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U.S. Attorney’s Office Resolves Complaint against Taxi Driver for Refusing Service to Visually Impaired Teen with Service Animal

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 27, 2014

St. Thomas, USVI – United States Attorney Ronald W. Sharpe today announced an agreement with taxi driver Altagracia Roumou that resolves allegations that she violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by refusing taxi service to an individual on the basis of his disability. The Settlement Agreement concludes an investigation which began in March 2013 when Zane Birnie filed a complaint with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The complaint alleged that Mr. Birnie, a young man who is visually impaired, attempted to board a “safari” taxi, but was refused by the driver because he was accompanied by his service animal.

Pursuant to the terms of the Settlement Agreement, Ms. Roumou paid a $1,000 damage award to Mr. Birnie, and will pay a $1,000 civil penalty to the United States. She also agreed not to discriminate against any individual on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of taxicab services, and to provide service to all persons with disabilities, including those accompanied by a service animal. Ms. Roumou also agreed to adopt a Department of Justice-approved service animal policy, and undergo training on providing service to persons with disabilities. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will be offering ADA training to workers in the taxi industry, in conjunction with the Disability Rights Center of the Virgin Islands and the Virgin Islands Taxicab Commission.

The Settlement Agreement is part of a broader effort by the U.S. Attorney’s Office to enforce the ADA and to educate the public about the ADA’s requirements. “This settlement exemplifies the U.S. Attorney’s Office commitment to protecting the civil rights of all Virgin Islanders, including those with disabilities,” United States Attorney Sharpe said.

The ADA prohibits public and private entities from discriminating against persons with disabilities. Under the ADA, state and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed, including restaurants, movie theaters, stores, hospitals, doctor’s offices, and fairs. The ADA also requires that transportation providers, including private taxis and public transportation, allow persons with disabilities who use service animals to travel with their service animals, even if the transportation provider has a “no pets” policy.

The Department of Justice has a number of publications available to assist entities to comply with the ADA, including guidance on service animals. Please visit www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm. For more information about the Americans with Disabilities Act, go to www.ada.gov. ADA complaints may be filed with the U.S. Attorney’s Office or by email to ada.complaint@usdoj.gov.

This case was handled by Assistant United States Attorney Noah Sacks.

 

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