A light rail train car in Denver, Colorado. 

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Denver area's RTD light rail trains violate the Americans with Disability Act because they don't have enough space to comfortably accommodate wheelchairs, according to a federal lawsuit filed this week.

Without adequate space for more than one wheelchair at the front of the trains, disabled riders are forced into an uncomfortable and awkward spot near the doors, according to the lawsuit filed by the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition.

“People in wheelchairs are constantly having to move around to try to accommodate other people getting on and off the train,” said coalition Attorney Kevin Williams. “That just doesn’t happen for other passengers.”

In addition, riders without disabilities often occupy the designated wheelchair areas with strollers or other large objects, and train drivers don’t ask them to make room for disabled riders, Williams said. Adding to the conflict, RTD also designates the wheelchair area as priority seating for people with disabilities who don’t use wheelchairs or other mobility devices.

If RTD just cleared some more space at the front of trains to accommodate wheelchairs, Williams said the problem would go away.

“The trains would be compliant with the regulations, and people in wheelchairs could enjoy their ride just like everybody else,” he said.

A spokesman for RTD said his agency has not seen the lawsuit, but encouraged the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition to meet with them rather than filing a “lawsuit first and asking questions later.” 

Williams said they resorted to legal action because RTD has historically ignored complaints without pending legal action.