October 16, 2015
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ADA: An Industry Game-Changer

APTA celebrated the 25th anniversary of ADA at a General Session that featured a panel of access advocates and industry leaders who discussed the civil rights act as a game-changer for public transportation, systems and businesses and individual riders—one that has resulted in technological innovations, ridership growth and social benefits.

“There’s no question that the investment in ADA is significant,” said Ron Brooks, manager of accessible transit services, Valley Metro, Phoenix, and vice chair, APTA’s Access Committee. “But look at the number of people with disabilities who participate, have jobs, go to school and so on,” he said. “That’s a tremendous financial payoff.”

One milestone in ADA’s history, said Lauren Skiver, general manager, SunLine Transit Agency, Thousand Palms, CA, and chair of the Access Committee, was a change of mindset. “When we started creating one transit system for everyone, it made our systems better for everyone,” she said.

“Everyone in this room—if you’re lucky to live long enough—will benefit from ADA,” said Crystal Lyons, president and chief executive officer of Crystal Fortune Lyons, Corpus Christi, TX, and member of the Mobility Management Committee. “You can’t have full participation in life if you can’t get where you need to be ... housing, education … none of these goals could be achieved without ADA.”

APTA President & CEO Michael ­Melaniphy, session moderator, asked the panelists to predict what’s in store for ADA.

APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall, board member, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, said that “the design of our stations” needs to be a top goal. When elevators go out of service, she said, people with disabilities and older people become stranded. “We just built a new station in Cleveland that doesn’t have elevators. It’s a new model of station that uses new design principles,” making elevators unnecessary. “Thinking outside the box about these new standards needs to become woven into the fabric of what we do all the time.”

Donna McNamee, trustee, Laketran, Painesville, OH, and a member of APTA’s Executive Committee, said advocacy is key. “We must never let our guard down and forget what ADA is all about. We also need to move toward human-centered design,” which is the implementation of design principles and practices that makes places, things and systems available to the widest range of people.

J. Barry Barker, executive director, Transit Authority of River City, Louisville, KY, and chair, Legislative Committee, suggested that “we need to build trust between what should be a natural alliance between the disability community and public transit. We have miles to go” on that front.

Brian Kibby, chief executive officer, MV Transportation, session sponsor, cited innovation and technology as priorities and encouraged the private sector to continue investing in both. “In the private sector, we have a responsibility to just do it,” he said. Such action, he noted, “helps all of us.”

Panelists also discussed ADA and the industry’s hiring practices, legacy systems, millennials and first-mile and last-mile challenges.

The session closed with a champagne toast led by McCall and McNamee and sponsored by TransDev, Trapeze and HDR.

Many of the panelists were also featured in APTA’s special publication, ­Celebrating 25 Years of Access and Mobility. Find a PDF here.

ADA panelists, from left, Ron Brooks, Lauren Skiver, Valarie J. McCall, Brian Kibby, moderator Michael Melaniphy, J. Barry Barker, Crystal Lyons and Donna McNamee.

 
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