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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Great News: You Can Still Ride BART. If You're Partly Blind, You Can Still Suffer.

Posted By on Tue, Aug 18, 2009 at 1:50 PM

If you can't make out this sign, then riding BART is even more hazardous than you might have thought
Many riders have been pissed off of late about BART's ongoing labor soap opera. But two riders with bad eyesight may hold BART in special contempt now that the the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed an earlier ruling in their favor that BART was violating the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

Vision-impaired riders Sheron George and Sharricci Fourte-Dancy sued BART in San Francisco federal court several years back in a ADA case claiming the transit system was at fault for not having accessible handrails or color contrast striping. George fell down a set of stairs and was eventually prescribed a wheelchair for her disability. Fourte-Dancy didn't actually fall, but said the lack of striping and "excessively wide handrails almost caused her to fall" at MacArthur station in Oakland. (She did not "almost" sue).

In District Court, the Judge Claudia Wilken in 2006 acknowledged that BART was in compliance with the Department of Transportation (DOT) accessibility rules, yet found that the DOT regulations themselves were "both arbitrary and plainly contrary" to the ADA accessibility guidelines. The judge awarded the plaintiffs $35,000 in damages and mandated BART make changes to improve the accessibility of their stations.

But in a decision handed down by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last week, BART got a break. Basically, the judicial panel said the transit system can't be held responsible to whatever feature a rider thinks BART should have if it's not legally required to have it by the Department of Transportation. As Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain wrote: "Unless DOT regulations are arbitrary and capricious, BART is required to do no more than follow them." Nobody contested that BART did indeed follow the federal regulations -- which the court subsequently found did not meet the definition of "arbitrary and capricious."

Point BART. And if you have problems with your eyesight: Beware.

H/T   |   Courthouse News

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Lauren Smiley


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