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MTA to make changes for disabled riders

Part 4 an exclusive series
June 29, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Eyewitness News first uncovered alleged widespread disregard for disabled riders on L.A. County MTA buses in May. One month following the reports, it appears big changes may be in the works.MTA drivers will receive more training, and perhaps more discipline in the wake of the two-month undercover investigation of the MTA. The Metro Board of Directors is taking action to crack down on drivers who violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. The federal government is involved as well.

In an exclusive report, Eyewitness News first introduced you to Judy Griffin, a disabled bus rider. In the report, undercover video showed drivers unwilling or unable to strap Judy's wheelchair down, broken equipment and drivers who often passed her by.

Eyewitness News showed the undercover video to a spokesperson for the MTA, who said their equipment is not designed for the newer, often motorized wheelchairs many disabled people use today.

"The equipment works if you had brought the right wheelchair in, but we can't control that," said Mark Maloney, Metropolitan Transportation Authority, in May.

Maloney's answer did not satisfy many disabled riders. So Eyewitness News took the video to the MTA Board of Directors and L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich. Antonovich admitted MTA is violating federal law, specifically the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"I think ABC television did an incredible job in reporting the deficiencies that we have in complying with ADA regulations," said Antonovich, "And the insensitivity of those drivers is unconscionable and should not be tolerated."

Judy Griffin took her complaints directly to the MTA board. And on June 25, the board passed a motion instructing the MTA to investigate ADA violations.

The motion requires the MTA to look at driver discipline, overall accessibility and how complaints are handled. They will also be required to get more input from disabled riders.

"This matter will be given high level review ... And very importantly, remedying any problems that we currently have in this regard," said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Judy and other disabled MTA riders are hopeful they will see a turnaround at the MTA.

"I said what I had to say, now it's up to them," said Judy. "I think they listened, I hope they change."

The Federal Transit Administration is the federal agency responsible for making sure MTA complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act. After ABC7's report, the agency issued the following statement:

"The incidents depicted in your series definitely give us cause for concern. We plan to be on site in July to offer LACMTA technical assistance in complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act."

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Office of Civil Rights is responsible for civil rights compliance and monitoring of public transportation. Those who have complaints regarding civil rights deficiencies by a transit agency may call FTA's toll-free ADA Assistance Line at (888) 446-4511 or through the Federal Information Relay Service, (800) 877-8339. We can be reached by E-mail at FTA.ADAAssistance@dot.gov. A civil rights complaint form is available at www.fta.dot.gov/civilrights/ada/civil_rights_3889.html.

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