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information access at chicago transit authority

From: Jamal Mazrui <empower@smart.net>
Date: Mon, 23 Nov 1998 16:05:19 +0400
Message-Id: <199811232005.PAA26789@gemini.smart.net>
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
----- Forwarded Message Follows -----

From: Kelly Pierce <kelly@ripco.com>
Subject: webwatch-l information access at chicago transit authority
To: webwatch-l@smtp.teleport.com

Below is an accessibility complaint I filed with the United States
Department of Transportation regarding systemic accessibility
problems with the Chicago Transit Authority.  Most of the
complaint is focused on operating personnel not identifying
trains as they pull into stations.  Part of the complaint also
deals with access to the Authority's World Wide Web site,
specifically the agency's practice of allowing only secure web
browsers to buy monthly passes.  This is a tantamount exclusion
of blind persons as it precludes use of the Lynx web browser used
by many blind persons.

I understand that the Authority's own ADA Compliance Officer,
Chris Montgomery, is now under investigation herself for her own
ADA compliance.  She may not have followed her agency's own
internal guidelines in handling ADA complaints.  She is blind
herself and is a member of the American Council of the Blind.
She previously served as the Advocacy Director for the Chicago
Lighthouse for the Blind.  She collects a salary of approximately


3257 N. Clifton Ave.
Chicago, IL  60657-3318
(773) 472-7206
Internet:  kelly@ripco.com

Saturday, 7 November 1998

U.S. Department of Transportation
Office for Civil Rights
Federal Transit Administration
400 Seventh St. SW
TCR-Room 9100
Washington, DC 20590

Dear federal officials:

This letter is a title II pattern and practice complaint against
the Chicago Transit Authority.  I am blind and the Authority has
not provided access to the identity of elevated and subway trains
that operate on the same track but going different directions as
mandated by Section 37.167(c) which states:  "Where vehicles or
other conveyances for more than one route serve the same stop,
the entity shall provide a means by which an individual with a
visual impairment or other disability can identify the proper
vehicle to enter or be identified to the vehicle operator as a
person seeking a ride on a particular route."  Additionally, the
CTA falls under section 35.160(A)  of title II which mandates
that "a public entity shall take appropriate steps to ensure that
communications with applicants, participants, and members of the
public with disabilities are as effective as communications with
others."  Further, Section 35.160 (b[1]) continues by saying that
"a public entity shall furnish appropriate auxiliary aids and
services where necessary to afford an individual with a
disability an equal opportunity to participate in, and enjoy the
benefits of, a service, program, or activity conducted by a
public entity."

I shall assert in this complaint that I was provided with no
means by which I could identify the proper vehicle to enter on
the Blue Line on the Dearborn Street Subway.  The agency failed
to provide me with auxiliary aids and services so I could
identify elevated and subway trains and that the communication
was ineffective.  As a blind person, I cannot tell which train to
board on the southbound Blue Line at Washington-Madison.
Eventually, one train will travel on the Congress Expressway
while the other will travel along 21st Street to Cicero.
Passengers may not be that knowledgeable or helpful.  Also, I
shall assert that the agency does not continuously maintain and
ensure the operation of speech synthesis so that a blind user can
operate the automated fare vending equipment independently.
Further, blind computer users are not able to order pre-paid
monthly passes and fare cards from the site the transit agency
maintains on the World Wide Web on the Internet global computer
I used my white cane:  a universal symbol identifying blindness,
whenever I attempted to board a train.  It is 61 inches tall and
constructed from white fiberglass.  When conductors were not
benignly neglectful in supporting my independence, they were
hostile and derisive.  I sometimes must block doors from closing
to learn the identity of a particular train.  This causes rush
hour trains to be held and unnecessary policy confrontations in
the subway tunnel, as occurred on one day in August when the
conductor shouted several times over loudspeakers to "stop
blocking the doors."  He eventually came to my car and angrily
complained about my actions until I and other passengers
explained the basis for my actions and my right for an auxiliary
aid or service.  He made no apology.

I started taking notes on these discriminatory activities on
August 20 at the Washington-Madison stop on the Blue Line.  All
of the incidents described below are from that location unless
otherwise noted.  There was no identification from a Douglas
train with car 2749 at 8:15 a.m. on that day.  On September 4, I
encountered double trouble when two trains would not identify
themselves at the same location at 8:10 a.m.  Car number 3166 on
a Congress train was followed by car number 2328 on a Douglas
train.  September 8 saw another Douglas train failing to identify
with car 2333 at 8:10.  Forest Park train 2726 did not identify
itself either on September 15 at 8:00.  I had another double
discrimination day on September 22 when trains with cars 3162 and
3129 failed to identify themselves at 8:10 am.  Yet another
train, car 2769 at 8:10,  did not identify itself on September
25.  September 28 had a repeat performance with Douglas car 2766
at 8:10.  I suffered abusive treatment on September 30 when the
conductor repeatedly shut the doors on me as I was requesting in
a loud voice the identity of a train.  The conductor on a
Congress train with car 2778 yelled over loudspeakers at 8:20 to
stop blocking doors while I was using my white cane, which was
quite  visible, and asking "what train is this?"

October found additional problems.  A southbound Purple Line
train at Belmont failed to identify itself on October 9 at 9:00
with car number 2907.  One more Douglas train provided no
identification on October 14 at 8:05 with car number 2351.  This
was followed the next day, October 15 with Congress train 3096 at
8:10.  There was a repeat performance with no identification on
October 19 with Douglas train 2762.  The second month of taking
notes started with Congress train 2280 not identifying itself on
October 20 at 8:15.  This was once again followed by yet another
Douglas train, this one with car 2280, not identifying itself
either.  CTA gave another dose of discrimination on October 21
when Congress train 2430 did not identify itself at 11:40.  This
was followed by Douglas train 2740 five minutes later doing the
same thing.  October 26 saw another incident at 8:05 with Douglas
train 3168.

The discrimination the Chicago Transit Authority is exerting
against blind persons is not limited to motormen and conductors
not identifying subway and elevated trains.  Before I started
taking notes, I had observed customer assistants and supervisors
on the subway platform frequently and routinely do nothing to
ensure accessible services as trains failed to identify
themselves.  This complaint on effective communication includes
the automated fare vending machines that were intended to add
convenience and accessibility for all.  In September I discovered
that CTA managers had ordered that the volume of speech
synthesizers on fare vending machines on the Red Line's Belmont
station be lowered to inaudible.   I learned that this decision
was made following complaints about noise levels that resulted
when the Authority upgraded the software for the machines.  The
upgrade caused certain buttons to beep when pressed.  I called
ADA Compliance Officer Chris Montgomery in outrage.  The volume
of the speech synthesizers returned to normal levels permitting
usability of the machines within several days of my voice mail
message to her.  When I spoke to Ms. Montgomery interactively,
she could not provide any assurance that the revenue collection
staff received any training regarding this access issue or if any
policy has been developed to ensure access and usability of the
speech synthesis equipment.

Another barrier to effective communication is the inability to
order transit cards and monthly passes from the agency's own
World Wide Web site on the Internet global computer network at
http://www.transitchicago.com.  The Authority requires the use of
a secure web browser.  I use Lynx, version 2.8, which is not a
secure browser.  Lynx is commonly used by blind persons to access
World Wide Web pages, as it is the most accessible browser for
the blind.  When I spoke to Chris Montgomery on October 16, she
could not explain why the Authority designed its page in this
way,  considering that the world's largest seller of compact
discs on the Internet, Cdnow, and the world's largest online
bookstore, Amazon.com, provide online ordering for customers
using lynx.  As of today, Ms. Montgomery has not provided a
response to the complaint regarding the Authority's inaccessible
web site.  Additionally, many of the incidents of no train
identification have been reported to her with no resolution as to
their outcome.  She has not provided any information if the named
personnel were interviewed by supervisors, the complaint was
sustained or unsustained, and necessary corrective action taken
on sustained complaints.  The number of the complaints, the
diversity of the services that are non-compliant, and the
duration of the reporting period is evidence of a failure by CTA
managers and administrators to fully implement the Americans with
Disabilities Act, train, monitor, and supervise staff on
particular accessible service provision, and credibly respond an
take appropriate action on complaints of alleged discrimination.
Therefore, I request that the U.S. Department of Transportation
require the authority to take the following actions to resolve
this complaint:

1.  Take corrective action against all the operators of trains
 identified above, including providing individual instruction
on how to identify and accommodate a person with a
     disability, particularly a blind person.

2.  Have performance control specialists on an ongoing basis
identify operators who fail to identify their train when it
travels on the same track as another train going a different
direction, as required by ADA guidelines.  These operators
should be referred for increased supervision, discipline,
and additional instruction.

3.  Require supervisors at the Clark and Lake and Racine stations
    to identify trains that fail to identify themselves so that
  the particular operations staff can be disciplined for
failing to provide mandated accommodations.

4.  Provide training and instruction for all motormen on the
Blue, Brown, Green, Purple, and Orange lines on how to
accommodate passengers with disabilities.  This training
should include how to recognize a blind passenger, provide
necessary information, and how to identify the train before
the blind passenger boards.

5.  Train staff in charge of maintaining and servicing the fare
  card vending machines on the benefits of speech synthesis
for blind passengers and the need to maintain and keep
functional this feature at all times.

6.  Develop a written policy that ensures usability of the speech
    synthesis feature of the fare vending machines and
     establishes a protocol whenever the machines are serviced to
    identify, report, and repair any accessibility problems.

7.  Develop the means so that blind persons using the Lynx web
 browser can purchase fare cards and monthly passes online.
Allowing for the purchase of these items by telephone may
not be an effective solution as it may not permit the
     spontaneity and flexibility of permitting the purchase 24
 hours a day, seven days a week which the web site allows.
Purchase by mail may not be effective communication either,
as it would not permit the timeliness of delivery that the
web allows.

8.  Provide training to staff or the contractor that designed the
    Authority's web site on universal access guidelines and how
  to design web pages accessibly for people with disabilities.
  This could include the guidelines articulated by the World
Wide Web Consortium at http://www.w3c.org/wai.

9.  Develop a written policy on accessibility to CTA services on
   the World Wide Web that will be utilized by CTA staff and
contractors.  The policy should reference accessibility
guidelines that are to be used, validation tools utilized to
confirm accessibility, and processes employed to ensure that
people with disabilities, including blind persons, can
participate in the agency's electronic commerce.

I appreciate the department's assistance in this matter and I am
willing to assist in any way possible to fully resolve this


Kelly Pierce
Received on Monday, 23 November 1998 15:05:35 UTC

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