Amtrak’s Accessibility Derailment

Transportation is a key factor in traveling; many people utilize different types of transportation every day. It is well-known that Amtrak is a well-established entity within the travel industry and provides service throughout the United States. While Amtrak is extremely beneficial to many workers and travelers, this service continues to be a frustration for many people with disabilities.

History and Policy

In 2015–25 years after the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and five years after the mandatory deadline to have complied with ADA standard–it was determined that only 5% of Amtrak’s stations met the standard set by the ADA. This is discrimination.

For more information, read the Rooted in Rights article:

Amtrak is a government entity. Therefore, Title II of the ADA prohibits Amtrak from discriminatory acts. According to the ADA, whatever service is provided to one person must be provided to all persons via reasonable accommodations. This includes but is not limited to lifts onto/off the train, ramps, access within the train and stations, along with accessible bathrooms. Twenty-eight years after the ADA, Amtrak is still lacking in providing accessibility to people with disabilities and therefore continues to be in breach of the ADA.

A Little Closer to Home

On December 29, 2018, our CEO Daman Wandke was scheduled to return home after the holidays. However, when the Amtrak train arrived at the station in Edmonds, Washington, it had no ADA access–only steep steps. Amtrak said they had no wheelchair lift because they were using “different equipment” and that they will be using this inaccessible train for two months.

When Daman booked his reservation, he told Amtrak that he would be using mobility aids–his crutches. However, Amtrak did not inform Daman of their lack of accessibility due to the assumption that he would be able to utilize the stairs. Apparently, Amtrak had called all wheelchair users and canceled their reservations.

Amtrak, We have a Problem

There are two major problems here. First, Daman was put in an unsafe situation which could have led to litigation. Daman could climb the stairs, so he did. But he prefers the lift as accessing stairs–especially the steep, shallow, metal stairs– is physically straining on his body. These stairs also put Daman at risk of falling and serious injury. He literally climbed the stairs–this is degrading, it takes away his dignity. Just because someone can walk and is not using a wheelchair does not mean stairs are a feasible option.

The second problem is that Amtrak discriminated against all the people who had to reschedule their trip. If a public service is not accessible, they are required to provide an accessible alternative. Transportation options are very limited for people with disabilities; many times, there is no alternative. This is not only an inconvenience to travelers who cannot access steps but expresses to anyone who cannot access stairs that they are second class citizens. It is lower than not even having the option to sit in the back of the train.

Amtrak/Amtrak Cascades, have you heard of the ADA that was passed 28 years ago?!