ADA Victories in the Past Year

by Bill Norman on July 1, 2007 - 12:43pm

QUEST Vol. 14, No. 4

Scooters OK on New Jersey roads

A policeman told 14-year-old Matthew Tempe it was illegal to ride his motorized scooter on public roads. Matthew, who has Becker muscular dystrophy, felt he was being discriminated against, and so did his parents and several New Jersey lawmakers. The latter introduced legislation to make scooter use on streets permissible, and the measure passed handily. Matthew’s scooter must display a decal and he has to have insurance, but otherwise he and others are now free to roll.

Oops — sidewalk ramps, again

Some American cities that constructed ADA-compliant sidewalk ramps (curb cuts) to accommodate wheelchair users years ago now have to rip out the ramps and start over at a cost of millions.

Despite their good intentions, cities sometimes misinterpreted federal guidelines (or the guidelines changed) and built ramps that were too narrow, too steep or lacked rough surfaces for traction. When federal auditors found the ramps deficient, they advised local governments to make the fix.

Cities don’t want to risk offending Uncle Sam in this instance because refusing to comply with the ADA could mean losing federal funds for roadwork. Most municipalities rely heavily on those funds.

And in a new take on the sidewalk curb ramps issue, the U.S. Department of Justice disagreed when a small township in New Jersey argued it shouldn’t have to install curb ramps in existing sidewalks because the township had fewer than 50 employees. DOJ ruled that an exemption for small public entities “applies only to the administrative obligation to complete a transition plan” demonstrating ADA compliance — not to the obligation to make public sidewalks accessible.

Retailer Web sites must be accessible

A federal district court judge ruled that a retail merchant can be sued if its Web site is inaccessible to people with disabilities. Target Corp. had tried to maintain that only its facilities (i.e., stores) fell under ADA jurisdiction. Disability Rights Advocates, the nonprofit law firm that brought the suit, said, “The court clarified that the law requires that any place of public accommodation is required to ensure that it does not discriminate when it uses the Internet as a means to enhance the services it offers at a physical location.”

Service animals OK in restaurants...

A woman with disabilities and her husband were told to leave a Shoney’s restaurant in Tennessee because they had a service dog with them. After a few conversations with DOJ about ADA requirements, Shoney’s signed a settlement agreement that requires each Shoney’s restaurant to conspicuously display a sign that reads, “Individuals with disabilities and their service animals are welcome at Shoney’s Restaurants.” The company also agreed to train all employees in their obligations under the ADA.

… and in this company’s taxis

A driver for City Cab in Crestview, Fla., refused to pick up Rex Haney because he used a service dog. Haney filed a complaint with DOJ. City Cab admitted no liability, but the settlement agreement it signed with DOJ provided, among other things, that the company will offer Haney and his dog one free one-way taxi ride per day five days a week within Crestview city limits between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m, for a year.

Cab company changes wheelchair policy

In Eau Claire, Wis., Jamie Friederich and a friend called Limo Economy Car to pick them up after a late-night concert. When the driver saw Friederich was a wheelchair user, he drove off with no explanation. The Wisconsin Coalition for Advocacy contacted Limo and was told the company had a no-wheelchairs policy, that cabs had no room for wheelchairs and wheelchairs were safety hazards. Then the U.S. Department of Justice got involved. Limo has rewritten its policies and now accepts passengers who use wheelchairs. It also agreed to send a letter of apology and $500 each to Friederich and his friend for their inconvenience.

Buses get more user-friendly

Four people with disabilities in Detroit filed suit against the city over problems with wheelchair access to city buses and some drivers refusing to stop and pick up wheelchair users. The city denied any wrongdoing, but agreed to an extensive list of requirements that included a section on driver conduct. Now drivers may not bypass a wheelchair user waiting to board; must stop the bus at a spot where a passenger in a wheelchair can safely debark; shall leave their seats if necessary to help passengers with disabilities board the bus; and must ensure that wheelchairs are securely fastened in position with tie-downs.

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