The United States today filed a motion to intervene in Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America v. University of Michigan, in the Eastern District of Michigan, a lawsuit challenging the accessibility of the University of Michigan football stadium for individuals with mobility disabilities. In its complaint in intervention, the United States alleges that the university and its Board of Regents violated and continue to violate Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act by illegally discriminating against persons with disabilities by failing to make its football stadium accessible.
“Attending football games is a key element of campus life at the University of Michigan, both for students and alumni,” said Rena J. Comisac, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We seek to ensure that the university’s iconic football stadium, the largest stadium in the United States, has the accessible seating and amenities that federal law requires.”
The United States’ complaint states that the university discriminates against individuals who use wheelchairs because the university has failed to comply with the accessibility requirements of the ADA and Section 504 at the football stadium. The program accessibility requirements of the ADA and Section 504 apply to the football stadium regardless of when that stadium was built and impose obligations upon the university to make the football stadium accessible to persons with disabilities. In addition, because the University of Michigan has added to and altered its football stadium over the past 16 years, federal law imposes additional accessibility requirements.
The Department’s action follows an investigation by the Department of Education, which, on Oct. 26, 2007, issued a formal findings letter to the university concluding that the university violated Section 504 and the ADA. The Department of Education found that the football stadium does not have enough accessible wheelchair seats, the accessible wheelchair seats are not dispersed around the stadium, the university has failed to provide accessible ramps and routes into and around the stadium, and the stadium contains no accessible toilets, no accessible concession stands, no accessible souvenir shops, no accessible parking, and no accessible signage. On Nov. 9, 2007, the Department of Education notified the university that negotiations to achieve voluntary compliance had reached an impasse and the Department of Education referred the matter to the Department of Justice for litigation on Nov. 20, 2007.
While the university is planning to add wheelchair seats to the luxury boxes and suites as part of its upcoming multi-million dollar renovation, the wheelchair seats being added there are required to make that portion of the stadium accessible and do not resolve violations in the other sections of seating at the stadium.
The Department of Justice has attempted to resolve this matter through mediation with the university but has been unsuccessful in those efforts to date. More information about the ADA can be obtained on the Department of Justice’s ADA home page at www.ada.gov. Information about the ADA is also available the Department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TTY).