The recommendations for the new PRIIA specifications of the Next Generation of Accessible Passenger rail cars take access by people with disabilities to a new level of inclusion. The recommendations under consideration are more responsive to changes in population demographics and reflect the changes in wheeled mobility devices technologies. The new recommendations are evidence based on research, and the development process involves a broad cross section of the passenger rail industry as well as federal agencies responsible for accessibility.
The recommendations focus on making the next generation of passenger rail cars more inclusive and accessible. The recommendations incorporate changes in population demographics and wheeled mobility technologies and go above and beyond current Americans with Disabilities Act regulations that were written over twenty years ago. Specifically that the US population is getting older and more obese. In most US states between 20 and 30% of the population show a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30. Some examples of the new recommendations include the following; the wheelchair lift minimum payload will be increased from 600 to 800 pounds, the lift platform will be extended in length from 30 × 48 to 30 × 54 inches, and the maneuvering and accessible seating location is increased to 32 inches wide by 59 inches long. A new recommendation for making the rail car vestibule more accessible for a 90 degree turn includes increasing the vestibule width from 42 to 44 inches. These recommendations will make passenger rail cars accessible to about 90 percent of the current users of wheeled mobility devices. Currently the passenger rail vehicles can only accommodate approximately 50 percent of wheeled mobility devices.
There are also provisions in the new recommendations for improving the accessible restroom and its components, even though some of the current passenger rail vehicles have reasonably accessible lavatories. The new recommendations include space for dependent and independent transfers in the restroom and will provide a more consistent level of accessibility for all the new passenger rail cars. Space is recommended for the accommodation of service animal in each car.
The new recommendations also include enhanced provisions for passengers who are deaf or hard of hearing. At a minimum the recommendations incorporate current technologies that are used in transit vehicles for dual mode communication, and also include suggestions for accessible real time passenger information and communication systems, and making information accessible on personal mobile media.
The new recommendations are in the validation and approval process. As a first step, the recommendations will be approved by the PRIIA Section 305 Next Generation Equipment Committee.