Handicapped riders say Amtrak not on track

COATESVILLE, Pa. - July 28, 2010

A bullet went through his back leading to the loss of his legs and a life confined to where his wheelchair can take him. However, there is one place Willie can't move around - the Amtrak station.

"I don't know if they're prejudiced or scared of people in wheelchairs; we need things in life, too," Woods said.

20 years to the week after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and just days after the last deadline to meet requirements to make itself handicap accessible, Amtrak remains noncompliant.

This means Willie, and others at the Coatesville station, have no way to get onto their trains. No ramps. No lifts.

Action News asked Amtrak why the Coatesville station and many others remain, despite the law, inaccessible to the handicapped. Amtrak answered by citing a "complicated ownership structure" where the station may be owned, as most are, by someone other than Amtrak. In essence, blaming the landlord for what's broken.

But just 10 minutes from Coatesville, that excuse doesn't cut it. The Parkesburg station is one of just 68 in the country wholly owned by Amtrak, they are the landlord, and yet it, too, is completely noncompliant

One man, who asked not to be identified, suffers from a disease that often renders him unable to drive or even walk, making him reliant on Amtrak, but he can't get on board to get to work in Philadelphia. He even offered to build a ramp in the station, but says Amtrak denied that offer, citing technical concerns. He says Amtrak has had 20 years to figure out a fix.

"But the ultimate thing is you need to lift a chair up 3 feet high. This isn't really rocket science," the man said.

Amtrak, despite ditching plans to spend stimulus dollars to make stations accessible, still says the fixes are coming. After two decades, Willie and others have reason to doubt.

"They seem like they're dragging their feet. They didn't keep the promise they made us," Woods said.

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