“ADA issue keeps new Metro card machines under wraps for all”

by Walter Olson on October 29, 2012

Snags for the D.C. subway system [Washington Post via @andrewmgrossman]

The first shipment of the new [SmarTrip card] machines did not have the audio and Braille features required under the Americans with Disabilities Act. But Metro thought it could roll out the machines and add the audio and Braille a couple of months later. When disability advocates raised concerns, Metro realized that going forward would violate the ADA, and the transit agency halted the rollout.

So nearly three weeks after every station was to have its own SmarTrip card dispenser, riders at nearly half of the stations in the Metrorail system are out of luck if they need to buy a card.

Riders who stay with paper Farecards are charged an extra dollar a trip.

{ 14 comments }

1 Richard Nieporent 10.29.12 at 10:05 am

Riders who stay with paper Farecards are charged an extra dollar a trip.

The advocates for the disabled get to screw everyone else and metro makes more money. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

2 Cecil 10.31.12 at 12:44 pm

So only the sighted members of the public are important enough to deserve access to a public resource. Why not simply gas and burn all the disabled it certainly must save the general population money in the long run.
I understand that there are excesses with ADA litigation. There is no excuse however to make second class citizens out of those who are otherwise capable that happen to have some form of physical defect. Public transportation happens to make it easier for the blind and visually impaired to be gainfully employed rather than a drain on society. Is the expectation to be able to independently use public transportation that unreasonable? Banking? Voting? What exactly do you propose that society do with those blind persons since apparently including speech and/or braille is too much to ask?

What if you were part of the excluded group? Would you think it so unreasonable to expect to be included? What if you were denied use of public highways? Sidewalks? Even buses or subways? Since I have no idea what particular groups you may be part of, but from your name I presume you are male, so what if the above denial was simply because you are male, a condition over which you had no real control? You can disagree with ADA and any other laws you wish, but did you actually stop and think before posting this particular item?

3 gitarcarver 10.31.12 at 4:30 pm

Cecil.

Please show me anywhere in the article where people with disabilities or handicaps were denied access to the public transportation system.

It isn’t there.

The issue is the new machines that aren’t currently ADA compliant, but will be. Someone screwed up when ordering the new machines but the parts are now on order and the machines will be fixed.

In the interim, why is it that you feel justified in demanding that the machines sit there and not being able to be used by anyone? Why is it that you feel a disabled person has the right to deny everyone access to something if they may not have access at this point?

In effect, the ADA has become a “heckler’s veto.” It has become the ability ofa minority to not only shut things down, but to penalize others for honest mistakes.

Given the fact that the parts for the new machines are on order, please give one good reason why people can’t use the machines until the parts arrive? Frankly, I can’t think of a single one.

4 Cecil 10.31.12 at 5:35 pm

If you can’t buy the card that allows you to ride, then how can you ride? Oh, you can continue to use the old paper based system which costs more. So it’s okay for blind users to be charged more, just not the public as a whole. If it was the video display that wasn’t ordered, don’t you think they would hold up rollout of the new system until it was corrected? What makes you so much more important than citizens that happen to be blind?

5 gitarcarver 10.31.12 at 7:50 pm

Cecil,

Thank you for admitting that the new machines don’t prevent anyone from riding which was your initial argument.

It seems to me that the solution is to have both systems in place and waive the fee for the paper tickets. That way there is no impact on anyone.

As to your final question, it is not that some people are more important that people with disabilities, it is that the people with disabilities have manged to have a law enacted that reaches into the pockets of everyone to accommodate a rather small percentage of the population. You would think that on something like this people – all people – would be interested in helping people save money.

But you aren’t.

It is not that I am more important than anyone. In fact, it is you who apparently believe that some citizens are more important and should be able to reach into the pocket of others or to demand that other people pay more.

6 Richard Nieporent 10.31.12 at 10:04 pm

Why not simply gas and burn all the disabled it certainly must save the general population money in the long run.

It sounds a tad excessive to me Cecil, but who am I to argue with someone that exhibits such excellent powers of reasoning.

7 Hugo S. Cunningham 10.31.12 at 10:11 pm

gitarcarver wrote:
>It seems to me that the solution is to have both systems in place and waive the fee for the paper tickets. That way there is no impact on anyone.

That is a dazzlingly reasonable compromise. Has it been offered to and considered by DC Metro?

8 LisaMarie 11.01.12 at 8:44 am

I think Cecil is on to the key problem. Paper cards cost more. So it’s not just that blind persons can ride transit but can’t use the machines for a few months while they catch up. It’s that you will have a period where people with disabilities are actually PAYING MORE for the same transit specifically because they are disabled. Unless the govt actually gives up revenue (hahahahaha) by ending the paper card fee, that seems like a form of discriminatory treatment that I assume would be very hard to defend legally.

9 gitarcarver 11.01.12 at 10:09 am

LisaMarie,

It probably would be “hard to defend legally.” That doesn’t make the way this was handled or the law right.

In essence what Cecil is saying is that if he has to spend a few extra dollars then everyone has to spend more. It seems lost on him and others that people are already paying more so the machines can be made compliant to an ever changing standard for Cecil. It is a standard that the vast majority of people never will use, but that doesn’t seem to matter.

There are a lot of ways this could have been handled. The Metro could have made it so employees could help the disabled with the new machine. OOPS! Sorry, that isn’t good enough. The Metro could waive the fees on the paper cards because the cost would be made up by the longer lasting paper cards. Or even add a small surcharge on the plastic cards that would be less than the surcharge people are paying on the paper cards. OOPS! That isn’t good enough either because someone would say there is a disparity in the cards.

The real irony here is that there are people who have no problem demanding money from others costing citizens and businesses billions of dollars complain about paying a few dollars for a few months without ever looking for other ways.

10 Cecil 11.01.12 at 11:36 am

Hmmmm, I don’t need a video display, just a bit of braille and a speaker with the software to drive it. Text-to-speech is available as an open source system and even a good speaker is about 20 times cheaper than the video display. It appears to me that even with text and braille labeling and speech output the system is cheaper for the blind than the sighted. Maybe the majority should suck it up and learn how to listen because it saves tax dollars. Oh that’s right, the deaf need to be able to use it also so put the video display back in.

Okay, so i will quit being so snarky. Seriously, why would a manufacturer sell and ship a system to a government subsidiary that they know does not meet ADA requirements? Wouldn’t even private companies in the U.S. require the braille/speech options in order to do business with the public? Does not mass production reduce overall costs and therefore price? All of these systems beep, ding, or otherwise make noise so the speaker is already needed. Processing capability to generate speech has been available since the early 1980’s. A bit of braille labeling simply does not cost that much.

I am not trying to lift your wallet, I happen to be a taxpayer too, I just expect my government to not exclude me from public resources that I have helped pay for. I don’t live in D.C., am not interested in visiting it again (did the museums, monuments, etc as a child) and generally do not have an actual dog in this fight other than to be offended that other citizens seem to think that excluding the disabled is perfectly acceptable whether it be for days, weeks, months or completely.

11 Cecil 11.01.12 at 11:54 am

Gitarcarver said:
There are a lot of ways this could have been handled. The Metro could have made it so employees could help the disabled with the new machine

Seriously, do you have any idea just how much more expensive that would have been? You would then be on here complaining about how the poor metro system had to pay all those salaries just to help a few blind people… Talk about changing standards.

Keep in mind that vision and hearing tend to degrade with age. Large print, and even speech tend to help with a larger segment of the population than most give it credit for. Admittedly braille is not in that same category because the elderly do not tend to run out and learn it as they lose their sight.

12 William Nuesslein 11.01.12 at 3:31 pm

It might be cheaper to provide taxi service for those few blind people who work in the city.

If I understand Mr. Olson correctly, there is no evidence that all the ADA accommodations at astronomical per capita cost have actually lead to higher employment rates among the disabled.

13 gitarcarver 11.01.12 at 4:00 pm

Cecil wrote:

Seriously, why would a manufacturer sell and ship a system to a government subsidiary that they know does not meet ADA requirements?

It is not up to the company to tell anyone what they need to buy. While there is an federal ADA, there are also state and municipal specific requirements for the disabled. It is not up to the manufacturer to know the standards, it is up to the ordering group. If anything, you illustrate the problem that the ADA is constantly changing. Businesses and even governments can’t keep up with the changes or the costs.

do not have an actual dog in this fight other than to be offended that other citizens seem to think that excluding the disabled is perfectly acceptable whether it be for days, weeks, months or completely.

No one has been excluded. Not a single person. You keep throwing this up as if it were true. No one is excluding the disabled from anything.

Seriously, do you have any idea just how much more expensive that would have been?

Yes. I know exactly how much it would cost.

Zero. Nada. Zilch. The Metro already has employees on the platforms. All they need to do is to be more observant for the disabled in need and for the disabled, over a short time, to be a little more tolerant and open to asking for assistance.

Oh wait, “first class” citizens never need help in anything, so having a disabled person ask for help you make them “second class.” (sarcasm off)

14 cemulli 11.01.12 at 11:50 pm

For the information of those not familiar with the DC metro system and the SmarTrip card: http://www.wmata.com/fares/smartrip/

I really don’t understand what people are complaining about, and I get the impression that a lot of people fighting on this thread don’t either. I lived and worked in DC for 3 months and got a SmarTrip card from one of the vendor locations. It’s something that you generally buy ONCE. Oh no, you have to take an extra 30 minutes out of your day to find a vendor and buy one! But then you can refill it online whenever it’s convenient for you, or you can go to any station and load more money onto it. And then when you go to commute, you walk into the metro, tap the card, and walk through to get to your train. I went back to DC a couple of weeks ago and took my SmarTrip card (which is now 2 years old) and used it on the metro and buses.

If anything, it’s economically inefficient for WMATA to be spending money putting SmarTrip card dispensers in every station at $12k a piece. That’s a lot of money being spent to save the able-bodied lazy people ONE SINGLE INSTANCE of an extra errand. But on the other hand, getting to some of the vendor locations may currently be more difficult for those with disabilities, so having the in-station dispensers equipped to accommodate those with disabilities may be part of the whole point to begin with.

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