Thirty years after the ADA, there are still huge gaps in the transportation sector in many communities. Just recently, a group of people in Chicago were asked to pay $25,000 for a $16 ride. Representatives from Amtrak believed that they would have to accommodate more people than they could with wheelchair seating.
Access Living, which is a center for independent living, tried to book a trip for their staff, and then received $25,000 round-trip quote from an Amtrak agent. The agent stated that five of the ten people on the trip were in wheelchairs, and for those passengers Amtrak would have to remove seats to accommodate the wheelchairs. During previous trips, Amtrak removed seats to accommodate passengers who use wheelchairs. This time, however, Amtrak told Access Living that it could no longer afford to absorb the costs the company would incur to accommodate the additional wheelchairs, which resulting in the $25,000 quote.
Many disabled people and groups across the country were outraged by Amtrak’s response, and it did not stop there. Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth, who is disabled herself and uses a wheelchair, demanded to meet with the CEO of Amtrak. Due to public outcry by disabled advocates and some bad publicity, Amtrak reversed the decision and accommodated the extra passengers in wheelchairs, agreeing not to charge additional ticket fees for the trip.
Transportation for people who use wheelchairs is limited and this instance shows that even after 30 years following the passage of the ADA, we still have a long way to go for inclusion in transportation.
About Madonna Long: Madonna works as a disability advocate to educate policymakers and congressional leaders on disability issues. She is a mother to four children and lives life on her terms, despite a spinal cord injury. Click here to learn more about Madonna.