WASHINGTON – The United States has reached a comprehensive settlement agreement with the city of Jackson, Miss., to improve access to public transportation for individuals with disabilities, the Justice Department announced.
The settlement, in the form of a consent decree, was approved by the city last night and is subject to approval by the U.S. District Court in Jackson. Under the terms of the decree, the city will maintain the wheelchair lifts of Jackson Public Transportation System (JATRAN), Jackson's fixed route bus system; adequately train personnel to properly assist passengers with disabilities; and meet its required level of service to passengers of Handilift, the ADA complementary paratransit service. The decree will be in effect for five years.
"Equal access to public transportation is a critical right that is guaranteed for people with disabilities, ensuring their ability to live independently in the community," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. "The department appreciates the city of Jackson's cooperation in resolving this matter and their commitment to moving forward with full accessibility of it transportation system."
In July 2009, the department intervened in an ongoing class action filed in September 2008, by 11 Jackson residents and two non-profit organizations on behalf of individuals with disabilities against the city and JATRAN. The department's complaint alleged that the city had violated Title II of the ADA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and their implementing regulations by failing to provide a level of public transportation services to users with disabilities that is comparable to those provided to individuals without disabilities.
The agreement requires that the city:
- Implement procedures for removing buses with inoperative lifts from service.
- Provide alternative transportation whenever an inaccessible bus lift significantly delays transportation for a rider with a disability.
- Ensure that no riders are stranded without transportation to their destination before shutting down operations for the day.
- Design, fund, implement and operate Handilift service to satisfy all requests for next-day service.
- Meet agreed upon performance standards for Handilift service.
- Designate an ADA Coordinator in the City Department of Planning and Development.
- Train all vehicle operators, mechanics, and office staff, including managers, reservationists and dispatchers.
- Implement a process for rider complaints.
- Conduct public outreach according to the settlement, including updating of user manuals and JATRAN websites.
- Obtain approval from the United States before implementing certain changes or revisions to services or policies.
- Record and report data on compliance with these provisions.
- Fund an independent monitor to assess the city's compliance with these provisions.
- Pay penalties for violation of these provisions, in the form of free vouchers to individual riders affected.
The ADA, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and their implementing regulations detail the requirements with which fixed route and complementary paratransit public transportation systems must comply.
"The department's intervention in this lawsuit will help to insure that Jackson residents with disabilities have greater access to employment, shopping, medical care, and other services which is possible only when public transportation is made more accessible," said Don Burkhalter, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi.
The full decree will be available on the department's Web site after it is approved by the court. Those interested in finding out more about this settlement agreement or a public transportation's obligations under the ADA can call the Justice Department's toll-free ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301 (voice) or (800) 514-0383 (TDD), access its ADA Web site at www.ada.gov, or access the Federal Transit Administration's ADA Web site at www.fta.dot.gov/ada.