The RTD Light Rail high block is a ramp structured for accessibility. The purpose of the high block is to create access to the train for people with mobility devices – mainly wheelchairs. High block use is also for individuals whose physical mobility impairment(s) make it difficult to use the stairs to access RTD’s light rail trains.
The high block is not required to accommodate devices that are not primarily designed or intended to assist persons with mobility disabilities. Devices such as: bicycles, skateboards, shopping carts, two wheeled scooters, luggage, strollers etc., are not designed nor intended to be used as a mobility devices based on a disability. Therefore, these types of items are not allowed on the RTD Light Rail high blocks. RTD Light Rail riders are also not allowed to use the high block for items they have difficulty getting on the train e.g. luggage, strollers, bikes etc.
In order to maintain our accessibility features (Light Rail high block), and for riders safety,RTD will take steps to ensure unobstructed access to the Light Rail high blocks for people with legitimate mobility devices and mobility impairments.
CCDC has reason to believe that RTD now intends to change this long-standing policy as set forth in a document RTD has circulated to the Advisory Committee for People with Disabilities that signals a great shift from this former policy. See Highblock Usage Whitepaper.
If RTD follows through or already has followed through with this policy change, this could very well mean that people who use bicycles, people with very large objects unrelated to mobility impairments, people with strollers and people with grocery carts and more would be allowed on the ramp and high block. If that is the case, CCDC is concerned that individuals who have legitimate mobility impairments and who use legitimate mobility devices (in RTD’s words) could be blocked from boarding a light rail vehicle. Moreover, it is unclear from the whitepaper where RTD intends for these individuals to place themselves once they board the lead vehicle using the ramp and high block. It seems the only available space would be the designated wheelchair-accessible areas which are required to be maintained as accessible and usable by people who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices.
CCDC and 17 CCDC members who use wheelchairs and mobility devices reached a settlement agreement with RTD in a lawsuit specifically addressing the accessibility of the designated required wheelchair seating areas. The settlement agreement required RTD to increase the size of the wheelchair-accessible areas on all of its existing trains and 129 new vehicles it was in the process of purchasing. See RTD Settlement Agreement and Light Rail Lawsuit. Feedback from CCDC members has been very positive about the changes made to the wheelchair seating areas.
CCDC is confused as to why RTD would suddenly change its long-standing policy that predated the lawsuit and settlement regarding wheelchair accessible seating to allow any person who does not use a wheelchair or other mobility device to block access to the ramp and high block and to sit in the only available seating section designated by the ADA for people who use wheelchairs and mobility devices. See Light Rail Lawsuit and Class Action Settlement. This policy change points light rail operators in an untenable position in trying to moderate who should be using the ramp and high block and sitting in what locations on the light rail vehicles. Light rail operators do not assist with seating in this area as a general matter. As CCDC understands it, light rail vehicle operators generally board passengers who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices by lowering the ramp at the high block, letting the person on, raising the ramp and reentering the operator cabin. RTD used to post signs on its light rail vehicles telling people with bicycles they could bring them on light rail vehicles, but they were specifically prohibited from having them behind the driver cabin or entering the trains using high block and ramp. CCDC would much prefer RTD maintain its long-standing policy barring individuals other than those with the legitimate need from using those areas.
If you have had or have any difficulties boarding a train because you are blocked by people on the ramp and the high block who are using the ramp in high block but do not have a mobility impairment or wheelchair, or if you have been prevented from accessing the required designated wheelchair seating area because people who are not using wheelchairs or mobility devices are occupying those spaces, we want to hear from you. The settlement agreement regarding designated wheelchair seating areas on light rail trains and other accessibility issues is still monitored by the CCDC Civil Rights Legal Program, and we want to hear from you.
If you have experienced either of these problems, please contact CCDC’s Legal Program Assistant at firstname.lastname@example.org. You will want to leave your name, the best contact information in time to reach you and best method. It is also very important that you keep track of the light rail line you are using when the incident happens, the exact time of day, what direction you are headed on that light rail line and whether you have already complained to RTD or anyone else. It is very important that individuals who experience the problem report the problem themselves rather than having someone else report it for them.
Thank you for your assistance as we continue to monitor the required accessibility of light rail vehicles for people who use wheelchairs and mobility devices. Remember, although RTD may use a slogan that states, “the ADA is everyone’s responsibility,” it is actually RTD’s responsibility under the ADA to make sure the designated wheelchair seating area is maintained so that it is accessible to those who need it.