FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
MONDAY, MARCH 21, 2005
TDD (202) 514-1888
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SEEKS TO COMPEL CITY OF
DETROIT TO FIX AND MAINTAIN WHEELCHAIR LIFTS ON BUSES
WASHINGTON, D.C.- The Department of Justice today announced that it has moved to intervene in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Detroit challenging inaccessibility in Detroit’s public transportation system. The pending lawsuit, filed by five residents of Detroit who use wheelchairs, alleges violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The Department’s complaint alleges that the City of Detroit has failed to maintain and repair the wheelchair lifts of the city’s fixed-route bus system, and has otherwise denied individuals with disabilities benefits to which they are entitled under the law.
“Persons with disabilities need access to public transportation to get work and to participate more independently in their communities,” said R. Alexander Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. “Failing to provide required accessibility discriminates against persons with disabilities. Through President Bush’s New Freedom Initiative, the Department of Justice is working to ensure the full accessibility the law requires.”
The Department’s complaint details allegations of injury caused by inaccessible public transportation in Detroit. The factual allegations in the Department’s filing include instances where individuals who use wheelchairs are forced to wait while multiple buses with inoperable lifts pass them by, often leaving them stranded as they attempted to get to work, to church, to medical appointments, and to numerous other essential destinations such as grocery shopping. As a result, many customers often wait 30 minutes or more before a bus with a working lift is available. The government further alleges that the city has approximately 120 buses with lifts that have not been working for more than six months, and the city does not intend to make the needed repairs.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and their implementing regulations detail the requirements with which fixed-route public transportation systems must comply.
“The United States’ motion to intervene in this matter seeks to protect the rights of some of the most vulnerable Americans and improve their ability to fully participate in our society,” said Stephen J. Murphy, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.
The decision to seek to intervene in the lawsuit reflects the Civil Rights Division’s ongoing commitment to actively enforce federal disability discrimination laws.