I recently tried to book a motorcoach tour of the Southwest and the tour operator said that she didn’t like to charter accessible buses because the lifts often malfunction and it’s just a big hassle. I cannot walk at all, so I need to stay in my own wheelchair. I explained this to her, but she would not accept my booking. Is this legal? Do I have any recourse?
No, it’s not legal.
Basically, tour operators are required to provide transportation in a lift-equipped motorcoach, given 48-hours advance notice. This regulation has been in effect since October 2002. That said, tour operators are not required to displace other passengers in order to accommodate a disabled passenger. For example, if a tour operator only had one seat left on the bus, they wouldn’t be required to accommodate a wheelchair-user who can’t transfer, as one wheelchair takes up the space of six seats. Since only one seat is open, the tour operator would not be required to displace five other passengers in order to create enough space for the wheelchair-user. If however they have six or more seats available, they must take the reservation and then charter an accessible motorcoach.
It’s also important to realize that all of the tour operator deadlines still apply to any request for accessible service. So, for example, if the tour company has a policy that reservations must be made 30 days in advance, then a passenger must request an accessible motorcoach at least 30 days in advance too.
Obviously that did not happen in your case. Since this matter is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, I would advise you to file a formal complaint with the Department of Justice. I’ve listed the address below for you. Good luck!
US Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Disability Rights Section – NYAV
Washington DC 20530