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CHamilton

How can Amtrak improve accessibility?

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Charlie Hamilton, NARP Council Rep. at Large (WA), is part of a team asking for input from us and others on the topic of Amtrak trains, stations, and passenger services being ADA compliant for those traveling passengers that may have limited mobility or other physical disabilities. These items can also include concerns that have been addressed through current ADA guidelines but which could be improved.
For example, Stephanie Weber, NARP Council Rep. (WA), offered the concern of passengers with impaired hearing having a difficult time understanding station announcements given by Amtrak employees. Also, there are stations that don’t have a visual train status information board for those to read that are unable to hear a PA system.
At your earliest convenience, if you have ADA topics relating to Amtrak trains, stations, and services offered that should be addressed, please contact us. Be specific so Charlie can accurately present your suggestions/concerns. Should you have any questions, please contact Charlie Hamilton.

 

 

http://www.growtrains.com/how-can-amtrak-improve-accessibility/

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Anywhere where they use audio, they need to find a way to communicate visually too.

 

Maybe also advertise the fact that deaf/HoH people are listed "under persons with disabilities" so people will list themselves as having hearing loss and it can show up on the manifest. I know one of the two times I rode coach on an LD train, they used a different color seat check and had it marked so that each conductor would know. I liked that not only for security in knowing that I could be located but also so I could find my seat easily. :D

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(1) Level boarding. This is a huge issue for anyone with so much as bad knees. I realize this is going to take a while.

(2) At Chicago Union Station, my girlfriend who cannot stand for long periods was forced to... stand for long periods on the platform while waiting for the insufficient numbers of Redcaps to show up. Amtrak needs BENCHES ON THE PLATFORM, which are thankfully present at the majority of stations, but not at Chicago.

(3) Penn Station NY is a nightmare for similar reasons, though harder to fix due to the narrower platforms.

(4) Amtrak needs to actually publish the full ingredients lists for the food they serve in the dining car. Yes, a dietary restriction can be a disability, and providing information is a reasonable accomodation. It is mind-boggling that Amtrak has not provided this information yet, since it really costs Amtrak nothing at all to do, and Amtrak's supplier Aramark knows what's in the food.

(5) Chicago Union Station has a remarkably counterproductive system of loud overlapping voices attempting to announce track numbers. This can't possibly actually work and is very confusing. I hope it can be replaced with a better system for the hard of hearing.

(6) Amtrak needs a consistent policy regarding PA announcements on the train. The current wildly inconsistent announcements are not good for the hard of hearing, as one must struggle to make out an announcement, only to discover that it's just a five-minute-long advertisement for the cafe car -- or one might start to tune out the announcements and actually miss something important. Important announcements should be stated clearly and always repeated (so if you caught the first time that the conductor was saying something, you can turn up your hearing aids to catch WHAT he was saying the second time). Unimportant stuff like the cafe car ads should be kept SHORT.

(7) Again for those with difficulty walking, it would be extremely valuable for it to be made clear *in advance* where the train is going to stop and where the passengers should place themselves to get aboard the correct door. I have had far too many instances of being sent up and down the platform repeatedly, and this is really not OK for my girlfriend with her bad knees. This happens at stations with no red caps, too. I realize this is going to require retraining pretty much every conductor on Amtrak and placing signs at every single platform, so it'll take a while, but it would really help a lot. The 'play it by ear' system currently used is not good for anyone with mobility impairments.

 

This is just off the top of my head, from my personal experience and that of my girlfriend (who has mobility impairments and is hard of hearing and has dietary restrictions...). Feel free to copy. I may be able to come up with other ideas later.

Edited by neroden

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Anywhere where they use audio, they need to find a way to communicate visually too.

 

Yep.

I'm one of those

 

 

passengers with impaired hearing having a difficult time understanding station announcements given by Amtrak employees.

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Improving accessibility on trains.... Full agreement for level boarding from platforms. In the meantime, it would be helpful to have the portable boarding step made with an attached handrail to provide steadiness for the first step up.

 

Also, I second making the announcements clear with no static and no overlapping with other announcements.

 

Chicago Lounge, please let the Red Caps enter the lounge to pick up their passengers. Last July, we missed our pre-arranged Red Cap because there was no announcement of when or where he had arrived.

 

Anyone counting votes?

 

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Actually, I think this is a violation of the ADA, but I was told that I cannot take the Texas Eagle from Chicago to Bloomington, Illinois because I cannot traverse the Superliner stairs. They seat passengers taking the Lincoln Service route on the upper level only.

 

Other than the Texas Eagle, which leaves Chicago at 1:45 p.m., there are no trains on the Lincoln Service route between 9:25 a.m. and 5:15 p.m. The Texas Eagle does have lower level seating, but I am not allowed to use it.

 

Because I am not allowed to use the lower level seating, if I miss the 9:25 a.m. train, I have to wait eight hours to board a train I can take. This needs to be addressed.

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Anyone counting votes?

 

I am collecting everyone's comments. And for anyone who is not a member here, we are also collecting comments in other places, including Facebook and Twitter (see the original link for an updated list). Many thanks for your continued input.

Edited by CHamilton

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I definitely agree on the food allergy problem.

 

I travelled with a friend who has gluten intolerance last year. Because there was nothing he could eat, an although he had a sleeper and thus would have been entitled to something, he had to sit watching us and the others eat. I understand the condition is quite common. Offering just one menu choice for such people would make them feel much more included.

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Amtrak's consistent inconsistency is especially a problem for disabled passengers.

 

When I'm traveling with my very elderly father, I need to know we'll be able to get him to/from the train without long walks or long times standing. This varies widely from station to station, and information about it is hard to find. Simply posting phone numbers for stations so we could call in advance and talk to a person who's familiar with the station--that wouldn't cost Amtrak a dime, and would be very helpful.

 

A related problem is how to make connections on either end of the train trip--something that really needs to go smoothly if you're mobility impaired. For this reason (and because it'd be good marketing in general), I wish Amtrak would provide better info about parking at stations (fee? long-term OK? how far a walk from parking to station?) and about availability of rental cars and connections to other transport. Details are critical, and completely lacking when all the information about a station is that is has "parking."

 

Finally, I'd like to add that I've never yet encountered an Amtrak employee who's been less-than-helpful with my dad's mobility impairment. Most go out of their way to be kind and helpful. The big ADA issues with Amtrak we've encountered are accessing needed info ahead of time, so we can plan accordingly.

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A few comments:

 

Even where something isn't a legal requirement many of the issues are addressable relatively easily and life can be made easier for people quickly and at little cost.

I personally think benches at NYP would be a detriment to most people because of the space considerations and the need to get people off the platforms ASAP. An arrangement to pre board, and better coverage for assistance on arrival would not be hard to accomplish.

Digital displays can display any announcement in text form for people with hearing difficulty. They don't have to be everywhere, but a few key locations in addition to train cars is not unreasonable. The announcements near the gates at CUS are a perfect example of someone trying to meet a requirement to make an announcement to help visually impaired that probably doesn't help anyone. There has to be a better way to let people know where they are and where they need to be.

A food allergy certainly can be a disability, but there may not be a legal requirement to accommodate under the laws relating to rail travel. Again, that should not be a deterrent from trying to help people when it is the right thing to do. You shouldn't need a law. Have a clearly understood and simple way to arrange for a proper meal for most common needs, and a way to help those with less common issues.

Hopefully the test runs of moveable platform sections will go well and more of those will help with level boarding in difficult spots.

Edited by PVD

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A thought about the visible signs for the deaf/HoH. Adding a flashing light to the sign - to flash when an announcement is being made - would be nice as it would, hopefully, get our attention. Having the scrolling text that accompanies an announcement won't do me good if I don't know (hear) they're making an announcement.

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Again, a good idea that takes very little effort to accomplish. Visual indicators are easy and not costly when try you try to do something instead of figuring out excuses how not to. Used in recording environments for years when sound has to be off (like ringers on phones)

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I think that it would be a good idea to use the digital signs in Amfleets for announcements and upcoming station stops to accompany the audio announcements. I have seen them use it to advertise before, so I know it is possible and would have minimal to no cost.

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I've seen too many car attendants (including SLAs) that make no effort to help the elderly in any way. I've seen passengers who are strangers to the person in need step up and provide assistance when the employee fails to do so and that doesn't even trigger the employee to help. One time a person needing help and who was unable to climb the first step was not given it because the SLA was busy checking tickets of those behind her. The result was a big backup getting into the car and a delayed departure - all because the employee (who saw what was happening) was too lazy to stop, walk to the front of the line, then help the elderly woman board. EVERY car attendant has the responsibility to help passengers with disabilities.

 

On the other hand, I have seen employees go out of their way to walk with an elderly passenger on the train. If some can do it, all can do it.

Edited by me_little_me

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Actually, I think this is a violation of the ADA, but I was told that I cannot take the Texas Eagle from Chicago to Bloomington, Illinois because I cannot traverse the Superliner stairs. They seat passengers taking the Lincoln Service route on the upper level only.

That's definitely an ADA violation and completely illegal. They're required to seat you on the lower level.

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I definitely agree on the food allergy problem.

 

I travelled with a friend who has gluten intolerance last year. Because there was nothing he could eat, an although he had a sleeper and thus would have been entitled to something, he had to sit watching us and the others eat. I understand the condition is quite common. Offering just one menu choice for such people would make them feel much more included.

And the crazy thing is, at least some of Amtrak's meals probably are gluten-free, but there's no way to even find out!

 

For me with my guar gum allergy it's even worse. I can *probably* eat everything on the menu but I can't risk *anything* because it *might* have guar gum in it (it's a very common additive). Simply *providing an ingredients list* so that I *know* seems like a reasonable accomodation.

 

I have a friend with an allergy to FD&C Red #40, which is the same sort of thing.

 

(It's notable how many of Amtrak's problems come down to communication and information, isn't it?)

Edited by neroden

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Amtrak's consistent inconsistency is especially a problem for disabled passengers.

This is what's been happening with boarding. When, for example, Empire Service trains stopping at Utica open only one door, and it's a different door each time, and they're stopping at different parts of the platform each time, it becomes very difficult for mobility impaired passengers to board. The train stops and you desparately try to get to the right door before they leave. Someone was actually left behind because of this some months ago and it got reported on this forum.

 

If we had a "stand here to board" sign next to a bench, and that was the door which opened, we'd be golden.

Edited by neroden

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I think that it would be a good idea to use the digital signs in Amfleets for announcements and upcoming station stops to accompany the audio announcements. I have seen them use it to advertise before, so I know it is possible and would have minimal to no cost.

That would be great. Even though I'm not hard of hearing, I like to be able to look at the sign and see what the next stop is. It's generally useful.

 

In sleeper cars, it would make sense for the attendant to personally come by and provide information in written form to the hard-of-hearing. In coaches, using the digital signs seems like the way to go, *especially where they already exist*.

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With the Chicago Union Station track numbers and announcements for the blind, I believe modern practice is to use a (very short-range) induction loop which can be heard by blind people with the right equipment, and also tactile indicators. The overlapping announcments can't possibly be effective...

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That ridiculous system at CUS may actually be a METRA creation not Amtrak, but either way I can't see how it helps. Probably confuses more people than it helps.

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With the Chicago Union Station track numbers and announcements for the blind, I believe modern practice is to use a (very short-range) induction loop which can be heard by blind people with the right equipment, and also tactile indicators. The overlapping announcments can't possibly be effective...

Huh? First I've heard of blind people using induction devices to hear. Unless they are also hard of hearing, they should be able to hear anything a sighted person does. On the other hand, those of us who are hard of hearing often benefit from induction devices that communicate electronically to our hearing aids bypassing the microphones thus depressing the volume of external noise and increasing the clarity of the desired sounds.

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With the Chicago Union Station track numbers and announcements for the blind, I believe modern practice is to use a (very short-range) induction loop which can be heard by blind people with the right equipment, and also tactile indicators. The overlapping announcments can't possibly be effective...

Huh? First I've heard of blind people using induction devices to hear. Unless they are also hard of hearing, they should be able to hear anything a sighted person does. On the other hand, those of us who are hard of hearing often benefit from induction devices that communicate electronically to our hearing aids bypassing the microphones thus depressing the volume of external noise and increasing the clarity of the desired sounds.

 

Sounds like the stories I've heard where the deaf are handed brille menus at fast food places and restaurants. That has not happened to me ... yet.

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With the Chicago Union Station track numbers and announcements for the blind, I believe modern practice is to use a (very short-range) induction loop which can be heard by blind people with the right equipment, and also tactile indicators. The overlapping announcments can't possibly be effective...

Huh? First I've heard of blind people using induction devices to hear.

 

Museums. Exhibits which rely heavily on visuals often have audio explanations as accompaniment, but they don't want to bother the regular visitors with a cacophony of sound, so they set up induction loops and hand out the equipment to anyone who asks for it at the front desk. This was actually my first introduction to induction loops.

Edited by neroden

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I first experienced those at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, AZ and they worked very well. When you stood in front of an exhibit that had video, you only heard the music and narration from that screen.

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