Charter and Tour Companies


technically, the final rule applies to more than just Greyhound buses; in fact, its implementation dramatically reshaped the travel industry. Indeed, the rule makes U.S. travel more accessible even if you never step foot on a Greyhound bus. Why? Because the rule also addresses charter bus services and day tours. As of October 2002, all tour operators are required to provide accessible services (with 48 hours notice) if they operate their tours in OTR buses. In this case, accessible services means either a liftequipped bus or a separate ramped or lift-equipped van. An OTR bus is defined as a bus with an elevated passenger deck located over a baggage compartment. This rule also applies to any other private demand-responsive transit service provider. This does not mean that all the small charter and tour companies must purchase accessible buses; they must, however, be able to provide them on 48 hours notice. The rule states that companies can do this by renting or leasing accessible vehicles. Additionally, disabled passengers cannot be charged extra, even if the charter company has to spend more money to provide accessible vehicles. The cost can, however, be passed on to all passengers in the form of higher prices. The accessible vehicle does not have to be a bus, and many charter companies may opt to rent a lift-equipped van for this purpose. The choice is up to them, as long as they provide accessible transportation. Hand-carrying passengers on board is not considered appropriate under any circumstances. This regulation ultimately makes charter tours and day tours more accessible. For example, if you want to take the bargain gambling bus tour to Reno or Lake Tahoe, all you have to do is give the charter company 48 hours notice. It’s important to note that all tour company reservation deadlines still apply. For example, if a tour company requires 30 days advance notice for reservations, then accessible reservations must also be made 30 days in advance. Some tour companies like Gray Line of New Orleans have already added accessible vehicles to their fleet. Although the Gray Line city tour is considered a staple for Big Easy visitors, until 2003, you could only join this tour if you could walk a few steps and transfer to a coach seat. All that has changed now, thanks to the full implementation of the final regulations. Today, lift-equipped bus service is available for the Gray Line New Orleans Super City Tour, and you can remain in your own wheelchair for the entire tour. Ultimately, package tours within the United States will be also more accessible, as tour operators are now required to provide accessible bus transportation on charter tours. Thus, people with mobility disabilities will have more choices and won’t only be limited to booking tours with specialty tour operators. In the years to come, more mainstream tour operators will be required to provide accessible tours, which means more choices will be available. In the long run, this rule will make tours and travel more accessible. In the short run, people with disabilities will most likely have to become skilled at self advocacy in order to get these services. The most effective plan of action is to learn the rule, and then speak up for your rights.