The U.S. DOT regulations establishing a “safe harbor,” under which any city would be found in compliance as long as it spent 3% of its budget on paratransit, went into effect in 1986.
The Law Center and a coalition of disabilities rights advocates and organizations promptly filed suit challenging the regulations, arguing that they set an arbitrary spending limit that severely limited access to transit, unfairly segregated people with disabilities, and abandoned the federal government’s legal responsibility to ensure access to transit for all.
The suit, Americans Disabled for Accessible Public Transportation v. Dole, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The District Court judge ruled in our favor, striking down the regulation and writing that “the cost limit at issue here permits the burden of cost to eviscerate the civil right.” The decision declined, however, to require all transit be made accessible.
The decision was upheld on appeal, and as a result of the decision all buses subsequently purchased with federal funds were required to be accessible to people with mobility