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ADA Office Strengthens Commitment to Excellent Service On, Off Routes

The Americans with Disability act is a part of every day life. For the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority, the ADA encompasses the entire agency from the operation of Paratransit to the maintenance of the buses and streetcars.

“Every department is really informed by the ADA,” says Karen Wilson-Sider, ADA Compliance Officer at the RTA. “As an agency, we have to make sure that we are accessible in almost every way to employees with disabilities.”

The Americans with Disabilities Act grew out of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Whereas that act ensured equal rights for race and gender, employers and business could still discriminate against individuals with disabilities. It wasn’t until 1986 when the National Council on Disability pushed for legislation to protect the civil rights of the disabled. In 1990, the act was signed into law by George H. W. Bush.

Wilson-Sider says that the RTA has worked diligently since then to accommodate many disabled employees and passengers.

“In terms of our workforce, we aim to accommodate anyone with a disability. For example, we have installed light systems in the bus yard to help alert our deaf and hearing-impaired mechanics to when a bus starts to pull in or drive around the yard.”

For riders with disabilities, Wilson-Sider mentions, the buses have a lift system that tilts to the sidewalk when someone is entering or exiting the bus. Additionally, buses and the Canal, Rampart, and Riverfront streetcars have wheelchair ramps or lifts. For those unable to ride on the fixed routes, Paratransit is an alternative option, providing more specialized transit with The Lift, a smaller bus specifically designed for disabled and handicapped riders. Additionally, Paratransit serves as a standby service if a disabled rider tries to enter the bus or streetcar, but cannot.
“Sometimes we have an issue where the lift on a fixed route bus or streetcar malfunctions,” Wilson-Sider explains. “If the rider is in a wheelchair, for example, he or she might not be able to get on the vehicle. If another bus or streetcar with a working lift is not scheduled to arrive in the next thirty minutes, then we send a Paratransit vehicle to pick up the rider.”

Wilson-Sider adds that for any transit system to be successful, it must accommodate any rider at any time. “ADA is based on functional ability. That’s broad for a reason: every disability is different.  In order to give disabled riders the best transit experience, we must always listen to them so we can be of better service.”

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