For Immediate Release — September 8, 2000
Linda D. Kilb, Esq. (DREDF)
(510) 644-2555 (Voice/TDD)
Vernaé Graham (Amtrak)
(510) 238-43680 (Voice/Relay)
Voluntary Agreement Reached in Americans with Disabilities Act Lawsuit
Berkeley, California — Beginning in Fall 2000, Amtrak guests with mobility disabilities using wheelchairs who ride Thruway Buses will enjoy consistent access advantages in California travel. The planned benefits were are announced today by America’s national passenger railroad, and by bus companies Serendipity Land Yachts and Antelope Valley Bus Company who operate Thruway bus service for Amtrak in California.
Guests who use common wheelchairs, including some scooters, who board dedicated Amtrak Thruway Buses will benefit from these existing services, which will include improved securement and restraint features and operating wheelchair lifts. While buses on most California routes have such features as of Fall 2000, the remaining routes are scheduled to upgrade their services over the next several years. California Amtrak Thruway Bus operators will also be expanding and standardizing the training provided to drivers and maintenance personnel to help ensure that access features remain in working order, and that guests consistently encounter respectful and courteous service.
will be greeted with securement and restraint devices, in addition to wheelchair lift equipment. Dedicated primary buses on most California routes will have such features as of Fall 2000, with a phase-in schedule for remaining routes over the next several years. California Amtrak Thruway Bus operators will also be expanding and standardizing the information and training provided to drivers and maintenance personnel to help ensure that access features remain in working order, and that passengers encounter respectful and courteous service.
“Amtrak has always worked with our bus companies in California to provide accessible service to our passengers with disabilities. We remain committed to doing so,” says Rick Peterson, Amtrak’s Director of Thruway Bus Service for Amtrak West. “Our agreement in this case will allow for further improvement and consistency in the services we offer to guests who use wheelchairs on Thruway bus services.”
Today’s announcement grew out of an amicable settlement of a class action lawsuit filed in 1998 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 Amtrak Thruway Bus access for persons using wheelchairs, including persons who use three- or four-wheeled “scooter” devices for mobility. A United States District Judge in San Francisco granted final approval of the settlement on September 8, 2000.”Amtrak has always worked with our bus companies in California to provide accessible service to our passengers with disabilities. We remain committed to doing so.” says Rick Peterson, Amtrak’s Director of Thruway Bus Service for Amtrak West. “Our agreement in this case will allow for further improvement and consistency in the services we offer to passengers who use wheelchairs on Thruway bus services.”
DREDF attorney Linda D. Kilb welcomes the benefits in store for California Thruway Bus passengers. “We’re pleased that Amtrak and the bus companies viewed this case as an opportunity to improve their services.”
The upcoming benefits are also endorsed by Betty Ingram, a scooter user and a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “This settlement recognizes the travel rights of people with disabilities, and I’m delighted that we have reached this agreement with Amtrak and the bus companies.”
Amtrak travels to more than 500 destinations in the United States, including the nation’s most popular attractions – national parks, historic sites, busy cities and restful beaches. Thruway bus service in California, with over 220 schedules a day, compleements that service and allows for even greater accessibility to Amtrak by our guests in California. Information on Amtrak routes, including Thruway bus service in California, 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.
Further information on the voluntary agreement should be addressed to the contacts listed above.