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Peter Pan settles complaint over ADA violations

  • A Peter Pan bus picks up a group of passengers at the Northampton terminal, Wednesday. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A Peter Pan bus stops at the Olver Transit Center in Greenfield on it's way from Springfield to Albany, New York.



@dustyc123
Thursday, August 17, 2017

NORTHAMPTON — Peter Pan Bus Lines of Springfield has settled a complaint with the U.S. attorney’s office over allegations that the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The settlement comes as a result of a federal disability complaint that alleged Peter Pan wheelchair lifts weren’t properly maintained and malfunctioned frequently, and that drivers failed to properly secure wheelchairs. The company, which transports some 4 million passengers yearly, has agreed to several changes to its practices, and will pay damages to one passenger who was affected.

“Passengers with disabilities should be able to travel with the same convenience and dignity as other riders; they should not be subjected to delays and cancellations because of inoperable equipment,” acting U.S. Attorney William Weinreb said in a statement. “We appreciate Peter Pan’s cooperation throughout this investigation and its commitment to ensuring that individuals with disabilities receive the same service as other passengers.”

Christopher Crean, Peter Pan’s vice president of safety and security, told the Gazette that many of the issues came during winter, when salt and sand can lead to maintenance issues on their lifts.

“We do have our problems, but we’re looking at more programs to implement to make sure that doesn’t occur at all,” he said.

Peter Pan’s customer service records show that between October 2015 and June 2016, at least 11 customers weren’t adequately served because a wheelchair lift didn’t work, or because a driver wasn’t properly trained to operate it, according to the settlement agreement. In addition, the settlement states that internal company communications show drivers allegedly didn’t secure wheelchairs adequately.

In one case, a woman named Paulette Johnson was allegedly stuck on a malfunctioning bus lift for an hour and a half, and then because the lift was broken she got stuck on the bus for another six hours without food or insulin shots for her diabetes, the settlement says.

Under the settlement agreement, Peter Pan Bus Lines will take several steps to remedy the problem:

♦ training employees on federal requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act;

♦ instructing and testing drivers and other staff on the use of wheelchair lifts and other accessibility equipment;

♦ conducting weekly tests of all fixed-route coaches to make sure they work properly; and,

♦ removing from operation buses with broken lifts until the lift is repaired. 

“Every lift has been fixed, and if not fixed has been replaced with a newer lift,” Crean said. He added that the company would likely also test lifts daily to make sure the equipment is still working.

The company has also agreed to pay Johnson $15,000 in damages for the alleged failure to provide her adequate service because of her disability.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.