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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Justice Department Intervenes in Americans with Disabilities Act Lawsuit Against Transportation Provider

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today announced that it has moved to intervene in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Jackson, Miss., challenging inaccessibility in Jackson’s public transportation system. The pending lawsuit, filed by 11 residents of Jackson with disabilities and two non-profit organizations that work on behalf of people with disabilities, alleges violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (ADA).

The Department’s complaint alleges that the city of Jackson has failed to maintain, promptly repair and keep in operative condition the wheelchair lifts of the city’s fixed route bus system, known as JATRAN; has failed to adequately train personnel to properly assist passengers with disabilities; has failed to provide the required level of service to passengers of Handilift, the ADA complementary paratransit service; and has otherwise denied individuals with disabilities benefits to which they are entitled under the law.

"Accessible public transportation is vital to people with disabilities so that they can fully participate in their community," said Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "Failing to provide required accessibility discriminates against persons with disabilities.  Eradicating such discrimination and ensuring the full accessibility that the law requires is one of the Civil Rights Division’s highest priorities."

The Department’s complaint details allegations of injury caused by inaccessible public transportation in Jackson. The factual allegations in the Department’s filing include frequent instances where individuals who use wheelchairs are forced to wait while multiple JATRAN buses with inoperable lifts pass them by, often leaving them stranded as they attempted to get to work, to medical appointments and to numerous other essential destinations such as grocery shopping. The government further alleges that the availability of Handilift service to ADA paratransit eligible persons is significantly limited by capacity constraints, including failure to provide next-day service, failure to plan to meet the demand for paratransit services, a substantial numbers of trip denials, significantly untimely pickups and limitations to telephone reservation capacity.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and their implementing regulations detail the requirements with which fixed-route and complementary paratransit public transportation systems must comply.

"The decision of the Department to intervene in this matter indicates our commitment to protect the rights of all Americans and advance the ability of every individual to fully participate in society," said Stan Harris, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi.

The decision to seek to intervene in the lawsuit reflects the Civil Rights Division’s ongoing commitment to actively enforce federal disability discrimination laws.

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