Effects of the Americans With Disabilities Act in Regards to Transportation Term Paper

Pages: 20 (7069 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 12  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: Transportation

Transportation and the Effects of the Americans With Disabilities Act

In a society concerned, above all, with inclusiveness, the Americans with Disabilities Act is designed to improve the lives of those with physical or mental impairments. Passed in 1990, the act was intended as yet another step in the fulfillment of the promise of civil rights for all that was enshrined in various civil rights acts, notably in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

While the earlier pieces of legislation addressed primarily discrimination on the basis of race, religion, and gender, the Americans with Disabilities Act took into consideration the special challenges faced by those with physical and mental handicaps that precluded their full participation in everyday life.

Disabled individuals face numerous difficulties in public life, at work, at school, at home - even in simply getting around. They often require custom arrangements in houses and apartments, or need the assistance of specialized devices at work. Many cannot travel on their own. A significant problem faced by many impaired persons is their inability to use public transportation. The blind and the deaf are not be able to drive, while those lacking the use of limbs may not be able to operate a vehicle. Still, public bus and train systems, and similar facilities, are often inaccessible to these same individuals. The visually-impaired have troubled navigating through complex subway systems. They cannot read maps or signs. Those unable to walk might not be able to maneuver up stairs or through narrow passageways and turnstiles, or even gain entry to a bus, train, or airplane. The Americans with Disabilities Act was designed to address these and similar problems.

As regards public transportation, the Americans with Disabilities Act is specifically concerned with making these facilities accessible to all Americans. Freedom of movement means freedom of opportunity. By enabling the physically and mentally impaired to use public transportation, the act gives them some measure of control over their own lives. No longer dependent on the constant assistance of others, even when going from place to place, they can make their own choices about work, school, shopping, and other day-to-day activities. Independence is important tin building self-esteem and self-respect. By taking control over their own choices, disabled men, women, and children, become happier and more productive individuals. The Act helps them by making the resources that are available to other Americans available to them as well. They are no longer excluded from the transportation alternatives that form a part of the lives of millions of others. Together with a sense of personal achievement; therefore, there is a sense of belonging, a sense of being a full and equal part of the "American family." The legal notion that the Americans with Disabilities Act affords equal access to transportation is based on a fundamental interpretation of the principles of civil rights law:

Consider the term "public" in public transit. By Federal law this has always meant that every single Federally funded transit vehicle in service must be available to anyone. Like police protection, public schools, and fire protection, the doors of public transit are equally open to all. If anyone is denied access to any transit vehicle, the Federal government is required by law to demand a refund of its share of the vehicle's fair market value -- because the vehicle is no longer in public use as stated in the Federal grant agreement.

As such transportation is a public resource, it cannot be denied to any member of the public based on any of the criteria that are protected under applicable civil rights legislation. Their right safeguarded by the law, disabled men, women, and children, must enjoy access to the identical transportation facilities that are provided to those members of society who do not suffer from any physical or mental impairment. The Act's stipulation of equal treatment is self-evident.

Nonetheless, numerous arguments have been raised against compliance with the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Making public transit accessible to all is an extremely expensive proposition. Many of the nations mass transit systems were designed long before the legislation was created, decades before "civil rights for all" became a public mantra. The New York City subway system, for example, was opened in 1904, at a time when few buildings conformed to anything like modern fire and safety regulations. Sight, hearing, and mobility, were not even considerations when it came to designing underground train platforms. In New York, Chicago, Boston, and other American cities, subway stations and elevated trains were reached by means of staircases. Narrow turnstiles that were designed to deter fare jumpers also closed off access to wheelchairs. Labyrinthine tunnels and access ramps and complex routes and schedules on buses, trains, and aircraft were readable only by those able to see the signs, maps, and other postings. Exits might have been undetectable or unreachable by the disabled. These features cost money to transform, millions, or even billions of dollars, that hard-pressed municipal and state governments do not have. Non-disabled citizens may not wish to pay higher taxes or increased fees to makes the necessary changes. At the time of the law's passage, the paratransit mandate did grant an exemption to smaller mass transit systems if it created an undue financial burden, even so the costs of making transit systems handicapped-accessible were estimated at between $500 million and $1 billion to modify subways stations and similar facilities.

The following study will examine the effects of the Americans with Disabilities Act on the nation's public transportation systems. Considered will be the legislation's benefits to Americans with physical and mental disabilities, as well as the effects on those who were not the intended targets of the remedies provided by the law. A review of the literature will look at the possible arguments as they have been seen by experts in the field - politicians, transit planners, advocates for the disabled, etc. Previous studies on the subject will be evaluated for what light they may shed on the issue. The researcher will also study the effects of the act more directly by gauging the responses of those who actual make use of such public transit facilities. The researcher will present recommendations for future action, as well as comments on the overall utility of the Americans with Disabilities Act as it applies to the country's public transportation system. Lastly, there will be suggestions for future research.

Literature Review

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a major part of a larger campaign to bring civil rights to all Americans regardless of background. By recognizing prejudice it is combated. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 addressed categories of individuals traditional recognized as victims of discrimination, taking into account distinctions of race, gender, and ethnic origin. The disabilities affecting these groups would be removed and they would, with the aid of government regulation, achieve equal status in American society. While the earlier act had look at discrimination primarily in legal terms, at what the government itself could do to alleviate conflicts in the law, the Americans with Disabilities Act was, " 'Unprecedented [in] scope.' These provisions ban discrimination against disabled people not only in hotels and restaurants, but in every "mom and pop" store, which civil rights legislation failed to reach."

Not merely concerned with such things a voting rights, and equal access to public facilities such as schools, hospitals, and government offices, the Americans with Disabilities Act would tackle discrimination wherever it might be found. The Act's promulgation represented a new stage in the civil rights movement, a deep re-examination of the realities of American society, its promises and contradictions. Moving beyond the provision of mere benefits, the new thinking,

Unlike SSI or Medicaid policies that confer concrete benefits in the form of cash or payments for medical care, civil rights policies confer "status" because their goal is to place all members of society on an equal footing by eliminating discrimination based on personal characteristics such as race or gender.

As members of a group with "status," physically and mentally disabled individuals receive the special attention that is due their plight. This plight is not seen in terms of medical conditions but rather in terms of the social struggles that such conditions have typically entailed. The individuals that were the targets of this law would in future be seen as persons struggling to make their way in a world that had been stacked against them. The barriers - much like the physical and mental blocks they face - would be removed to the extent that these blockages consisted of things erected in their way by a society that had not attempted to understand them or include them.

The Independent Living Movement early seized on the Americans with Disabilities Act as a means of further its agenda. With the Movement's help, disabled men and women are enabled to live productive lives as fully independent adult members of the American community. Access to transportation plays a considerable role in achieving this independence. Though the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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