Maryland Paratransit Agency Reaches Settlement with Disability Rights Groups
by Andy Jones
February 9, 2017
Disability Rights Maryland and the AARP Foundation Litigation announced a legal settlement [PDF] with the Maryland Transit Administration on January 23, requiring the agency to take a variety of steps to make its MTA Mobility paratransit service more accommodating to people with disabilities.
The advocacy groups filed a federal class-action lawsuit [PDF] against the MTA, alleging that it uses a flawed eligibility criteria and provided such routinely late and inconsistent services as to violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under the ADA, transportation agencies that provide bus, train and other fixed-route services must also provide separate, paratransit bus services for people unable to use the regular system.
The settlement requires the MTA to spend $160,000 to hire expert consultants to address its telephone and eligibility issues. Recommendations must be implemented with the assistance of the advocacy groups.
MTA Mobility must also implement a “quality assurance process” for eligibility decisions and review all denials. The agreement specifies that all applications for services should be reviewed with 10 days.
Applicants who do not receive a decision within three weeks will be able to use the services until they receive a response. The agency’s notice and review forms must be reviewed to comport with due process protections.
“This Agreement resolves numerous issues that limit access to MTA’s Mobility service, builds in a system for on-going communications between riders and MTA officials, and provides for a continued improvement process over the next three years,” DRM attorney Katheryn Anderson said in a news release.
The U.S. District Court for the District Court of Maryland must still approve the settlement.
“This Settlement will open doors to people with disabilities to help ensure their transportation needs are met. This will help us get better access to jobs, education and doctors and improve quality of life in the community,” said plaintiff Floyd Hartley, a Mobility rider of 17 years who joined the lawsuit after logging 11 hours of hold time during 32 calls made to Mobility’s reservation and late lines in 2014, in a the news release.
Disability Rights Washington and the Disability Rights Maryland are the designated protection and advocacy agencies in Washington and Maryland, respectively, and are members of the National Disability Rights Network.