Wichita Transit’s Comments on 2007 Draft Revisions to the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buses and Vans
777 E. Waterman St.
Wichita, KS 67202
Wichita Transit (WT) has relied on the definition of a “common wheelchair” to set forth the maximum permitted width, length and occupied weight of wheelchairs. With this information, coupled with advice from FTA and legal rulings from Court cases, WT has developed a policy setting forth that those persons applying for ADA paratransit eligibility, which use a wheelchair or similar mobility device that exceeds the weight and dimensional requirements of §37.3 of The ADA, have the potential of being seriously disruptive to the operation of the transit service.
Verification of the size and weight of a wheelchair or similar mobility device is accomplished as part of the paratransit eligibility determination process. For those clients with a mobility device that exceed the standards set forth in the definition of a “common wheelchair”, they are advised that paratransit eligibility will be granted when a mobility device that meets the standards of a “common wheelchair” is acquired for use on the paratransit service. When such a device is acquired, it is measured and weighed. If the mobility device does not exceed 30 inches in width and 48 inches in length and does not exceed 600 pounds occupied, eligibility is formally granted. This is done with the understanding that the compliant mobility device will be used when riding the paratransit service. This has worked very well. We have not received any complaints and no one has exercised their opportunity for a grievance hearing. There has been only one instance when the occupied weight of a wheelchair, which meets the dimensional standards of a “common wheelchair”, has exceeded 600 pounds. The occupied weight was 619 pounds. All other cases involved a wheelchair with a width of more than 30 inches.
Generally speaking, we believe the clients of our transit service understand that if a person must use a mobility device that exceeds the dimensional standards of a “common wheelchair”, then public transportation is not the appropriate transportation choice. They understand there is limited space on vehicles and that safety considerations dictate a maximum permitted size for mobility devices. They understand that the satisfaction level of other passengers may be adversely impacted by the additional time required in attempts to accommodate mobility devices that exceed the definition of a “common wheelchair”. They understand that this will cause schedule delays that will degrade the reliability of the entire transit system.
WT believes the wording of 1192.23(A)(2) maintains the existing width and length standards of a “common wheelchair. i.e., maximum of 30 inches wide (wheel rim to wheel rim) and 48-inches long measured (measured two inches above the ground from the widest part of the wheel to the footrest). However, these dimensional standards for a wheelchair or similar mobility device are accomplished by way of the wording for requirements for vehicles. WT believes that this approach sets the stage for confusion and misunderstanding. In addition, the text of 1192.23(A)(2) talks about space on the vehicle being of sufficient size for the turning of mobility device with “a minimum of back-and-forth movement”. What is to be considered a minimum? Two? Three? Four? What about a maximum number of permitted attempts to make a turn in order to help assure that the vehicle will not be unduly delayed during boarding and unboarding? Maintaining the current definition of a “common wheelchair” and not trying to carry those standards forth as part of space requirements for vehicles can avoid these questions.
If the DOT issues a ruling that transit providers must transport a mobility device that exceeds the dimensional requirements set forth in 1192.23(A)(2), WT believes the width of our lifts and ramps will limit the maximum width of mobility devices to 32 inches. The width of the securement area on our fixed route buses is only 65 inches. Two 32-inch wide wheelchairs will not fit into this area. Also, the farebox, modesty panels and wheel wells confine the width of the passageway on fixed route buses. A 32-inch wide mobility device may be able to make its way from the doorway to the securement area, however it risks damage to the vehicle and wheelchair, time delays, and the mashing of fingers. WT does not believe 1192.23(A)(2)’s requirement for a 36-inch wide path to the securement area is possible. The 36-inch requirement pertains to accessible routes in buildings. Vehicles are not buildings. For WT’s paratransit vans, two 32-inch wide mobility devices can be secured within the designated securement area. There is also much less risk for injury and time delays.
In conclusion, WT does not believe the definition of a “common wheelchair” should be eliminated. WT does not have an issue with raising the maximum occupied weight from 600 to 660 pounds. Experience leads us to believe that the dimensional requirements of §37.3 will continue to effectively limit occupied weight to less than 620 pounds. WT believes the wording of 1192.23(A)(2) will result in misunderstandings. It raises issues about the permissible number of back and forth motions. Also, unless buses are designed to be wider, WT does not believe a 36-inch wide passageway from the door to the securement area is possible. Provision of a 32-inch passageway may be possible, but WT does not believe such a width would fully accommodate the amount of space needed to turn a wheelchair wider than 30 inches.