ADA eligibility certification

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Service provided under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires agencies to certify clients as eligible for service. The implementation of ADA allowed a broad latitude for agencies to develop eligibility certification processes. While some procedures may seem cost-effective in the short run, some strategies can ensure eligibility is more accurately determined and thus restrict the ability for ineligible persons to receive service, controlling operating costs in the long run [1].

Types of Eligibility

The purpose of the eligibility process for ADA service is to restrict provision only to individuals whose disability prevents them from using an accessible fixed-route service. Agencies may define a process for determining eligibility for a client based on how their disability functionally prevents them from using a fixed-route service. It is important to highlight that a person is not eligible for ADA simply because they have a disability or multiple disabilies. The eligibility requirements were laid out in section 37.123 of Federal Register Vol. 56, No. 173 [2]. This article assumes that by 2013 agencies are generally running accessible vehicles as a rule; when the ADA was originally enacted, many operations nationwide did not have accessible vehicles and were required to remedy this over time.

Determining eligibility is important for controlling cost of operation. Some agencies may believe that time and money are saved up front by making all clients unconditionally eligible. While this can involve significantly less effort in the short run, many clients may be able to request nearly unlimited paratransit service when they would be capable of using the more cost-effective fixed-route service.

Basic Eligibility Determination

  1. Individuals who are unable to board, ride, or disembark from an accessible fixed-route vehicle.
  2. Individuals able to ride, but no accessible vehicle is available on the route required or at the hour required.
  3. Individuals whose disability prevents travel to or from a stop on their trip. This can be at the beginning, end, or in a transfer.

Further on the last point, weather and environmental barriers are considered when determining eligibility. However, a person may not claim environmental conditions as the sole barrier to travel. In other words, a person requesting eligibility for service during periods of snow must demonstrate that their disability combined with snow conditions prevents them from using fixed-route service.

Conditional and Unconditional Eligibility

Agencies may find clients eligible for service conditional on certain factors. For instance, a client may be conditionally eligible if, in the previous example, their disability prevents them from travel in snowy weather. In this case the agency would only be required to provide paratransit service when snowy conditions were present; in fair weather, the client would be expected to use the fixed-route system or other means to make their trip. Unconditional clients may receive service for any request.

Best Practices for Determining Eligibility


  1. Transit Cooperative Research Program. "Synthesis of Transit Practice 30: ADA Paratransit Eligibility Certification Practices". Weiner, Richard (1998)
  2. Federal Register, Vol. 56, No. 173, Rules and Regulations, Section 37.123.