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Amtrak has paid more than $ 2 million to more than 1,500 people with disabilities who have been discriminated against when traveling by train or trying to do so, the U.S. Department of Justice said Wednesday.
The money is part of a settlement agreement to address a United States decision that the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by not making certain stations accessible to passengers with disabilities.
“These payments, as well as Amtrak’s ongoing efforts to make train stations accessible in accordance with our settlement agreement, move Amtrak and our country one step closer to fulfilling the ADA’s commitment to equal opportunities for people with disabilities,” said Deputy Attorney General Kristen Clarke . from the Department of Civil Rights of the Ministry of Justice.
The 2020 settlement addresses a lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice against Amtrak. The Department of Justice claimed that Amtrak had violated and continues to violate the Americans with Disabilities Act by not making stations available in its intercity rail system, even for wheelchair users. The infringements alleged in the application include inaccessible entrances to buildings, bathrooms, lifts and passenger platforms.
In addition to compensating those who were discriminated against, Amtrak also agreed to “design at least 135 stations to be accessible, completing construction on 90 of these stations and at least 45 others under construction” over the next nine years. The company will also train employees on ADA requirements and implement a new system for evaluating ADA complaints in the company. Individuals could apply for compensation until May 29, 2021.
The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities by public entities and requires companies to take “reasonable measures” to ensure that people with disabilities have comparable access to those without disabilities. When Congress approved the ADA in 1990, it demanded that Amtrak make its transportation network available by 2010, but a Justice Department investigation found that Amtrak had not.
The Department of Justice began investigating Amtrak after receiving complaints from people with disabilities in 2011 and 2012 claiming that some Amtrak stations were inaccessible, as well as a detailed complaint from the National Disability Rights Network the following year, which claimed the same.
In the lawsuit, the Department of Justice claimed that “Amtrak acted intentionally by not making its existing stations available” and “unless restricted by this court, Amtrak will continue to violate the ADA and cause harm to individuals with disabilities.”
In December 2020, Amtrak entered into a settlement agreement with the Department of Justice to resolve the alleged ADA violation.
Amtrak was criticized in 2020 after two riders using electric wheelchairs were asked to pay at least $ 25,000 for a train ticket for a two-hour ride, which usually costs $ 16. After NPR Joe Shapiro reported on the price and people with disabilities led the protests, Amtrak reversed course and abandoned the policy that caused the high bill.
Version of this story originally published in and Morning edition live blog.