Last year my husband and I booked a Superliner Accessible Bedroom on Amtrak. I was extremely disappointed in the size of this room. My husband uses a wheelchair and there was barely enough room for us in the room. How can this even be considered accessible? Isn’t this type of thing covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?
I’m sorry that you had a bad experience on Amtrak. Rail travel is indeed covered under the ADA, however the rules for accessible sleeping compartments differ drastically from those for hotel rooms. Part of the problem is that space is at a premium on trains, and the other part is that “ADA compliant” doesn’t necessarily mean that a certain room or feature will work for everyone.
The regulations don’t specify room dimensions, however they do state that accessible sleeping compartments must “be designed so as to allow a person using a wheelchair or mobility aid to enter, maneuver within and approach and use each element within such compartment.” They also must have a restroom with clear floor space of 35 x 60 inches, that is equipped with a 17 to 19-inch high toilet and two grab bars. Additionally, the environmental controls must be no higher than 48 inches, and they must be operable with one hand, without having to grasp or pinch them. And finally, the corridors on the train car must be at least 42 inches wide, and the doorway to the accessible sleeping compartment must be at least 32 inches wide.
I’ve been in Amtrak’s accessible bedrooms, and they are indeed small; however they do conform to the letter of the law. And at 6’9 x 9’5 they are considerably larger than the standard bedrooms which measure a cozy 6’6 x 7’6. Additionally, Amtrak holds the accessible bedrooms solely for wheelchair-users until 14 days prior to departure, to discourage abuse.
Still, I wouldn’t write off train travel, as the stations and standard cars are pretty accessible. Perhaps you could plan a route where you travel for eight or so hours and then overnight in a city for a few days. That way you can relax in a roomy accessible hotel room. It might be an interesting way to see America. Hopefully your next train experience will be much better.