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The ADA requires governmental entities as well as private companies to make their transportation services available to the disabled if those services are available to the general public. However, the disabled individual must have the capability to use the transportation that is provided.

Example: A person who cannot be in an upright position without endangering his or her medical condition may not be able to ride a public bus. The fact that he or she is medically incapable of using the bus as transportation does not mean the bus service is operating in a discriminatory manner.

I use a walker. Do I have to use the seat assigned to me on the city bus?

No. The bus cannot designate special seats for the disabled that you are required to sit in while riding the bus. You may choose the seat you prefer to sit in.

My father has Alzheimer's and can sometimes act disruptively. Can the subway system require that he be accompanied in order to ride the subway?

Yes. Although an attendant cannot generally be required in order for a disabled person to use a public transportation service, if your father engages in violent or seriously disruptive behavior, he will need to have someone with him if he wants to ride the subway.

Can transportation services ever be refused to a disabled person?

Any disabled individual who engages in violent, seriously disruptive or illegal conduct can be refused service if the behavior is a direct threat. That level of behavior is not the same as purely offensive behavior. A person whose conduct is merely offensive must still be allowed to ride a bus.

Do airlines have to comply with the provisions of the ADA?

No. Discrimination in air travel is covered by the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986, rather than the ADA, which exempts airlines. Under the Air Carrier Access Act, an airline cannot discriminate against an individual because:

  • the individual has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities
  • the individual has a record of such an impairment
  • the individual is regarded as having such an impairment

Is there anywhere a service animal is not permitted?

No. A service animal, such as a guide dog, must be allowed to accompany the disabled person anywhere the general public would be allowed to go, including hospitals and restaurants.