BART tweaks new trains toward accessibility

The BART board voted Thursday to approve an agreement with disability advocates that improves accessibility on BART’s new “Fleet of the Future.”

The floor plan for the new train cars, which are scheduled to go into service next year in an effort to relieve crowding, will have wheelchair zones consolidated at the middle door of each train car. BART officials said they have agreed to remove all floor-to-ceiling poles in the area around the middle door to provide wider, more accessible paths for people with disabilities.

Attorney Rebecca Williford, with the nonprofit legal center Disability Rights Advocates, says floor-to-ceiling poles encourage passengers to congregate near the door, which can create an obstacle for people in wheelchairs trying to get on or off the train quickly.

The poles can also cause problems for riders with sight-related disabilities, Williford said:

“The poles become just another barrier to navigate, and something to run into and hurt themselves on.”

The new floor plan also includes a 50 percent increase in seating designated for seniors or people with disabilities, according to BART.

Teresa Favuzzi, executive director of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers, said in a prepared statement that many BART passengers with disabilities would have been better served by removing all the floor-to-ceiling poles from new train cars, but that her organization was pleased with the compromise to remove them from wheelchair areas.

Alan Smith, chair of the BART Accessibility Task Force, said the new floor plan provides diverse amenities to accommodate people with diverse needs.