The Department of Justice and Amtrak, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, have entered into an agreement to resolve the department’s findings of disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the agreement, Amtrak will fix inaccessible stations and pay $2.25 million to victims hurt by inaccessibility at 78 stations, including several in Virginia.
Virginia’s Staples Mill Road Station sits atop of Amtrak’s high ridership stations with significant accessibility issues. Staples Mill has an overall annual ridership or 346,642 people, including many with disabilities who could not independently utilize Amtrak services there. Virginia has two other stations in the top 15 of ridership, Petersburg with an overall 31,563 annual ridership and Ashland at 29,077. Another Virginia station, at Clifton Forge, is on the list of inaccessible stations.
The disAbility Law Center (dLCV) was instrumental in contributing to this settlement, surveying every Amtrak station in Virginia and sharing those findings with the Department of Justice to demonstrate the barriers faced by people with disabilities.
“While rail travel is so important to many Americans, it has been essentially closed to people with disabilities. This agreement with Amtrak is an important first step to opening train travel for all.”
Colleen Miller, Executive Director of the disAbility Law Center of Virginia
To be eligible for monetary compensation, an individual must:
- Have a mobility disability;
- Be harmed physically or emotionally because of accessibility issues, including, for example, inaccessible parking; steep slopes or steps to get to the station; lack of directional signs; toilet rooms with inaccessible entrances, stalls, or sinks; high ticket counters; deteriorated platforms; and narrow routes at stations, at one or more the stations listed below between July 27, 2013, and Dec. 2, 2020;
- Have lived at, visited, or desired to visit a place closer to one or more of the stations listed below than an accessible, alternative Amtrak station; and
- Submit a claim form and declaration by mail, fax, email or online to the claims administrator by no later than May 29, 2021. Help is available from the settlement administrator for those who are unable to complete the claim form due to a disability.
Under the agreement, Amtrak has committed to make its intercity rail stations accessible, prioritizing stations with the most significant barriers to access. Over the next 10 years, Amtrak will design at least 135 stations to be accessible, complete construction at 90 of those stations, and have at least 45 more under construction. Amtrak will also train staff on ADA requirements and implement an agreed-upon process for accepting and handling ADA complaints.