Report: Amtrak making “limited progress” in accessibility goals

Photo of front of an Amtrak train.
Amtrak Creeping Toward ADA Compliance

Amtrak is making “limited progress” on its stated goals to brings its rail stations into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to a recent report from the Office of the Inspector General.

“Over the last two years, the ADA management team has achieved minimal results, largely because of the lack of an effective program management structure and the absence of a strategic plan that sets a vision, goals, and objectives, including estimates of costs and a timeframe for completion,” the report stated.

Under the ADA, Congress specified that Amtrak had until July 26, 2010, a 20-year span, to make its rail stations fully accessible to people with disabilities. An Inspector General report released in September 2011 found that only 48 of Amtrak’s 482 Amtrak stations comply with ADA architectural standards.

In fiscal years 2012 and 2013, Amtrak spent an estimated $100 million on projects. According to the Inspector General report, however, much of this money was wasted because Amtrak’s ADA management team continues to suffer from a “fragmented management structure, which lacked clear lines of authority, responsibility, and management.”

In addition, the Inspector General found that Amtrak continues to fail to produce a “documented strategic vision and long term plan for addressing ADA compliance.”

During this time period, just three more stations were brought into ADA compliance, although Amtrak began renovating a number of other stations.

In 2013, the National Disability Rights Network conducted an extensive investigation into Amtrak, finding that 95 percent of the stations contain one or more architectural barriers to people with disabilities.

As noted in the Inspector General report, the NDRN and other disability advocates have complained that Amtrak has not been transparent in regard to recent changes to its ADA program.

The report recommends that Amtrak reform its management structure, create a written strategic plan, and create an ADA Advisory panel, consisting of representatives from the disability activist community.

Disability Rights Washington, the publisher of Galaxy, is part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.