Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition v. Regional Transportation District, 13-cv-02760-PAB-MJW
CCDC members with disabilities who use mobility devices are being denied access to RTD’s buses because of RTD’s policies, practices, and procedures, which allow large objects or strollers to occupy the securement areas.
CCDC has tried for many years to get RTD to implement policies that would fix this problem. RTD has drafted policies that, if followed, seem like they could work, but RTD does not seem to follow even its own policies. Unless passengers with wheelchairs argue with bus operators about who is occupying the securement areas, they do not get to board. Drivers simply say, “The bus is full.” And they leave passenger who uses a wheelchair at the bus stop.
The ADA prohibits RTD from denying or refusing rides to passengers who use wheelchairs. The securement locations exist because that is the only place on the bus designed with sufficient space to accommodate a passenger who uses a wheelchair.
This is the second time CCDC has filed a lawsuit against RTD for violations of the ADA. That case resulted in a Court Order requiring RTD to comply with the ADA and had CCDC providing training and monitoring services for five years. See RTD in Completed Cases for information about the prior lawsuit.
On October 10, 2013, CCDC filed a Complaint in Federal District Court. CCDC has had a long fight with RTD about getting access to the wheelchair securement areas. RTD’s policies let almost anything on the bus, e.g. strollers, packages, large items, luggage, ski equipment, and grocery carts. RTD’s latest policies say any of these items are allowed in the wheelchair securement areas. RTD claims bus operators are supposed to tell people with these large items they may have to move the item if a person using a wheelchair boards the bus. They are supposed to tell them WHEN THEY GET ON THE BUS! RTD’s policies say:
If the priority seating area is occupied, the rider using the stroller should proceed to the rear of the bus holding the stroller firmly at all times. The stroller must be collapsed and stowed if it is too large to fit in the aisle. They may need assistance locating or moving to an available seat. If asked to help do so pleasantly.
CCDC’s complaint alleges RTD does not follow these policies. Worse than that, RTD violates the ADA and its regulations. Those rules say a bus operator “shall ask [people] to move in order to allow the individual with a disability to occupy the . . . securement location.”
The complaint says RTD does not do this. What is the result? Passengers who use wheelchairs are left sitting at the curb. They must wait for the next bus. Meanwhile, people with large items like strollers are riding in the wheelchair securement area.
For some passengers who use wheelchairs who know the rules, they are forced to argue with bus operators. They must ask whether people in the wheelchair securement areas use wheelchairs. Then, sometimes the bus operator will ask people to move. That is a violation of the ADA. RTD says it is not an ADA violation if a passenger who uses a wheelchair has to “remind” a bus operator to ask the intruder in the wheelchair securement area to move. Most of the time, bus operators say “the bus is full.” Passengers who use wheelchairs have no reason to know whether the people sitting there need to sit there or not. There are only two wheelchair securement areas on the bus. Under RTD’s own policies, people with large items should move to the back of the bus. They can sit anywhere. Passengers who use wheelchairs have no choice.
On December 3, 2013, RTD filed a Motion to Dismiss. In this Motion, RTD claimed CCDC’s members who use wheelchairs cannot prove to the court that RTD’s new wheelchair securement policies will harm wheelchair users. RTD requested the court dismiss the Complaint. RTD said that it “was collaborating with CCDC to implement a Campaign” to fix its policy; “RTD has a policy that strollers are permitted on RTD buses but that the stroller must be collapsed if the bus becomes full;” and “passengers must be prepared to move towards the rear of the bus, and bus operators must ask passengers in the securement area to move for a passenger in a wheelchair.” RTD claimed that before the suit was filed it sent a letter with proposed new policies to CCDC for review and comment. They claimed CCDC filed suit instead of talking with them.
RTD does not get it. CCDC recently filed an Amended Complaint. The Court has not ruled yet, but you can read the original complaint. It shows CCDC already had to sue RTD once. It also shows that CCDC and its members have dropped everything they were doing on at least 4 separate occasions over a span of 8 years because RTD stopped enforcing policies we all agreed upon long ago. That is the problem. RTD’s “new” “share the ride” campaign fails to provide as much protection for passengers who use wheelchairs as previous policies did. In the last year, despite RTD claiming to have policies in place, CCDC members have had to argue with bus drivers and passengers routinely to be able to access the securement areas. CCDC requested records from RTD about other people who have complained about this. CCDC found RTD had 100 other similar complaints. You may read the case documents here. We will update as often as we can.
It has been resolved. See Settlement Agreement and Joint Statement below.