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FROM: Jeffrey D. Webster, General Manager
SUBJECT: Rural Transit Response to Americans with disabilit!es Act

of 1989 - Congressional Testimony Since its formation ten (10) years ago this month, the fresno County Rural Transit Agency (FCRTA) has been committed to providing accessible general public translt services to the rural population within Fresno County that lives beyond the urbanized Fresno-Clovis Metropolitan Area (FCMA).

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Our emphasis has focused the needs of the transportation disadvantaged, specifically: elderly, handicapped and low-income residents within thirteen (13) rural incorporated cities that range in population from 2,000 to 15,000 residents and anothe: dozen unincorporated communities small 100 residents. These individuals rely on our ninety percent (90%) subsidized services to travel within their communities and to and from the urbanized PCMA.

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Our services are provided as sixteen (16) coordinated transit subsystems. Our service area encompasses 6,000 square miles.

We opezated single and multiple vehicles in both Eixed route, with route deviation to pick up the handicapped, and demand response modes. Inter-city transportation is available through a number of cities non-wheelchair accessible

carrier busses (Greyhound and Orange Belt Stage Lines). We provide accessible back-up services that duplicate their routes to facilitate trail elderly and handicapped individuals that

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be able to negotiate the steps of a common carrier coach bus. Our service routes are up to sixty-five (65) miles in each direction. Once in the urbanized area, our patrons may transfer to urban transit operators, the air terminal, o2 Amtrak service. Unfortunately, their services are not fully accessible.

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From our initial goals and policies development, we have felt that there is no excuse for not planning and budgeting for a fleet of

A JOINT POWERS AGENCY TO PROVIDE A COORDINATED TRANSIT SYSTEM FOA AURAL FRESNO COUNTY THE CITIES OF CGALINGA FIREBALG. FCNLER, HURCH. KEAMAN. *S2LP VE VOCTA, CO NG MYE. PAALER, REFOLEY. SANGER. SAHI JOAQUIN. SELMA S FRESNO COUNTY

wheelchair accessible vehicles. Our fleet has included a half dozen different makes, models, and sizes. In each case, we found that installation

suitable wheelchair lifts could be accommodated for between $2,500 to $7,000 including any structural engineering modification that may have been necessary. Currently, we operate twenty-nine (29) vehicles consisting of twenty-seven (27), fifteen (15) passenger type domestic vans and two 12), thirty (30) passenger coach busses. Maintenance of the equipment has not posed any particular problems. We are fortunate to have authorized dealers within the metropolitan area; two of which are qualified Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE) that were founded by handicapped individuals. Our annual ridership has grown to approximately 250,000 trips. Frail, elderly and handicapped patzons account for forty percent (40%) of our services, and the figures continued to grow in this category by at least three percent (3%) annually. Our handicapped patrons comprise representatives of every disability that can access public services. Alternative social service transportation is also available within our County. A majority of such services

provided, or coordinated, by the Fresno County Economic Opportunities Commission (FCEOC), as the designated consolidated Transportation Service Agency (CTSA). They are responsible for another 260,000 such trips annually.

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In summary, I should emphasize that we are the only alternative for many of our patrons who may wish to travel within and between communities. то be anything but one hundred percent (100%) accessible, would be irresponsible. To contend with such responsibility, is in our opinion, more expensive than the cost associated with full accessibility.

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Mr. MINETA. Let me, at this point, call on Mr. Oral 0. Miller, national representative, American Council of the Blind.

Mr. Miller, your statement will be made a part of the record. If you will go ahead and summarize in your own fashion, sir.

TESTIMONY OF ORAL O. MILLER, NATIONAL REPRESENTATIVE,

AMERICAN COUNCIL OF THE BLIND Mr. MILLER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, especially at this late hour. My name is Oral Miller. I am the National Representative of the American Council of the Blind, which is the largest membership organization of blind people in the United States.

The American Council is made up of 50 state or regional affiliates or chapters, as well as 21 national special interest organizations, which are established along professional, vocational or some other common interest line. In short, our members come from throughout the United States, from all age brackets and from all walks of life.

My remarks today are going to focus on three areas; the fixedroute service, special service, and facilities that are to be accessible in connection with transportation.

First, regarding fixed-route service; Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act considers as discrimination the purchase or lease of fixed-route vehicles if such are not readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs.

Although we certainly do not, and I emphasize—we do not object to any requirements in this act that will make vehicles accessible to people using wheelchairs—we do continue to have some concern about the use throughout the bill of the term, "accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities" including individuals who use wheel chairs simply because we believe that many of those references might, some day, tend to create the impression, when this bill is being construed, that the main purpose of the bill was to remove architectural or similar physical barriers.

We all know here, of course, that that absolutely is not the intent of this bill.

There are, perhaps, no physical modifications that are absolutely necessary in transportation vehicles to enable blind people to use them. However, there are a few simple and extremely inexpensive modifications or accommodations that would immensely improve the usefulness of vehicles for blind people.

Some of these would include such items as loud speakers; that is a loud speaker outside a vehicle that would enable an operator to provide information about route destinations and so forth to a waiting blind passenger or perhaps a loud speaker inside the vehicle in order to enable the operator to inform a blind passenger, or other passengers as well, concerning information they might want.

Another example could be larger and more legible outside signage on the vehicle in order to help visually-impaired people, as well as the general public, in identifying the route destination, et cetera, of that vehicle.

In recent years, we have made a number of recommendations to the Department of Transportation concerning these and other inexpensive accommodations and even simple changes in operating procedures that would make fixed-route service much more accessible and helpful to blind people. But, to date, we have not seen any regulations to achieve these ends.

In order to make it clear that the Americans With Disabilities Act is intended to protect all disabled people, regardless of the nature of the disability, and in order to eliminate the temptation in the future to provide what I am going to call one-size-fits-all service to disabled people, regardless of the nature of the disability; we recommend that clarifying language should be included, preferably in the bill, or if not in the bill, at least in the report, to the effect that the Americans With Disabilities Act is to be construed so as to bar discrimination faced by all disabled people and that nothing in the bill is to be construed to require disabled people to accept any accommodation or service that is inappropriate or which they don't want.

Regarding the second topic, which is the special service, Title II of the ADA would also require a public transit entity to provide special or paratransit service to disabled people who can't use fixed-route service. We have heard a lot of discussion on that today.

The senate report on this subject is very clear in saying that this service should be made available to all disabled people who are not able to use fixed-route service and that local transportation authorities should get meaningful input from all sectors of the disabled community in establishing service eligibility criteria.

Because of some unfortunate wording in the Department of Transportation regulations a few years ago, a number of local transportation authorities, including at least one who testified here earlier today, ruled that blind people, as a class, are automatically not eligible for special service because they are physically able to walk to bus stops or to train stations and then physically able to get on and get off of the bus or the train.

This position ignores the reality, as pointed out, I believe, by the gentleman from Milwaukee, earlier, that there are other factors that may make it difficult, and in some cases almost impossible, and, perhaps, dangerous for some blind people to get to fixed-route stations.

In referring to the difficulty encountered by many mobility-impaired people to get to fixed-route service, it is interesting that the Senate Report on this subject referred to the lack of curb cuts as one of those barriers.

Some of the conditions which could be at least serious obstacles for blind people could include such things as the need to cross, perhaps, a very busy, wide highway having no traffic controls. It could involve something as apparently simple as the unexpected unavailability of a guide dog which the traveler has been accustomed to using, especially if his other travel skills are not as good as they should be. Or it could include such as thing as the existence of a secondary handicap, though maybe a temporary one, such as reduced hearing, that could impair a blind person's mobility skills.

We believe that blind people should be encouraged to live as independent lives as possible. And we also believe they should be given appropriate orientation and mobility training to enable them to do that.

Unfortunately, though, the reality is that there may be some unique features in the community that make independent mobility for even the better-trained and the more mobile blind people difficult. The reality is that there are differences in the levels of independent mobility among blind people.

The reality is that, in some cases--for example, in the case of people who lose their eyesight at an older age-in some cases, such people do not attain the degree of confidence or skill which is attained by other blind people. And, in general, there will always be some cases where special service will, probably, be appropriate.

For these reasons, we believe that the report should make it clear that blind people are either eligible or, at least, that they are not to be automatically considered ineligible, for special service if they choose to use it and if they meet other service requirements.

Regarding my third topic, the question of accessible facilities, Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act provides that new transportation facilities shall be accessible and, generally speaking, that the transportation activities conducted in connection with them will also be accessible.

There are a number of inexpensive and very useful accommodations that can be made to transportation facilities that will make them far more useful and accessible to blind people. Among these are such things as, much better lighting for the use of visually-impaired people and the general public; clearer and more legible signage for the use of visually-impaired people and the general public; appropriately-placed brain instructions, for example on fare-card machines or other devices in stations; tactile route maps and destination information.

Another example would be appropriately-placed tactile markers in clear, contrasting colors and made of a suitable material in order to give directional or locational information to blind travelers such as along platform edges or, perhaps, near escalators or fare gates or at other appropriate places.

Another simple modification or improvement or accommodation would be greatly-improved information systems, by telephone and by loudspeaker. Such systems, of course, would be extremely helpful to the general public, also.

We recognize that some people believe that tactile markers for orientation and mobility purposes should not be used for a variety of reasons. Again, that reality is that not all blind people have the same degree of mobility skills. Also, there may be temporary conditions such as construction, very loud noises, et cetera, that may temporarily impair a blind person's mobility skills.

And, also, although we wish it were not true, some blind people may not always be 100 percent attentive—this is the same as with all other travelers-may not be 100 percent attentive as to conditions around them, especially when they are in a hurry.

In some cities, in recent years, such as in San Francisco, Washington, New York and Boston, there have been a number of accidents involving an apparently high percentage of blind people falling off subway platforms. Both in connection with this and, perhaps, unrelated to this, too, a number of studies have been undertaken to determine whether appropriate tactile markers would reduce the risk of such accidents.

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