For Immediate Release — January 13, 1998
Linda D. Kilb, Esq. (DREDF) (510) 644-2555
Mary Anne Reynolds (Amtrak) (202) 906-3860
Nationwide Settlement Reached in Americans with Disabilities Act Lawsuit
Berkeley, California — By this summer, Amtrak will introduce new discounts, reservations policies and publications that will make it easier and more economical for persons with mobility impairments to explore America by rail.
America’s national passenger railroad has announced that, in addition to its long-standing 15 percent rail discount for persons with disabilities, by June 1998 it will extend that discount to companions of persons with mobility impairments, lower the price of accessible bedrooms and, for the next three years, offer a 30 percent discount on accessible bedrooms to individuals with mobility impairments.
Amtrak reservation policies also are being refined both to make it easier for rail customers to get information related to access aboard Amtrak, and to ensure that wheelchair accessible sleeper rooms are actually available to passengers who need them. Up until 14 days prior to departure, accessible bedrooms will be reserved exclusively for passengers with mobility impairments who require one or more of the bedrooms’ access features. Only in the last two weeks before departure will persons without mobility impairments be given accessible bedrooms, and then only after all large bedrooms have been reserved.
Amtrak’s new pricing and reservations policies grew out of an amicable settlement of a class action lawsuit filed in 1996 by the Berkeley-based Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Inc. (DREDF) and the San Francisco law firm of Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe, LLP. As part of its public interest law work, Orrick joined DREDF, a national non-profit disability civil rights law and policy center, in seeking improvements in the cost and availability of wheelchair-accessible sleeping rooms and information about accessibility, among other things. Amtrak was represented by the Los Angeles office of Lane Powell Spears Lubersky LLP. The settlement still must be approved by a United States District Judge in San Francisco who will hold a hearing on May 1, 1998.
“We’ve believed all along that trains are the most accessible way to travel between cities in the United States, and we’re always glad to be shown how to make trains even more user-friendly,” said Rick Donnelly, Amtrak vice-president of marketing and sales.
“We are pleased that Amtrak saw this case as an opportunity to improve their services,” said DREDF attorney Linda D. Kilb. “The new reservation policies and low fares demonstrate Amtrak’s commitment welcome passengers with disabilities.”
As part of its commitment to being the most accessible mode of intercity transportation in the United States, Amtrak has in recent years modernized its passenger fleet and improved access at major stations.
Coaches on all Amtrak routes are accessible, and sleepers on long-distance Superliners and Viewliners offer special accommodations including maneuvering room for a wheelchair, accessible private restroom, grab bars and room service.
Amtrak travels to more than 500 destinations, including the nation’s most popular attractions – national parks, historic sites, busy cities and restful beaches.
Information on Amtrak routes and the modern trains that travel them is available in a colorful Amtrak Travel Planner, which can be requested by calling 1-800-USA-RAIL, 1-800-523-6590 (TDD/TTY), from a travel agent, or online at www.amtrak.com.