It’s hard to believe that buses didn’t always have wheelchair lifts, but even as late as the last decade, you couldn’t be assured you’d be able to board the bus if you were on wheels. A key victory for mobility advocates was the provision in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 that mandated that transit authorities have wheelchair lifts on 100 percent of their fleet.
Monday, July 26, commemorates the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This sweeping, monumental legislation created greater opportunities and equal access to services for all people. It forever changed for the better how transit authorities do business and paved the way for greater mobility for all people.
To celebrate, we’ll be talking accessibility all week next week on Capital MetroBlog, beginning on Monday with a guest blog by community advocate and retired Capital Metro Accessible Transportation Specialist Nancy Crowther.
Nancy’s lifelong advocacy for accessible transportation (including 20+ years at Capital Metro) tells the story of the evolution of the Americans with Disabilities Act and of Capital Metro’s development into a transit system accessible to everyone.
It wasn’t always that way. In 1980, when Nancy enrolled at UT Austin, she had to live on campus because there was no accessible transportation. She and some of her friends got active right away, creating the service fraternity Pi Alpha Beta (People Against Barriers) and hosting the first Disability Awareness Day on campus. In 1983, she was part of a lawsuit against UT that brought national attention to the need for accessible public transit—litigation that helped lay the groundwork for the passing of the ADA.
Back then, as a member of ADAPT (American Disabled for Accessible Public Transportation) and MISAC (Mobility Impaired Services Advisory Committee—precursor to ACCESS), Nancy may have been the proverbial raspberry seed in Capital Metro’s teeth. She tells tales of herself and others chaining themselves to buses and rolling into Capital Metro board meetings chanting, “We will ride! We will ride!”
ADAPT’s ongoing grassroots advocacy prompted Capital Metro to purchase its first lift-equipped buses (ten ‘Dillo trolleys) in 1986, four years before the ADA. Meanwhile, Capital Metro decided it could benefit from having a liaison who could work well with the disability community, develop accessible programs, and help the agency interpret accessibility-related regulations. The agency hired Nancy in 1989 to be its first accessible transportation specialist.
In 1993, just three years after the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Capital Metro became the first transit authority in Texas with a 100 percent lift-equipped fleet. Nancy said, “That’s something that I’m really proud of. It took 12 years or more for the nation to get fully in line with the law.”