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49 CFR Parts 37 & 38 - Department of Transportation (DOT) ADA Regulations

Appendix A to Part 37—Standards for Accessible Transportation Facilities

[56 FR 45621, Sept. 6, 1991, as amended at 61 FR 25416, May 21, 1996; 71 FR 63266, Oct. 30, 2006; 76 FR 57936, Sept. 19, 2011; 79 FR 21406, Apr. 16, 2014]

Sections 504(a) and (b) of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) require the Access Board to adopt accessibility guidelines; sections 204(c) and 306(c) of the ADA require the Department of Transportation to adopt regulatory standards “consistent with the minimum guidelines and requirements” issued by the Access Board. In the original 1991 publication of part 37, the Department complied with this requirement by reproducing the Access Board's Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) in their entirety as Appendix A.

The Access Board revised ADAAG in July 2004. ADAAG, including technical amendments issued in July 2005, is codified in Appendices B and D to 36 CFR part 1191. In order to avoid duplication of material that the Access Board has already included in the CFR, and which is now readily available on the Internet, the Department has adopted ADAAG by cross-reference in part 37, rather than reproducing the lengthy Access Board publication. However, there are certain provisions of ADAAG that the Department is modifying for clarity or to preserve requirements that have been in effect under the existing standards. Under the ADA, the Department, in adopting standards, has the discretion to depart from the language of ADAAG as long as the Department's standards remain consistent with the Access Board's minimum guidelines. In addition, this appendix provides additional guidance concerning some sections of the DOT standards as they apply to transportation facilities.

Section 201.1

The basic scoping requirement requires all areas of newly designed and newly constructed buildings and facilities to be accessible. Former §4.1.1(5) provided a “structural impracticability” exception to the requirements for new buildings and facilities. The Access Board deleted this exception to avoid duplication with an existing requirement to the same effect in Department of Justice regulations (see 28 CFR §36.401(c)). For consistency with the approach taken by the Access Board and Department of Justice, and to ensure consistency between facilities subject to Titles II and III of the ADA under part 37, the Department has added the language of the Department of Justice regulation to §37.41 of this part.

Section 206.3

This section concerns the location of accessible paths. The Department is retaining language from former §10.3.1(1), which provides that “Elements such as ramps, elevators, or other circulation devices, fare vending or other ticketing areas, and fare collection areas shall be placed to minimize the distance which wheelchair users and other persons who cannot negotiate steps may have to travel compared to the general public.” This concept, in our view, is implicit in the language of §206.3. However, we believe it is useful to make explicit the concept that, in transportation facilities such as rail stations, important facility elements are placed so as to minimize the distance persons with disabilities must travel to use them. This requirement is intended to affect decisions about where to locate entrances, boarding locations (e.g., where a mini-high platform is used for boarding), and other key elements of a facility.

Section 406.8

To maintain the status quo with respect to detectable warnings in pedestrian facilities, the Department is adding a provision (not found in the current version of the new ADAAG) requiring curb ramps to have detectable warnings.

Section 810.2.2

The Department recognizes that there will be some situations in which the full dimensions of a bus boarding and alighting area complying with the §810.2.2 may not be able to be achieved (e.g., there is less than 96 inches of perpendicular space available from the curb or roadway edge, because of buildings or terrain features). The Department is adding language from former §37.9 (c) of this part, which provides that “Public entities shall ensure the construction of bus boarding and alighting areas comply with 810.2.2, to the extent the construction specifications are within their control.” Where it is not feasible to fully comply with §810.2.2, the Department expects compliance to the greatest extent feasible.

We note that there may be some instances in which it will be necessary to make operational adjustments where sufficient clearance is not available to permit the deployment of lifts or ramps on vehicles. For example, a bus driver could position the bus at a nearby point—even if not the precise location of the designated stop—so that a passenger needing a lift or ramp to get on or off the bus can do so. To avoid the need for such operational adjustments, it is important to place bus shelters, signs, etc. so that they do not intrude into the required clearances.

Section 810.5.3

This section concerns coordination between rail platforms and rail vehicles. The Department is adding language from the former §10.3.1 (9) (Exception 2), which provides that “In light rail, commuter rail, and intercity rail systems where it is not operationally or structurally feasible to meet the horizontal gap or vertical difference requirements, mini-high platforms, car-borne or platform-mounted lifts, ramps or bridge plates or similarly manually deployed devices, meeting the requirements of 49 CFR Part 38 shall be permitted.”

In September 2005, the Department issued guidance concerning the relationship of its ADA and 504 rules in the context of rail platform accessibility This guidance emphasized that access to all cars of a train is significant because, if passengers with disabilities are unable to enter all cars from the platform, the passengers will have access only to segregated service. This would be inconsistent with the nondiscrimination mandate of the ADA. It would also, in the case of Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)-assisted projects (including Amtrak), be inconsistent with the requirement of the Department's section 504 regulation (49 CFR §27.7), which requires service in the most integrated setting reasonably achievable. This guidance states the Department's views of the meaning of its existing rules, and the Department will continue to use this guidance in applying the provisions of this rule.

The Department notes that a related section of 49 CFR part 38 has been the source of some misunderstanding. Section 38.71(b)(2) provides that “Vehicles designed for, and operated on, pedestrian malls, city streets, or other areas where level-entry boarding is not practicable shall provide wayside or car-borne lifts, mini-high platforms, or other means of access in compliance with §38.83 (b) or (c) of this part.” The Department has received some suggestions that this provision should be interpreted to mean that, if there is any portion of a system in which level-entry boarding is not practicable, then the entire system can use some method other than level-entry boarding. Such an interpretation is incorrect. The authority to use alternatives to level-entry boarding pertains only to those portions of a system in which rail vehicles are “operated on” an area where level-entry boarding is not practicable.

For example, suppose a light rail system's first three stops are on a pedestrian/transit mall where it is infeasible to provide level-entry boarding. The transit system could use car-borne lifts, mini-high platforms, etc. to provide access at those three stops. The system's next ten stops are part of a right-of-way in which level-entry boarding is practicable. In such a case, level-entry boarding would have to be provided at those ten stops. There is nothing inappropriate about the same system having different means of boarding in different locations, in such a case.

We also caution against a potential misunderstanding of the sentence in §810.5.3 that provides that “Low-level platforms shall be 8 inches minimum (205 mm) above top of rail.” This does not mean that high-level platforms are prohibited or that low-level platforms are the only design consistent with the rules. It simply means that where low-level platforms are otherwise permitted, such platforms must be at least 8 inches above the top of rail, except where vehicles are boarded from the street or a sidewalk.


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