The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), passed in 1990, covers a lot of ground when it comes to protecting the rights of people with disabilities to be treated without discrimination. People with disabilities want and deserve to participate in all aspects of the community, just like everyone else. It’s why so many different types of businesses are obliged to comply with this law and to provide fair and equal services.
One of these sectors is transportation. Whether people are traveling from home to work, or to school, or for leisure, they shouldn’t face undue barriers based on the fact that they happen to have disabilities.
Title III of the ADA bans discrimination in what’s known as “places of public accommodation” – that is, businesses that serve the public. According to the Department of Justice, Title III of the ADA extends to “private entities primarily engaged in transporting people.”¹ Title II applies to public transportation systems funded by the government.
The Department of Transportation issues the various regulations that help the transportation sector comply with the ADA, such as the Air Carrier Access Act.
The Benefits of an Accessible Transportation System
When people with disabilities have increased mobility, freedom and independence, they have a better quality of life. As the World Bank pointed out in a 2015 article, an accessible transportation system is fundamental to creating access to employment opportunities, education, and social activities. It also increases access to healthcare services.²
The benefits don’t end there. People with disabilities who have access to transportation are in a position to make a greater contribution to the economy, as argued by Lorenzo Casullo, an economist with the International Transport Forum at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). He points out that the removal of barriers also makes it easier for a wider range of people to use the transportation system, including those toting luggage or shopping bags, those traveling with young children, or those who have a temporary injury.³
What’s important to remember is that accessibility isn’t crucial only on the roads. Provision of a transportation service includes much more than simply transporting an individual, especially in this modern age of advanced technology. Like so many other organizations covered by Titles II and III of the ADA, transportation companies must think about whether or not they are providing a barrier-free online experience to people with disabilities.
The Full Range of Obligations
In 2015, the Department of Transportation released a circular entitled “Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Guidance.” Its purpose was to help public transportation companies understand their obligations under the ADA to accommodate people with disabilities, and that each transportation provider has “a responsibility to conduct its program in an accessible manner.” Accessible websites and mobile applications are listed as examples of usable services for people with disabilities. As the DOT points out, “Transit agency websites are a primary source of information for riders.”4
Some aspects of online service that could contain barriers include:
- looking up information like fares, policies, safety procedures, and answers to FAQs
- searching transportation schedules
- booking rides online
- paying for tickets or passes
- a submission process to transmit questions or other messages to the transportation provider
In a previous article, we described some examples of online barriers that could prevent a person with disabilities from using these services, such as form fields that aren’t marked up properly, or schedules that are published as inaccessible PDF pages.5
Aim for Level AA of WCAG 2.0 or 2.1
The Department of Transportation’s ADA regulations recommends providing a fully accessible website – as opposed to trying to meet its ADA obligations by finding some other way to provide accessible information. A major advantage, it says, is that: “Website accessibility also reduces the need for an agency to provide alternate formats on a case-by-case basis.”
The DOJ doesn’t include actual technical requirements for web accessibility, however. Fortunately, a reliable resource is available. Full web accessibility is generally accepted – not just in the U.S., but worldwide – as adhering to the technical requirements set out in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG),2.0 or 2.1, Level AA.
When you follow these requirements, you can be confident that all your web pages, online forms, and apps will be accessible to most people with most kinds of disabilities. To help you get started today, check out our WCAG 2.1 Checklist: an interactive compliance resource guide for digital experience and accessibility professionals alike.
Isn’t it time to get on board?
An Innovative Solution
Essential Accessibility has developed a comprehensive accessibility solution to help organizations follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and achieve and maintain compliance with standards and regulations. This includes integrating web compliance evaluation and remediation services with assistive technology to deliver a transformative experience for people with disabilities. Learn more about Essential Accessibility’s innovative solution.
- ADA Title III Technical Assistance Manual, ADA.gov
- For Persons with Disabilities, Accessible Transport Provides Pathways to Opportunity, The World Bank, December 2015
- The economic benefits of improved transport accessibility, Transport Policy Matters, June 2017
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Guidance FTA Circular 4710.1, Department of Transportation, November 2015
- Transportation Providers, Take Note: Web Accessibility is Part of the Journey, Essential Accessibility, August 2018