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Message from the RTA Chairwoman 12-12

Message from the Chairwoman of the RTA

Equality and independence have been fundamental concepts of American democracy since the country's founding. The rights to equal treatment, equal access to opportunity and personal independence have been recognized and protected in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, the Constitutions of the individual States, and in the laws enacted by the U.S. Congress and by the States. Title VI of the Civil Act was enacted July 2, 1964 and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, making discrimination based on race, color or national origin illegal in America. However, it took another 25 years for equity and Civil Rights protection to be extended to persons with disabilities.

In 1990 President George H. W. Bush and the 101st Congress passed the American's with Disabilities Act (ADA), expanding Civil Rights protection, making discrimination based on disability illegal, and making it possible for citizens with disabilities to live a life of freedom and equality.

Transportation presented a major prerequisite in achieving equal opportunities and independent living for persons with disabilities. Getting disabled citizens to and from work, school, stores, medical facilities, recreation and places of worship – to move freely and equitably about the local neighborhood, the city, the state, and the world -- was a major priority of ADA. As such, on August 26, 1990 it was the law of the land that bus and train service would be accessible to citizens with disabilities or that comparable para-transit or other special transportation services would be provided.

For people with disabilities just getting to school or to work can be a daunting task, and for those of us who face traffic congestion as the biggest challenge of our commute, our inconvenience pales in comparison. At the RTA all of our busses have features and equipment that allow disabled riders to board, ride, and get out of vehicles easily and comfortably. Our busses kneel to lower the front step for our riders. With the exception of the Historic St. Charles Streetcar line, all of our vehicles have lifts for wheelchairs, areas where wheelchairs can be secured and priority seating areas for elderly, disabled and pregnant riders.

Disabled riders, Medicare recipients and elderly citizens over the age of 65 are eligible for reduced fares. Over 85,000 riders per month pay the 40 cent reduced rate and over 4000 disabled citizens ride free monthly. Our American's with Disabilities Act ID center serves over 600 citizens every month, assisting elderly and disabled citizens to access reduced fare and para-transit services.

The RTA's para-transit program serves 19,000 disabled and elderly citizens per month -- a number that increases by over 20 percent every year. On weekdays we serve an average of 700 passengers and on Saturday and Sunday over 300 elderly and disabled citizens utilize para-transit services. Most of our para-transit riders are over the age of 70. All are ADA certified. Over 3000 are accompanied by a personal care giver, and 23 are accompanied by a Service Animal. We take them to the doctor, the bank, the grocery, work, school, and church. Over 18% are on their way to life-saving dialysis treatment.

RTA Commissioner Earline Roth leads the Special Transit Services Advisory Committee with para-transit users and community partners including the Council on Aging, Goodwill Industries, the Lighthouse for the Blind, the Deaf Action Center, the Advocacy Center and STRIVE. The Committee meets every month to ensure that the elderly and citizens with disabilities have a voice in the services we provide.

There are over 55 million citizens with disabilities in the United States who need affordable and reliable transportation in order to access important opportunities in education, employment, healthcare, housing and participation in community life. At the RTA we are responsible to ensure equity for the 45,000 disabled citizens here in the city of New Orleans - a responsibility that we embrace with humanity and humility.

Barbara C. Major

Chairwoman

Regional Transit Authority Board of Commissioners

RTA Facts: 
Over 19,000 para-transit users monthly
Over 3,000 accompanied by a Personal Care Attendant
23 Accompanied by a Service Animal
18% transported to weekly dialysis treatments
Over 85,000 riders using reduced fare passes

Reprinted from letter for Tribune, December 2012

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