By Frank Kineavy
In response to a Justice Department complaint placed in mid-February, Greyhound Lines Inc., a bus transportation company serving over 3,800 destinations in North America, will reimburse passengers with disabilities on top of paying fines for allegedly violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The agreement is currently pending approval by the U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Delaware.
According to the case, Greyhound violated Title III of the ADA, which was passed just over 25 years ago. The allegations surfaced after Greyhound poorly maintained accessibility features such as wheelchair lifts and securement devices, as well as had inadequate customer service to people with disabilities, including neglecting to provide assistance getting on and off the bus. In addition, the bus service failed to provide online travel reservations for passengers using wheelchairs.
As a result of the deal made between Greyhound and the Justice Department, the company is required to pay specific individuals chosen by the Department a combined sum of $300,000. A civil penalty of $75,000 for neglecting to provide online travel options is also included. Greyhound is also hiring a claims adjustor to settle with any customers who experienced discrimination against their disability within the past three years. While the Justice Department has already identified the recipients of the $300,000, there is no cap on how many additional customers can also file a complaint if they have been discriminated against by Greyhound within the past three years as well.
According to the ADA’s website, Greyhound also agreed to several other conditions in the settlement, including hiring a person in charge of ADA compliance, mandating both an ADA training for all employees who interact with the public and a training on how to use the company’s accessibility features (both trainings must be implemented by April 30 and then take place every year) and making sure disability-related requests can be made via online reservations.
Greyhound will submit a report to the DOJ detailing its progress every three months.
The company, providing service to over 18 million passengers a year, denied violating the ADA and said it went into the agreement “voluntarily” in order to further easier travel for customers with disabilities: “We recognize the importance of making travel easy and accessible for customers with disabilities and we’re fully committed to ensuring that customers with disabilities have equal access to our services,” a statement from Greyhound said. “We’ve made numerous improvements over the years to make travel as convenient and hassle-free as possible and we will continue to make enhancements to our service that benefit customers who need extra assistance.”
Kristi Avalos, president and CEO of Accessology a Texas-based national accessibility consulting firm expressed her disappointment that “non-compliance has become more and more difficult to defend” even so many years after the signage of the ADA.
“We recommend all entities accept that the law will not go away and insert compliance into their culture to ensure it becomes part of the fiber of development,” Avalos said. “This takes some up front thought and effort but becomes an embraced part of the intricate culture of every entity and makes all in the community feel important and welcomed.”
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in response to the agreement, “The ADA guarantees people with disabilities equal access to transportation services so that they can travel freely and enjoy autonomy. Today’s agreement marks a major step toward fulfilling the promise of the ADA, and we applaud Greyhound for entering the consent decree.”