Gina Cook

FTA Orders Metro to Make Immediate Safety Changes to Protect Blind Riders

The Federal Transit Administration is ordering Metro to make immediate changes to some of its railcars after it says a blind rider was injured while trying to get on a train.

Federal authorities said in a letter sent Friday to Metro General Manager and CEO Paul Wiedefeld that the 7000-series cars are not safe for visually impaired riders.

The letter cited an incident in May when a visually impaired customer was hurt while searching for an open door on a railcar at the Van Ness-UDC station. The rider mistook the gap between two railcars as a doorway, stepped off the platform and fell onto the tracks. She had minor injuries, the letter said.

The FTA says the rubber barriers on the 7000-series railcars are harder for people who are blind to detect than the chain barriers used on Metro's other railcars.

"The rubber barriers create inconsistency in WMATA' s BCB system, which can be difficult for passengers who are blind or have low vision to recognize. They also are more difficult to detect with a cane, being recessed from the side of the railcar further from the platform than the chain barriers," the letter said.

Metro has been ordered to take several steps, including educating passengers about the rubber barriers and switching to chain barriers.

Metro said in a statement Friday that it would install the chain barriers as soon as possible.

Read Metro's full statement below:

"Metro worked closely with the accessibility community and oversight personnel to ensure that safety and accessibility compliance were the highest priorities during the design and decision-making process leading to the dual between-car barrier concept. We remain confident in the safety, accessibility and compliance of the design with all applicable law.

"While our testing confirmed the safety of the current design, after consulting with our customers and the FTA, WMATA will replace the existing between car barriers with chain-barriers on the 7000-series currently in passenger service. The testing of options was needed because there is no federal design standard.

"We are working as quickly as possible with the rail car manufacturer to install the chain-barriers on the existing 7000-series rail car fleet as well as on new rail cars from the manufacturer. In the meantime, Metro is making public address announcements in stations to remind customers with disabilities to tap the floor of the train before boarding, a standard safety procedure. We will also work with and respond to the FTA with an action plan as requested by June 29, 2018."

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