The Maryland Transit Administration has reached a settlement in a class-action lawsuit alleging the call center operations for the agency’s paratransit system were so inadequate that the system violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The lawsuit, brought by Disability Rights Maryland and AARP Foundation Litigation two years ago, claimed the problems at the MTA Mobility program’s call center left many riders unable to schedule rides or report late rides and caused patrons to lose “untold hours of time” waiting to speak to an operator.
The state’s Mobility/Paratransit programs are “origin-to-destination” services for people with disabilities unable to ride on regular public transportation routes. Riders must apply and be certified to use the service, which operates primarily in Baltimore city and select parts of Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties, according to the lawsuit.
Under terms of the settlement agreement, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, the MTA will give outside experts access to program data in order to issue recommendations for improvement. The agency also will implement a “Quality Assurance Process” for eligibility decisions and review all denials. Applications will include information on presumptive eligibility, which requires new applicants who do not receive a decision within three weeks of their eligibility appointment with the agency officials be given access until a final decision is made.
MTA began instituting changes prior to the settlement agreement being submitted to U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake, who still must sign off on the deal, according to Disability Rights Maryland.
“If you have ever missed an important appointment because your ride didn’t show up, after you’ve waited on the phone for a long time to get the ride in the first place, you will understand why this is so significant,” said Hank Greenberg, state director of AARP Maryland, in a statement. “Many of our members and several of our volunteers rely on Mobility to remain active. They need the service for work, church, doctors appointments and grocery shopping – all of the very basis tenets of daily life most of us take for granted.”
The case is Freeman, et al., v. Smith et al.,1:15-cv-00149-CCB