The following definitions are intended to assist rural transit agencies with understanding terminology introduced in this ADA Toolkit.  Whenever possible, the definitions have been worded using “plain language” to help readers more easily understand general concepts.  The definitions for some terms are directly excerpted from the U.S. Department of Transportation regulation in 49 CFR Part 37 - Transportation Services for Individuals with Disabilities (ADA), Section 37.3.  For some terms, FTA Circular 4710.1, Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA): Guidance either served as a source or is referenced for a more expansive discussion.  Readers are advised to review the FTA ADA Circular as well as the various sections of this toolkit for additional information.

“3/4-mile rule” – with respect to ADA complementary paratransit, this informal expression is sometimes used in this toolkit to refer to the service area requirement for paratransit.  As discussed in the ADA Complementary Paratransit service of this toolkit, the paratransit service must be provided within three-quarters of a mile on either side of each fixed route as well as a three-quarter mile radius at the end of each fixed route, and within a ¾-mile radius of rail stations.  This service area, plus small areas that are surrounded by the fixed route corridors within the transit agency’s core service area, is considered to be a geographic area of service that equivalent to that of the fixed route service which the paratransit service complements.

Accessible - with respect to vehicles and facilities, complying with the accessibility requirements of 49 CFR Parts 37 and 38 [49 CFR Part 37, Section 37.3].  A key feature of an accessible transit vehicle is a lift or ramp that allows a person using a wheelchair or other mobility device to board and alight the vehicle.

Accessible formats – types of documents, electronic file formats, auxiliary aids and services provided to ensure communications access for people with vision, speech, or hearing disabilities.

ADA complementary paratransit – comparable “origin to destination” transportation service required by the ADA for individuals with disabilities who are unable to use fixed route transportation systems.  The U.S. DOT requirements for this service are detailed in 49 CFR Part 37 Subpart F.  The service is required to complement, or supplement, the fixed route service.  (Note that a common misspelling is complimentary. However, the word complimentary means free or expressing praise or admiration—as in paying someone a compliment.)

Alighting – refers to a passenger exiting a vehicle.  Also called disembarking or deboarding.

Alteration – a change to an existing facility, including, but not limited to: remodeling, renovation, rehabilitation, reconstruction, historic restoration, changes or rearrangement in structural parts or elements, and changes or rearrangement in the plan configuration of walls and full-height partitions [49 CFR Part 37, Section 37.3].

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) – A federal law that prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, state and local services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation (Civil Rights Division of U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)).

Autonomous vehicle – a vehicle that is capable of sensing its environment and moving safely with little or no human input.  Also referred to as self-driving vehicle.

Boarding – refers to a passenger entering a vehicle.

Braille – a tactile document or sign format in which letters of the alphabet and punctuation marks are represented by a system of raised dots which some people who are blind can read.

Capacity –With respect to ADA complementary paratransit, capacity generally refers to the ability the transit agency to meet the demand for eligible passenger trips by eligible individuals.  On paratransit and other demand response types of services, there can be capacity issues because there are limited vehicles and drivers operating during times of peak demand. Another capacity concern for ADA complementary paratransit is having enough telephone lines and reservations staff available to accept reservations during peak calling times.   

Comfort animal – an animal that provides comfort or emotional support to an individual by passively being with the individual.  Also known as an emotional support animal. 

Commingled service – service that combines different passenger groups.  Also referred to as comingled.  For example, a transit agency could commingle ADA complementary paratransit riders and general demand response riders in the same vehicle.  It is also possible, though difficult, to commingle fixed route and ADA complementary paratransit service using the same vehicle.  Under such a scenario, the transit agency would provide fixed route service, but deviate for ADA complementary paratransit-eligible persons with disabilities.  For this type of commingled service, the transit agency must meet all of the ADA Complementary Paratransit requirements under 49 CFR Part 37 Subpart F.

Commuter bus service – fixed route bus service, characterized by service predominantly in one direction during peak periods, limited stops, use of multi-ride tickets, and routes of extended length, usually between the central business district and outlying suburbs. Commuter bus service may also include other service, characterized by a limited route structure, limited stops, and a coordinated relationship to another mode of transportation [49 CFR Part 37, Section 37.3].

Connected vehicles – vehicles that use technology to communicate with other vehicles and infrastructure.

Coordinated services – services that are provided or sponsored by multiple organizations or programs in cooperation, collaboration, or partnership with each other.

Curb-to-curb service – with respect to paratransit or other demand response service, a transit service in which the driver provides assistance in boarding and alighting the vehicle from and to the curb, but does not provide assistance beyond the curb.

Disembarking – refers to a passenger exiting a vehicle.  Also called alighting or deboarding.

Door-to-door service – with respect to paratransit or other demand response service, a transit service in which the driver provides assistance beyond the curb (between the vehicle and the door to the passenger’s origin and/or destination, which could be a residence, business, school, human service agency, medical center, government services building, etc. ).

Demand response service - A transit mode comprised of passenger cars, vans or small buses operating in response to calls from passengers or their agents to the transit operator, who then dispatches a vehicle to pick up the passengers and transport them to their destinations [FTA National Transit Database (NTD)].

Demand responsive system – any system of transporting individuals, including the provision of designated public transportation service by public entities and the provision of transportation service by private entities, including but not limited to specified public transportation service, which is not a fixed route system [49 CFR Part 37, Section 37.3].  Also commonly referred to as demand response system.  As described in the FTA ADA Circular, demand responsive systems encompass a wide variety of service types, including traditional dial-a-ride service, taxi subsidy service, vanpool service, route deviation service, and complementary paratransit.

Deviated fixed route service – see route deviation service.

Direct threat – a significant risk to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated by a modification of policies, practices, procedures, or by the provision of auxiliary aids or services [49 CFR Part 37, Section 37.3].

Disability – with respect to an individual, a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual; a record of such an impairment; or being regarded as having such an impairment [49 CFR Part 37, Section 37.3].

Eligibility – with respect to ADA complementary paratransit, the U.S. DOT regulations limit eligibility to individuals who are unable to use fixed route services due to a disability.  Eligibility for paratransit is to be based on an individual’s functional ability, specifically whether they are able to use the fixed route system independently.  The regulations define three categories of eligibility: a person with a disability who cannot navigate the transit system without assistance, a person with a disability who requires an accessible vehicle when one is not available on fixed route, and a person with a disability who is unable to reach the transit stop, The regulatory requirements and nuances related to ADA complementary paratransit eligibility and the eligibility determination process are found in 49 CFR Part 37, Sections 37.123 and 37.125.

Equivalent facilitation – the process for requesting permission from FTA to depart from particular technical and scoping requirements for vehicles and facilities by use of other designs and technologies where the alternative designs and technologies used will provide substantially equivalent or greater access to and usability of the vehicle. Departures are to be considered on a case-by-case basis [49 CFR 38.2].

Equivalent service standards – with respect to general demand responsive service, there are seven service characteristics for determining equivalency of service for people with disabilities as compared to the general public, which are detailed in 49 CFR Part 37, Section 37.77: 1) response time, 2) fares, 3) geographic area of service, 4) response time, 4) hours and days of service, 5) restrictions or priorities based on trip purpose, 6) availability of information and reservations capability, and 7) any constraints on capacity or service availability. 

Facility – all or any portion of buildings, structures, sites, complexes, equipment, roads, walks, passageways, parking lots, or other real or personal property, including the site where the building, property, structure, or equipment is located [49 CFR Part 37, Section 37.3].

Fixed route service – operates along a prescribed route according to a fixed (regular) schedule.

Fixed route system – a system of transporting individuals (other than by aircraft), including public transportation service by public and private entities, on which a vehicle is operated along a prescribed route according to a fixed (regular) schedule [adapted from 49 CFR Part 37, Section 37.3].

Fixed stop – bus stop with a designated location, typically indicated by a sign.

Flag stop – a type of fixed route service that allows the bus to stop at any location along the route upon request and at the driver’s discretion.

Fold-down seats – seating installed on a transit vehicle that folds up when not in use.  Fold-down seats installed in the wheelchair securement area fold up when the securement area needs to be occupied by a person in a wheelchair, and can fold down for use by other passengers when the securement area is not needed.  Also referred to as “flip” seats.

Kneeling feature – on a transit bus, allows the driver to front end of the vehicle to reduce the vertical distance between the bottom step and curb.

Lift – on a transit vehicle, a lift is a mechanical platform that raises from the ground to the vehicle so a person using a wheelchair or otherwise not able to climb stairs to board and alight the vehicle. Standards for the vehicle lift are found in 49 CFR Part 38, Section 38.23(b).

Microtransit – a service model that sits between traditional fixed route transit and the services provided by taxis and new, technology-enabled models like Uber and Lyft (transportation network companies, or TNCs). It is a demand responsive, commuter-focused service that typically uses ad-hoc pickup and drop-off points, within a few minutes’ walk of multiple customers, and generally within limited service zones. This shared mode uses vehicles smaller than transit buses but larger than the passenger vehicles commonly used by TNCs. The hallmark of microtransit is the ability to flexibly create routes and stops in response to customer demand [Shared Used Mobility Center].

Mobility device – a device that is designed to assist an individual with disabilities with locomotion. Examples include wheelchairs, canes, crutches, and walkers. Also called mobility aid.

No-show – with respect to ADA complementary paratransit and other demand response transit services, refers to a passenger missing a scheduled trip. For more information, see Section 9.12 of the FTA ADA Circular.

Non-Discrimination – prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, or age. Also known as nondiscrimination.

Operative condition – working condition; operational; functional. With respect to the U.S. DOT ADA regulations, transit agencies are required to maintain accessibility equipment, such as ramps lifts, and securement systems, in operative condition.

Origin-to-destination service – providing service from a passenger's origin to the passenger's destination [49 CFR Part 37, Section 37.3].

Over-the-road bus – a bus characterized by an elevated passenger deck located over a baggage compartment [49 CFR Part 37, Section 37.3].

Paratransit – comparable transportation service required by the ADA for individuals with disabilities who are unable to use fixed route transportation systems [49 CFR Part 37, Section 37.3].

Personal Care Attendant (PCA) - someone designated or employed specifically to help an individual meet their personal needs. A PCA typically assists with one or more daily life activities such as providing personal care, performing manual tasks, or providing assistance with mobility or communication. PCA assistance is not always needed during a transit trip itself [adapted from Section 9.8 of the FTA ADA Circular].

Priority seating – on a transit vehicle, seating that for which for riders with disabilities and seniors have priority use.  Standards for signage for this seating are found in 49 CFR Part 38, Section 38.27.

Ramp – on a transit vehicle, refers to a mechanical platform that slopes from the passenger entrance to the curb or street so that riders using wheelchairs can roll on and off of the vehicle, and riders who are otherwise not able to climb stairs can more easily board and alight the vehicle. Standards for the vehicle ramp are found in 49 CFR Part 38, Section 38.23(c).

Reasonable modification – under the U.S. DOT ADA regulations, public transportation providers must make reasonable modifications (exceptions) to policies, practices, or procedures to accommodate an individual when changes are necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability or to provide program accessibility to their services.  Transit agencies are not required to make modifications that would either fundamentally alter the nature of the transit agency's services, programs, or activities or create a direct threat to the health or safety of others.  The requirements for considering requests for reasonable modifications are found in 49 CFR Part 37, Section 37.169(c).  Examples of different types of requests for reasonable modifications are found Appendix E to Part 37. See also Section 2.10 of the FTA ADA Circular.

Response time – with respect to ADA complementary paratransit, refers to the amount of time needed to request a trip in advance, as detailed in 49 CFR Part 37, Section 37.131(b).

Route deviation service – A system that permits user-initiated deviations from routes or schedules [Section 37.3 of Appendix D to 49 CFR Part 37]. Transit service that operates along established routes that typically have designated stops.  Between these stops, vehicles deviate (depart) from an established route to pick up or drop off riders within a defined off-route service area [FTA ADA Circular, Section 7.5.4]. 

Securement area or station – on a transit bus, a designated location for riders using wheelchairs, equipped with a securement system. Standards for the securement area are found in 49 CFR Part 38, Section 38.23(d).

Securement device, equipment or system – on a transit bus, equipment that is used to secure a wheelchair against uncontrolled movement during transport.  Standards for securement equipment are found in 49 CFR Part 38, Section 38.23(d).

Service animal – any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items [49 CFR Part 37, Section 37.3].

Shared micromobility – any small, human or electric-powered transportation solution, such as bikes, e-bikes, scooters, e-scooters or any other small, lightweight vehicle that is being used as a shared resource between multiple users. Systems usually allow point-to-point trips and the majority of companies provide a similar service model to the customer. Vehicles are distributed across a community and typically customers can use a smartphone to find and unlock a device, and pay for the trip using a mobile app. Currently, trip rates typically incorporate an initial flat fee plus a per-minute charge. Business operational models between companies vary greatly and affect the type of operations and maintenance provided [adapted from Transportation for America’s Shared Mobility Playbook].

Shared mobility – transportation services that are shared among users, including public transit; taxis and limos; bikesharing; carsharing (round-trip, one-way, and personal vehicle sharing); ridesharing (car-pooling, van-pooling); ridesourcing; scooter sharing; shuttle services; neighborhood jitneys; and commercial delivery vehicles providing flexible goods movement [FTA Shared Mobility web page].

Stanchion – an upright bar, post, or frame forming a support or barrier.

Standing in the shoes – acting on behalf (of another organization).  An expression used in 49 CFR Part 37 to describe situations in which an organization is subject to the U.S. DOT requirements that are passed through a contract, grant award, or other relationship with another organization.

Stop announcements – under the U.S. DOT ADA regulations, on fixed route systems, transit agencies are required to notify passengers when the bus approaches certain bus stops and transfer points along the route, so that individuals with disabilities can be oriented to their location [49 CFR Part 37, Section 37.167(b)]. For more information, see Section 6.6 of the FTA ADA Circular.

Suspension – with respect to ADA complementary paratransit, temporary denial of service. Under the U.S. DOT regulations, transit agencies are allowed to suspend, for a reasonable period of time, the provision of complementary paratransit service to eligible individuals who establish a pattern or practice of missing scheduled trips (no-shows).  The requirements related to suspension of ADA complementary paratransit are found in 49 CFR Part 37, Section 37.125(h). For more information, see Section 9.12 of the FTA ADA Circular.

Travel training – one-on-one instruction to teach an individual how to ride fixed route transit for some or all of their trips.

TTY – a teletypewriter, or text telephone, that allows a user to type text to another TTY user.  Also known as Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD).

TTY relay service – service that facilitates telephone communication with individuals with hearing or speech disabilities TTY relay services consist of a relay operator (or communications assistant) who connects TTY calls with people who communicate by telephone. The operator converts voice-to-text and vice versa, with the text displayed on the user’s TTY.

Wayfinding – information that helps people navigate (find their way) through the environment. Sources of wayfinding information can include visual and tactile (touchable) signs and maps, audible signals and announcements, electronic information, use of contrasting color and texture on or along the walking surface, and more.

WC-19 – a voluntary standard set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) that specifies design and performance requirements for wheelchairs that are suitable for use as seats in motor vehicles.

Wheelchair – a mobility aid belonging to any class of three- or more-wheeled devices, usable indoors, designed or modified for and used by individuals with mobility impairments, whether operated manually or powered [49 CFR Part 37, Section 37].

Updated June 2, 2020