Lakeland’s public transit service, Citrus Connection, has launched a new service to help improve accessibility for the elderly and people with disabilities. Although this new service only operates on Saturdays for now, it may be a sign that Lakeland is going above and beyond to become a truly accessible city.
Under the new program, seniors and people with disabilities who live in Lakeland can get picked up from their home and taken anywhere into the city on Saturdays. Citrus Connection will be using a fleet of minibuses equipped for wheelchairs.
Making Current Paratransit Services Even More Accessible
This service is an expansion to the Citrus Connection’s existing paratransit offerings, which brings eligible passengers who live within ¾ of a mile of a bus route to the bus of their choice for a $2 fare.
“What this does is expands it so that all of the citizens of Lakeland who are elderly and disabled can get where they need to go on Saturday," explained Tom Phillips, Executive Director for Citrus Connection, to Bay News 9. "So it really removes the mobility barriers for anyone in Lakeland who are elderly or disabled."
This desire to remove mobility barriers and give equal public transit access to all is very much in the spirit of the ADA, one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation in American history.
ADA’s Guidelines for Public Transportation
The existing Citrus Connection paratransit service was created to be in compliance with the ADA’s title II transportation provisions, which establish guidelines and requirements of public transportation authorities to ensure no one is discriminated against on the basis of disability.
Specifically, public transportation authorities must comply with new requirements for accessibility any time they newly purchase or remanufacture vehicles, unless it would result in an undue burden. In addition, these companies must provide paratransit, like Citrus Connection’s Disabled Services, wherever fixed-route bus or rail systems are operated. These regulations are enforced by the Federal Transit Administration.
These anti-discrimination requirements cover everything from ensuring accessibility features like lifts and ramps are properly maintained to prohibiting special charges or fees on individuals with disabilities who wish to use public transit.
Common Public Transit Accessibility Barriers to People with Disabilities
Despite all of the progress made under the ADA, many individuals with disabilities still face barriers when trying to take their nearest bus or train. Just a few common accessibility barriers that prevent people with disabilities from taking part in public transportation include:
- A lack of accessible travel paths to and from bus stops and train stations
- A lack of edge detection on rail platforms
- Inaccessible websites
- Inadequate lighting
- Signs, safety warnings, and timetables that are not provided in accessible formats for people who are deaf or hard of hearing or individuals who are blind or have vision loss.
- Inaccessible ticket vending machines
- Vehicles without maintained lifts/ramps to accommodate people using wheelchairs.
But Discrimination Still Happens
This new program by Citrus Connection is a step in the right direction to make Lakeland accessible to all of its residents, but lack of accessibility as a form of discrimination is still a problem in our state. If you believe you have been discriminated against on the basis of your disability, whether it involved a lack of structural accessibility or a denial of services, you don’t have to stand for it.
Read more to learn how our Deaf and Disability Rights Unit fight against discrimination and protect the legal rights of individuals with disabilities. If you are ready to pursue a claim, fill out our free, no-risk case evaluation form today.