicab instead of a van.
Second, when a system is viewed in its "entirety" to determine whether it provides equivalent or comparable service, allowances should be made for unusual circumstances which temporarily prevent an operator from rendering equivalent or comparable service to any particular disabled person. Assume, for example, that an operator who ordinarily provides service to non-disabled persons in 15 minutes and to disabled persons in 30 minutes is treated as providing comparable service. If the service to disabled persons were ordi. . narily provided only after 60 minutes, ITA agrees that the service would not be comparable. However, unusual circumstances, such as a vehicle being out of service, extreme weather conditions, an unusually high demand in a short period of time or a local convention of disabled people, could increase waiting times for disabled persons during the extraordinary event. Likewise, a wrecked vehicle, extreme weather, high demand, or a local convention could create delays for non-disabled passengers. If service waiting periods for disabled persons are unusually long for the period of time that coincides with the disruptive event, the operator should not be considered to be discriminating against those disabled persons who, like other consumers, may on occasion be required to wait longer than usual for transportation service.
Third, some small, private operators may operate only non-automobile vans, none of which are wheelchair equipped. These operators should be permitted to satisfy their obligations to provide equivalent levels of service to disabled persons by contracting with other providers who either operate wheelchairequipped vans or taxicabs. In such a case, the vehicles available under the contract would be treated as part of the small operator's "system."
ITA also wishes to make the Committee aware of its concerns about the effect of the bill's prohibitions against employment discrimination in the for-hire vehicle industry, particularly in the case of applicants for positions as
drivers. While both H.R.2273 and S.933 include provisions that permit employers
to take into account qualification and performance standards that are both "necessary and sutstantially related to an individual's ability to perform the tasks required in a job, these provisions or the Committee Report should be drafted to ensure that compliance with other state or municipal safety rules, such as state laws governing commercial drivers, should be sufficient to satisfy the operator's duty under the Act.
In conclusion, the private sector, demand-responsive, for-hire vehicle industry (taxicabs, limousines, liveries, vans and minibuses) fully endorses the intent and broad scope of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1989. Taken together, H.R.2273 and S.933 provide an excellent framework for ensuring the inclusion of disabled persons in all parts of American life. The following recommenda
tions are made not to change this historic legislation, but to improve it in a
manner that will assure the equitable sharing of burdens by all parts of the public transportation industry,
Define the term "automobile," preferably to include any