Physical Standards

The information presented in this section is based on the U.S. Department of Transportation regulations:  49 CFR Part 37- Transportation Services for Individuals with Disabilities (ADA) and 49 CFR Part 38- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Accessibility Specifications for Transportation Vehicles.  


Accessibility Specifications for Transportation Vehicles (Part 38)

All vehicles are required to have accessible features and each feature must be fully operational any time the vehicle is in use.  This includes the following:

  • Mobility aid accessibility – you must ensure that all vehicles have a lift or ramp to allow individuals with a disability, including individuals who use wheelchairs, to safely board, and there must be sufficient clearances to permit a user of a wheelchair or other mobility aid to reach a securement location.  Vehicles in excess of 22 feet must have at least two securement locations, and smaller vehicles must have at least one. (Section 38.23) 
  • You must ensure that doors, steps, and thresholds are slip resistant, and all steps, edges, thresholds, and the boarding edge of the ramp must have a band of contrasting color running the full length of the step or edge.  Door height must be a minimum of 68 inches for vehicles in excess of 22 feet and a minimum of 56 inches for smaller vehicles. (Section 38.25)
  • You must place priority seating signs at the front of the bus, and your operators must ask other passengers to make those seats available to individuals with disabilities when necessary.  You must also place signs at securement locations. (Section 38.27)
  • You must ensure that interior handrails and stanchions permit sufficient turning and maneuvering space for wheelchairs and other mobility aids to reach a securement location from the lift or ramp.  Handrails or stanchions must also be located at the entrance to the vehicle. (Section 38.29)
  • You must install lighting at any stepwell or doorway. (Section 38.31)
  • If you have fare boxes, they must be located as far forward as practicable so as not to obstruct   traffic in the vestibule. (Section 38.33)
  • You must install a public address system in any vehicle in excess of 22 feet that is used in multiple-stop, fixed route service. (Section 38.35)
  • You must ensure that stop request controls are located adjacent to the securement location in vehicles in excess of 22 feet that make multiple stops.  These controls must be located between 15 inches to 48 inches off the ground, and must be operable with one hand. (Section 38.37)
  • Where you display destination or route information on the exterior of the vehicle, each vehicle must have illuminated signs on the front and boarding side of the vehicle. (Section 38.39)

Transportation Facilities (Part 37)

If you are a public entity and you construct new facilities to be used for providing designated public transportation services, they must be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs (Section 37.41).  If you are a public entity and you alter an existing facility or part of an existing facility used for providing designated public transportation services, and that alteration affects or could affect the usability of the facility, you must make the alterations in a way that is readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities (Section 37.43).  

U.S. Access Board

The United States Access Board is a federal agency that, among other things, develops ADA Accessibility Guidelines and Standards for transportation vehicles and facilities.  These are consistent with the U.S. Department of Transportation guidelines and standards, and the Access Board is currently in the process of updating the ADA guidelines for transportation vehicles.  More information will be posted to this toolkit as it becomes available.

Additional information about the Access Board can be found on their website.  Information about the Access Board’s guidelines for transportation vehicles and facilities can be found here

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