| U.S. Department of Justice |
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Section
Enforcing the ADA
A Press Report from the Department of Justice for the Rocky Mountain Region: Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming
This report covers the ADA activities of the Department of Justice after the ADA first went into effect on January 26, 1992.
Through lawsuits, consent decrees, and formal and informal settlement agreements the Department of Justice has achieved greater access for individuals with disabilities in hundreds of cases. Under general rules governing lawsuits brought by the Federal Government, the Department may not file a lawsuit unless it has first unsuccessfully attempted to settle the dispute through negotiations.
The Department may file lawsuits in Federal court to enforce the ADA and may obtain court orders including compensatory damages and back pay to remedy discrimination. Under title III the Department may also obtain civil penalties of up to $55,000 for the first violation and $110,000 for any subsequent violation.
Some lawsuits are resolved at the time the suit is filed or afterwards by means of a negotiated consent decree. Consent decrees are monitored and enforced by the Federal court in which they are entered.
The Department files amicus briefs in selected ADA cases in which it is not a party in order to guide courts in interpreting the ADA.
The Department sometimes resolves cases without filing a lawsuit by means of formal and informal agreements.
Richardson and Steele v. City of Steamboat Springs, Colorado -- The Department intervened in an ongoing lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado brought by two wheelchair users who claim that they were denied equal access to the public transit system in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The Department alleges that the city violated the ADA by purchasing inaccessible used buses without first making the required good faith efforts to purchase accessible buses, by failing to repair inoperable wheelchair lifts and to provide alternative transportation when wheelchair lifts were inoperable, and by not adequately training bus drivers in the operation of wheelchair lifts.
New Title III Lawsuits Challenge Stadium-style Theater Design --
United States v. AMC Entertainment, Inc. -- The Department filed suit against AMC Entertainment, Inc., and American Multi-Cinema, Inc., in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California for violating the ADA in the design, construction, and operation of stadium-style movie theaters in the AMC chain. The two theaters named in the complaint are the Norwalk Theater in Norwalk, California, and the Promenade 16 Theater in Woodland Hills, California. The newly constructed AMC theaters have two types of seats -- stadium-style seats, which provide comfortable, unobstructed lines of sight to the screen, and traditional seating, which is located on the sloped floor at the front of the theater immediately in front of the screen. Although AMC marketed the theaters as providing stadium-style seating, it placed the wheelchair seating only in the less desirable traditional seating on sloped floors. Wheelchair users are therefore denied a movie viewing experience that is comparable to that afforded to other members of the general public. The complaint also alleges other access violations including the failure to provide companion seating next to wheelchair seats; failure to provide handrails; inadequate space at wheelchair seating locations; and inaccessible concession counters, bathrooms, and telephones.
United States v. Cinemark USA, Inc. -- The Department filed suit against Cinemark USA, Inc., in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio alleging that three of Cinemark's Ohio theaters, as well as its stadium-style seating theaters across the country, violated the ADA by failing both to provide comparable lines of sight to wheelchair users and to make wheelchair seating locations an integral part of the stadium-style seating. Prior to this lawsuit, Cinemark filed suit against the Department of Justice in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas asserting that the Department's actions regarding stadium-style theaters violate the Administrative Procedure Act. The Department believes that suit is without merit and has asked the court to dismiss it.
United States v. 1400 Glenarm Place Co-Tenancy -- The Department filed a lawsuit and consent decree to resolve this case involving a commercial office building in downtown Denver, Colorado that made inaccessible alterations to its facility after January 26, 1992. Under the consent agreement, the defendants agreed to correct the inaccessible alterations and also agreed to make substantial path of travel modifications, including changes to restrooms on three floors and provision of an accessible entrance to space leased to a public utility company.
United States v. Lira Limited -- The Department settled by consent decree its lawsuit against the Barolo Grill, a restaurant in Denver, Colorado. In November 1992, the Barolo's owners altered the restaurant without complying with the ADA when they constructed a raised dining area with no ramp or lift for persons who use wheelchairs. In the consent order, the defendants admit that they made alterations that were not accessible, did not take any steps to improve the path of travel and took no steps to remove barriers where removal was readily achievable. The order requires the defendants to correct access problems throughout the restaurant, including the installation of a ramp to the new raised dining area. The order also requires defendants to pay $10,000 in civil penalties and $6,000 in damages to four individuals. Defendants have also agreed to host an ADA information seminar to inform other restaurants in Colorado about their responsibilities under the law.
U.S. v. Allright Colorado, Inc., Colorado -- The Department entered into a consent decree resolving its lawsuit against Allright Colorado, a company that owns or operates over 100 parking lot facilities in Denver. Under the agreement, Allright will add well over 400 accessible parking spaces to its facilities and will instruct parking attendants to monitor the slots and ticket cars that are improperly parked in accessible spaces. Allright paid a $20,000 civil penalty to the United States because of the alleged delay in moving toward compliance.
United States v. Becker C.P.A. Review --In a consent decree resolving the first case filed by the Department of Justice under the ADA, Becker C.P.A. Review, which prepares over 10,000 students annually to take the national certified public accountant exam, agreed to amend its auxiliary aids policy. Becker will no longer limit its offered auxiliary aids to audiotape transcripts prepared for the instructors' use, and will provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services, including qualified sign language interpreters and assistive listening devices, to students with hearing impairments. The company may require a student to attend a consultation meeting, at which time the student would explain his or her individual needs and means of communication. Becker would explain the nature of the class and the proposed auxiliary aid or service. However, Becker may request that the student try its proposed aid or service at a Becker class prior to the session that the student wishes to attend. If the student can articulate, based on experience or skills, why the proposed aid or service will not provide effective communication, the student will not be requested to try out the proposed auxiliary aid or service. Becker also agreed to appoint a national ADA coordinator and to train its staff regarding the policy revision; pay $20,000 to the Department of Justice to be distributed to seven deaf and hearing impaired individuals, all former Becker students; and establish a $25,000 scholarship fund for accounting students who have hearing impairments at California State University.
NCAA Will Revise Eligibility Requirements to Accommodate Student-Athletes with Learning Disabilities -- Under a landmark consent decree, the National Collegiate Athletic Association will modify policies that each year prevented hundreds of students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities from playing college sports and receiving athletic scholarships. The agreement in United States v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, stems from a series of complaints lodged with the Department by student-athletes alleging that the NCAA's initial-eligibility academic requirements discriminate against student-athletes with learning disabilities. The agreement requires the NCAA to modify its policies while at the same time enabling it to maintain its academic standards. The NCAA agreed to --
- revise its rules so that classes designed for students with learning disabilities can be certified as core courses if the classes provide students with the same types of knowledge and skills as other college-bound students;
- allow students with learning disabilities who are unable to meet the initial eligibility rules when they graduate from high school to earn a fourth year of athletic eligibility if they complete a substantial percentage of their degree work and maintain good grades;
- direct its committees that evaluate applications filed by students who do not meet the requirements but are seeking a waiver to consider a broad range of factors in reviewing the student's high school preparation and performance when deciding whether to grant a waiver and not to use a minimum qualifying test score on the SAT or ACT;
- include experts on learning disabilities on the committees that evaluate waiver applications.
In addition, the consent decree requires the NCAA to undertake efforts designed to prevent further violations of the ADA, including designating one or more employees as an ADA compliance coordinator to serve as a resource to NCAA staff and as a liaison with students with learning disabilities; providing training to its staff regarding the new policies; and publicizing the terms of the agreement to high schools, students, parents, and member colleges and universities. The NCAA also agreed to pay a total of $35,000 in damages to four student-athletes.
Days Inns Will Promote Accessibility at New Hotels Nationwide -- The world's largest hotel chain agreed to undertake a nationwide initiative designed to make hundreds of its new hotels across the country more accessible to persons with disabilities. The consent decree, filed in U.S. District Court in Pikeville, Kentucky, resolves five lawsuits filed by the Department of Justice. The suits alleged that franchiser Days Inns of America, Inc, and its parent company, Cendant Corporation (formerly HFS, Inc), because of their significant role in the design and construction of new Days Inns hotels, violated the ADA by allowing franchisees to construct hotels that failed to comply with the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. Under the agreement, Days Inns will --
- require new hotels to certify that they are in compliance with the ADA Standards before they open for business as Days Inns;
- pay for an independent survey program designed to identify ADA problems at newly constructed hotels;
- establish a $4.75 million revolving fund to provide interest-free loans to franchisees of newly constructed hotels to finance repairs and renovations required for ADA compliance; and
- pay $50,000 to the United States.
The agreement ends four years of litigation that followed an 18-month investigation of newly constructed Days Inn hotels across the country. The investigation revealed that similar accessibility problems existed throughout the chain, including, for example, insufficient accessible parking, inaccessible entrances and walkways at the facilities; inadequate space for persons who use wheelchairs to maneuver in guestrooms and bathrooms; insufficient visual alarm systems for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing; inadequate signage for persons who are blind or have low vision; inaccessible routes throughout the hotels; and guestroom and bathroom doors that were not wide enough to allow wheelchairs to pass inside. The owners, contractors and all but one architect for each of the five hotels named in the lawsuits had earlier entered into consent decrees or agreements with the Department. This consent decree resolves the remaining claims against Days Inns of America and Cendant Corporation.
United States v. Ellerbe Becket, Inc. -- The Ellerbe Becket architectural firm agreed that all of the new sports stadiums and arenas that it designs in the future will be designed to provide wheelchair seating locations with a line of sight over standing spectators. The agreement specifically applies to any facility with more than four fixed seats and in which spectators can be expected to stand for all or any part of an event . The consent decree resolves the Department's lawsuit alleging that Ellerbe had violated the ADA by repeatedly designing new sports stadiums and arenas that violated the ADA new construction requirement for comparable lines of sight for wheelchair seating locations. Ellerbe argued that the court should dismiss the case because architects are not covered by title III of the ADA and because lines of sight over standing spectators are not required. The court disagreed with both of these arguments and allowed the case to continue.
Arnold v. United Artists Theatre Circuit, Inc. -- The Department entered into a formal agreement and consent decree with United Artists Theatre Circuit, Inc. (UATC), one of the nation's largest exhibitors of motion pictures, that will ensure compliance with the ADA's barrier removal and new construction provisions at more than 400 theater locations with approximately 2,300 screens throughout the United States. The consent decree, which was filed simultaneously with the Department's intervention in Arnold v. United Artists Theatre Circuit, Inc., will completely resolve that suit. The Arnold case was a private class action suit brought on behalf of California residents with mobility impairments who encountered barriers at UATC theaters. The agreement requires UATC to take the following actions in almost all of its existing theaters throughout the country within the next five years --
- provide parking spaces that comply in design and number with the requirements of the ADA Standards for Accessible Design (the Standards);
- provide an accessible path of travel from parking spaces to an accessible theater entrance;
- provide in each auditorium the number of wheelchair seating spaces required in comparably-sized, newly-constructed auditoriums, with companion seating;
- ensure that one percent of the total number of seats is aisle seats with folding or removable aisle-side armrests;
- provide at least two dispersed wheelchair seating locations at a distance of from one-third to two-thirds of the way back from the screen in auditoriums with more than 300 seats; and
- modify existing restrooms to make them accessible or construct unisex accessible restrooms that comply with the Standards.
UATC will also be required to bring all theaters constructed for first occupancy after January 26, 1993, into full compliance with the Standards by no later than June 30, 1997, and to ensure that future construction complies with the Standards.
United States v. Harcourt Brace Legal and Professional Publications, Inc. -- A consent decree resolved this suit against the auxiliary aids policies of Harcourt Brace Legal and Professional Publications regarding Bar/Bri, the nation's largest preparatory course for individuals studying for bar examinations. The Department's complaint alleged that the Bar/Bri course failed to provide appropriate auxiliary aids to students with vision and hearing impairments. Under the consent decree, filed simultaneously with the complaint, Harcourt Brace agreed to establish a detailed set of procedures for identifying and providing appropriate auxiliary aids and services, including qualified sign language interpreters, assistive listening devices, and Brailled materials, to students with disabilities. In addition, Harcourt Brace has agreed to pay $28,000 in compensatory relief. This award is divided among two students, the California Department of Rehabilitation which provided the interpreter for one of the students, and the individual who converted the course materials into Braille for the other student. Harcourt Brace also agreed to pay $25,000 in civil penalties, adopt and implement a formal written policy ensuring that auxiliary aids and services are promptly and properly provided, educate Bar/Bri staff regarding students with disabilities, and include information regarding the availability of auxiliary aids and services for students with disabilities in its advertising materials.
United States v. Gibson's Discount Centers, Inc.-- A lawsuit and consent decree were filed simultaneously to resolve this case against the operator of 31 discount department stores in eight Midwest and Rocky Mountain States. The Department investigated complaints against several Gibson's stores alleging that Gibson's had failed to remove architectural barriers to access and that it had made alterations without complying with the ADA's Standards for Accessible Design. Under the terms of the consent order, Gibson's will bring every one of its stores into full compliance with the Standards. Gibson's will provide at least one accessible fitting room and entrance at each store, as well as accessible parking, check-out aisles, and restrooms. In addition, Gibson's will pay a civil penalty of $30,000 to the United States, and will pay compensatory damages of $15,000 to the complainant.
Dickinson, North Dakota -- The Department entered into an agreement resolving a complaint alleging that the Dickinson City Hall is inaccessible to individuals who use wheelchairs. Specifically, the complaint alleged that both the upper and lower levels of the city hall are inaccessible and, therefore, that city activities on these levels, including city commission meetings, municipal court proceedings, voting, and other city hall programs and services, are inaccessible to individuals who use wheelchairs. Until it completes construction of a new city hall, Dickinson will relocate municipal court proceedings to the Stark County Courthouse. The city will also relocate city commission meetings and other public meetings to the National Armory Building in Dickinson, which is fully accessible. The city will also provide the services of its administrative offices in the front foyer of the existing city hall and install an accessible counter there to enable individuals who have mobility impairments to transact business. Finally, Dickinson will train all of its employees on how to respond to requests for accommodations under the ADA.
Denver, Colorado -- The City and County of Denver Election Commission will take steps to ensure program accessibility in voting. The agreement resolves a complaint alleging that the commission was ignoring its own procedures for providing an effective voting process in precincts with inaccessible voting machines. It requires the election commission to publish accessibility procedures and to ensure that at least two election judges are present to assist voters who are unable to use inaccessible voting machines. It also requires the commission to provide training for all election judges on the accessibility procedures, to secure a signed statement from each judge stating that he or she will follow the procedures, and to discipline any election judge who fails to follow them.
Aurora, Colorado -- The Aurora, Colorado, police department agreed to make sign-language interpreters available when appropriate to ensure effective communication with the public.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota -- A complainant alleged that the programs and services of the Sioux Empire Fair operated by Minnehaha County, South Dakota, were inaccessible to individuals with mobility impairments. To resolve the complaint, the county agreed to provide accessible seating (with adjacent companion seats) and an accessible bathroom in the exposition hall, one of the largest west of the Mississippi River. The county also agreed to consider the accessibility of amusement rides as one factor when making its decision about selecting a carnival company for future fairs, and to include a clause in its contracts with fair vendors requiring them to make their goods and services accessible to patrons with mobility impairments. An earlier agreement provided for increased access to parking, bathrooms, ticket counters, vending machines, and booths and for modifications in ticketing policy regarding companion seating.
Manhattan, Montana -- This small Montana town agreed to make its town programs accessible through a combination of town hall renovations and alternative nonstructural measures. The town agreed to install a ramp at one entrance, make the route to this entrance accessible, create one van-accessible parking space, and make the water fountain and bathroom on the first floor accessible. In addition, town council meetings will be moved to the first floor when necessary.
City of Fargo, North Dakota -- The City of Fargo agreed to resolve complaints against its sports stadium and general entertainment facility, the Fargodome. The City will adopt a formal policy that provides for ticket prices for individuals with disabilities who need special seating to attend events in the Fargodome that are equivalent to ticket prices charged to others. The City also agreed to publicize its new policy, appoint an ADA coordinator for the Fargodome, develop an ADA grievance procedure, and conduct an evaluation of its policies and practices as required by title II.
Salt Lake City, Utah -- The complaint alleged that a State district court in Salt Lake City disqualified or otherwise excluded from jury service individuals who are deaf unless they bring their own interpreters. The agreement with the Utah State Administrative Office of the Courts committed the courts in Utah to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services, including qualified interpreters, when necessary to provide an individual with a disability an opportunity to serve as a juror. The agency will establish a written policy on jury duty and the provision of interpreting services; notify the public about the new policy; inform and instruct all appropriate district court officials to adhere to the policy; and conduct at least four regional training seminars.
Sleepy Hollow Motel, Green River, Utah -- The Department entered an agreement with Sleepy Hollow Motel resolving a complaint alleging that the motel denied available lodging to a person accompanied by his service animal. The motel agreed to develop a policy permitting guests with service animals to occupy available lodging. The motel will also train its staff and pay the complainant $500.
Womacks Casino, Cripple Creek, Colorado -- Womacks Casino agreed to install a ramp to provide access to its new nickel gaming machines for individuals with mobility impairments.
Tenaker Pet Center, Highland Ranch, Colorado -- The Tenaker Pet Center agreed to modify a newly-installed ramp at its front entrance to make it fully accessible to people with mobility impairments. The ramp will now have a smooth, level surface at the bottom landing and handrails on both sides.
Lawyer's Advocate, Inc., Broomfield, Colorado -- Lawyer's Advocate, Inc., an organization that provides legal training seminars to lawyers has agreed to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services, including interpreters, for students with disabilities. The agreement resolves a complaint alleging that Lawyer's Advocate failed to provide a qualified sign language interpreter for a person who wanted to attend a seminar in 1996. The audio tapes and course book offered as an alternative were not adequate because of the interactive nature of the seminar. Lawyer's Advocate will also offer to the complainant the opportunity to participate in an upcoming training seminar with a qualified sign language interpreter free of charge and at her convenience.
Preferred Motor Inn, Limon, Colorado -- A couple refused accommodations because of the presence of their hearing assistance dog each received $250 in damages under an agreement between the Department and the former owners of Preferred Motor Inn in Limon, Colorado. The former owners also agreed that, should they own or operate another inn, hotel, motel, or other place of public accommodation in the future, they will develop and post a written policy statement indicating that persons with disabilities accompanied by service animals are welcome; allow service animals into the public accommodation without requiring proof of the animal's certification; and train staff to ensure that persons with service animals are treated in a nondiscriminatory manner and afforded the same service and courtesy as that afforded any customer. The complaint arose when the couple attempted to get a room for the night but were told by one of the owners hat no "pets" were allowed. The owners made no exceptions for service animals.
Greyhound to Improve Bus Service to Passengers with Disabilities -- An agreement between the Department and Greyhound Lines Inc., will improve the availability and quality of accessible bus service for persons with disabilities. The agreement resolves a wide range of complaints including the denial of passage or boarding assistance to persons with mobility or vision impairments, injuries to passengers while being physically carried on and off buses, and verbal harassment. It requires Greyhound to pay more than $17,500 in damages, which includes individual payments to 14 complainants ranging from $500 to $4,000. Current Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations permit carrying, but require Greyhound to provide lift-equipped bus service on 48 hours' notice beginning in October 2001. The agreement will minimize the need for carrying passengers with disabilities by phasing in accessible bus service in three stages, beginning two years before lift-equipped service is required by the DOT rules. Under the agreement, Greyhound will --
- (through March 31, 2000 only) provide, with 48 hours' notice through its ADA Hotline, a lift-equipped bus or assistive device on scheduled departures to and from locations where these buses are operated (generally along major routes serving a large proportion of Greyhound passengers) or where assistive devices can be made available to passengers who request such accommodations;
- on 48 hours' notice, make reasonable efforts to provide an accessible bus between any of the approximately 2,600 points served by Greyhound; and,
- (beginning no later than April 1, 2000) guarantee accessible buses between any points served by Greyhound, on 48 hours' notice, except in a limited set of "excusable circumstances" defined in the agreement.
The agreement also requires Greyhound to --
- provide training to employees assisting any person with a disability;
- establish an internal dispute resolution procedure for addressing complaints by persons with disabilities within 90 days;
- inform individuals with disabilities of their rights under the ADA and the agreement;
- convene a meeting of a specially created advisory committee of representatives from organizations advocating the rights of persons with disabilities to advise Greyhound on its training programs and policies by September 30, 1999; and,
- continue systematically removing barriers to access in Greyhound facilities.
The Department of Justice has created a plain language guide for bus passengers -- available through the ADA Information Line, the ADA Home Page, and ADA Fax on Demand (document #3400) -- that explains the requirements of the Greyhound agreement and the DOT regulations.
Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza Hotels will Improve Access and Modify Reservation Policies -- The Department signed two agreements with Bass Hotels & Resorts (BHR) and 20 separate agreements with individual hotel franchise owners to resolve ADA violations throughout BHR's Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza hotel chains. The agreement with BHR on reservations and rental policies requires that each hotel in the two chains must --
- guarantee reservations for accessible rooms as they guarantee other types of reservations;
- hold all accessible rooms for persons with disabilities until 6 p.m., at which time they can release all but two (one in each of the two standard categories of single and double bed rooms), which must be held until all other rooms of that type are sold; and
- compile a list of accessibility features to be kept at the hotel's front desk and made available to anyone who calls the hotel or the central reservations system.
The second agreement requires BHR to make modifications in three hotels it currently owns or manages and to pay $75,000 to the Key Bridge Foundation to establish a mediation program for ADA complaints. BHR will also pay a total of approximately $75,000 to the United States and the complainants to resolve all outstanding issues.
The Department also reached 20 agreements with Holiday Inn and Crown Plaza franchisees resolving accessibility complaints involving hotels at the following locations --
Montgomery East, Alabama
Phoenix City, Arizona
SunSpree Resort, Scottsdale, Arizona
Financial District, San Francisco, California
Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, California
Huntington Beach, California
Downtown Denver, Colorado
Powers Ferry, Atlanta, Georgia
Overland Park, Kansas
Astrodome, Houston, Texas
Those agreements require a wide range of modifications, including removal of barriers to access, provision of auxiliary aids, and staff training.
Waiting Lines will be Accessible at Wendy's Restaurants -- Nearly 1,700 Wendy's restaurants will become more accessible to their customers with disabilities under an agreement reached with the Department of Justice and nine State Attorneys General. The out-of-court agreement stems from a joint nationwide investigation of the restaurant chain by the Department of Justice and nine States -- the first time the Department has teamed up with States to launch an investigation under the ADA. Under the agreement, Wendy's International, Inc. will either widen the queues in which customers wait to order food, or remove the railings or other dividers marking the queues to accommodate customers who use wheelchairs. Prior to this agreement, customers who use wheelchairs had to cut to the front of the line or stand outside the customer queue and wait to be recognized by a restaurant employee because the queues were too narrow. The agreement resolves a two-year investigation into access issues at Wendy's restaurants by the Department of Justice and State Attorneys General from Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The joint task force visited newly constructed and older Wendy's restaurants in 12 States, which include the nine States, as well as Louisiana, Ohio, and Washington.
Under the agreement, the Ohio-based chain has agreed to --
- either remove or widen the customer queues at all of its nearly 1,700 corporate-owned or leased restaurants in 39 States;
- modify its prototype architectural plans for future restaurants, both corporate-owned and franchised, to incorporate accessible customer queue designs;
- notify all franchisees of the agreement and their obligations under the ADA, and provide them with technical assistance;
- allow the task force to conduct spot checks of restaurants covered by the agreement to ensure that customer queues have been removed or widened;
- remove various other barriers found at the 17 newly constructed restaurants visited by members of the joint task force;
- pay the joint task force $50,000; and
- pay a total of $12,000 in damages to five individuals or entities who filed complaints with the Department of Justice or State Attorney Generals offices, regarding accessibility at Wendy's.
Marriott International, Inc., Bethesda, Maryland -- The Department entered into an agreement with Marriott International, Inc., establishing policies for reserving accessible rooms at all of its Courtyard by Marriott facilities throughout the country. This agreement serves as a standard for the hotel industry nationwide. Marriott will ensure that accessible rooms will not be reserved for nondisabled persons unless all other rooms in a facility have been reserved and only accessible rooms are left, and that the central reservations office will be able to guarantee accessible rooms for any Courtyard hotel at a customer's request, provided such rooms are available. It also requires that Marriott's Guest Relations Office maintain a list of accessible rooms at all Courtyard hotels and keep the list updated, and that employees at all Courtyard facilities receive training on the obligations of places of lodging under the ADA. Additionally, Marriott will undertake substantial barrier removal in the parking area, two public restrooms, and guest rooms of a Memphis, Tennessee, Courtyard by Marriott facility that was the subject of a specific complaint, and will purchase equipment to make five additional rooms at that facility accessible to persons with hearing impairments. The complainant alleged that although he and his wife, who has a disability and uses a wheelchair, were guaranteed an accessible room at the facility, they were assigned to an inaccessible room, and staff at the facility did not offer them adequate assistance with finding suitable accommodations elsewhere. Marriott will pay the complainants $10,000 in compensatory damages and will pay civil penalties of $7,500.
Avis Inc., Garden City, New York -- Through a negotiated agreement, the Department resolved its investigation of Avis, Inc., the country's second largest car rental establishment. Under the agreement, Avis has committed to providing rental vehicles equipped with hand controls to persons with disabilities at all corporately-owned locations. Hand controls will be available on eight hours notice in all major airport locations and on 24 or 48 hours notice at other facilities, depending on certain factors. Avis agreed to provide training at all corporate locations. Avis will urge all existing licensees to adopt the same measures, and will require all new franchisees and those renewing their contracts to follow the agreement. The agreement also references two previously-resolved investigations, where Avis has made substantial changes to its rental policies to accommodate persons with disabilities. When renting to persons who do not use credit cards, Avis will allow persons who are unemployed due to a disability to substitute verifiable disability-related income in lieu of a verifiable employment history. Also, persons who cannot drive due to a disability will now be able to rent cars in their own name and maintain financial responsibility for a car rental when they are accompanied by a licensed driver.
Avis Rent A Car will Improve Access to Airport Shuttle Systems for People with Disabilities -- The nation's second largest rental car company agreed to provide accessible airport shuttle buses at all of its airport locations nationwide. The agreement between Avis Rent A Car, Inc., and the Department of Justice resolved a complaint filed by a traveler who uses a wheelchair alleging that Avis violated the ADA by not providing access to the shuttle system that operates between the terminal at the Detroit Metro Airport and its offsite rental car facilities. During negotiations, Avis agreed to expand the agreement to cover all of its airport shuttle systems nationwide. Avis will ensure that --
- each of the 36 shuttle systems at airport locations that it owns and operates will have at least one accessible vehicle by December 2000; some locations will have several accessible vehicles;
- all newly acquired large shuttle vehicles will be accessible;
- accessible curbside service, under which rented vehicles are delivered directly to the terminal where the customer with a disability is waiting, will be provided at all locations;
- barriers to access will be identified and removed at each airport location.
When the Department began its investigation, Avis had only six lift-equipped vehicles out of 286 in its fleet. When Avis is in full compliance with the agreement, it will have at least 153 accessible vehicles.
Dollar, Inc., Washington, D.C. -- Dollar, Inc., one of the largest car rental establishments in the country, agreed to modify its rental policies to permit people with disabilities to rent cars when accompanied by licensed drivers. Prior to the agreement, Dollar required the licensed driver to be the financially responsible party. This policy made it impossible for people with disabilities who cannot drive (for example, people with visual impairments) to rent cars, even when they had a licensed driver accompanying them. Under the agreement, an individual with a disability who is the financially responsible party may rent a car using his or her own credit card, while a driver accompanying the individual presents his or her own driver's license. All Dollar licensees renewing existing contracts or entering into new contracts subsequent to the agreement will be required to adopt the new policy.
Safeway Agreement has Nationwide Impact -- The Department entered a major agreement with Safeway Stores, Inc., affecting all 835 Safeway stores in the United States. The agreement requires Safeway to create at least one 32-inch opening between the security bollards or cart corrals used at the entrances to many of its stores so that customers who use wheelchairs can have greater access. Safeway will also launch a nationwide compliance plan where it will survey all of its 835 stores, determine the areas throughout the stores that do not meet ADA requirements, and take steps to ensure compliance. The agreement resolved a complaint filed with the Department regarding a Safeway store in Washington, D.C. Other parties to the agreement include two individuals with disabilities and the Disability Rights Council of Washington, D.C., which sued the chain under the ADA, as well as the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, which had received several complaints about Safeway's California stores.
Smith Barney, Inc., Washington, D.C. -- The Department reached a formal agreement with Smith Barney, a nationwide financial planning services company, as a result of which Smith Barney will provide financial statements and correspondence in large print to its customers with vision impairments. (Smith Barney already provides documents in Braille.) The enlarged print documents will be provided free of charge, upon request. Smith Barney will also pay a person who filed a complaint with the Department $1,500. Notice of the service will be sent to 55,000 new customers, and over 40,000 potential customers, each month.
KinderCare Learning Centers, Inc., Columbus, Ohio -- The Department reached an agreement with KinderCare, the nation's largest proprietary child care provider, that will allow children with diabetes to enroll at any of KinderCare's 1100 centers nationwide. The agreement, which serves as a model for the child care industry throughout the country, requires KinderCare to perform finger-stick tests at the request of parents in order to monitor the blood sugar level of their children and to take appropriate action. It does not require that KinderCare administer insulin injections. KinderCare also agreed to engage in a three-year ADA training initiative for its employees and to appoint a disability services coordinator. The agreement resolves a Department of Justice investigation and a private lawsuit brought by the American Diabetes Association, its Ohio affiliate, and the next friend of Jesi Stuthard. Jesi had been denied the opportunity to attend a KinderCare Learning Center near Columbus, Ohio, because of his diabetes and KinderCare's refusal to perform glucose monitoring.
Nationwide Child Care Agreement Accommodates Children with Food Allergies, Diabetes, other Disabilities -- The Department reached an agreement with La Petite Academy, Inc., the nation's second largest child care provider, protecting the rights of children with severe food allergies and other disabilities, including diabetes and cerebral palsy. La Petite Academy, Inc., which operates over 750 day care centers nationwide, has agreed to administer epinephrine, a form of adrenaline, to those children who experience life-threatening allergic reactions to certain foods, such as peanuts, or bee stings. If authorized by parents and a physician, La Petite staff will use a small pen-like device (sold as Epipen, Jr., or under other names) that carries a premeasured dose of epinephrine to alleviate a reaction. The staff person simply removes a safety cap and presses the pen against the thigh of the child, discharging the epinephrine. The agreement awards damages in the amount of $55,000 to five children who were allegedly affected by La Petite's lack of reasonable modifications for children with disabilities. Three were children whose food allergies prevented them from enrollment without the availability of the Epipen, Jr. Two were children with cerebral palsy, who were denied reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and procedures that would enable them to continue in child care. La Petite also adopted a policy for administering finger-stick tests to measure the blood glucose levels of children with diabetes.
Educational Testing Service, New York, New York -- The Educational Testing Service and the College Entrance Examination Board agreed to schedule more dates in 1994 for more than 20,000 students with disabilities wishing to take the new version of the Scholastic Assessment Test. Under the original testing schedule, students with disabilities requiring accommodations were offered only one date to take the updated version, as opposed to their peers who had several opportunities to take the test. The agreement also allowed approximately 2,600 students with disabilities who took the old version of the test the chance to cancel their scores and retake the new exam.
Carmike Cinemas Inc., Washington, D.C. -- The Carmike Cinema chain, which operates 510 theaters with over 2700 screens in 36 States, has agreed to initiate a nationwide process of barrier removal. The agreement resolves a complaint alleging that certain theaters operated by Carmike in Des Moines, Iowa, were not accessible to individuals who use wheelchairs. Carmike agreed to remove barriers at the Des Moines theaters, including barriers related to inaccessible entrances, restrooms, ticket windows, lobby areas, concessions, wheelchair seating, and parking. Carmike also agreed to conduct a nationwide review of all of its theaters to identify barriers to access. It developed a twenty-page survey that will be completed by theater managers at each theater, and the results will guide the company's barrier-removal program.
Lone Star Steakhouse and Saloons, Wichita, Kansas -- Lone Star Steakhouse and Saloons, a nationwide restaurant chain operating 105 restaurants in 29 States, agreed to bring 97 new or altered facilities into full compliance with the ADA within 45 days, and comply with the ADA in the alteration and new construction of its restaurants in the future. This agreement was the first resulting from a compliance review, a process by which the Department, in the absence of a complaint, reviews architectural plans for new construction and alterations to assess compliance. Initial review of architectural plans revealed violations of the ADA, and site visits confirmed Lone Star's failure to provide accessible routes from parking areas, and other accessible features including seating, restrooms, and parking. Under the terms of the agreement, Lone Star is contributing $25,000 to four disability advocacy groups, in amounts of $6,250 each.
Movie Theater Chain Agrees to Nationwide Agreement -- Cineplex Odeon Corporation, one of the nation's largest operators of motion picture theaters, agreed to increase significantly the number of receivers it provides for assistive listening systems in its more than 800 motion picture theater auditoriums throughout the United States. Prior to this model agreement, Cineplex provided four receivers for each auditorium, regardless of its size. The company will now provide receivers at the rate of two percent of seats in all auditoriums that opened prior to January 26, 1993. It will also provide receivers at a rate of four percent of seats in all auditoriums where audio-amplification systems have been replaced since January 26, 1992, in order to comply with ADA provisions governing alterations to existing places of public accommodation. (The company already provides receivers at the rate of four percent of seats in new theaters, in strict compliance with the ADA Standards for Accessible Design.) Cineplex Odeon also agreed to provide one neck loop per screen in theaters with six or fewer screens and one for every two screens in theaters with more than six screens. Neck loops facilitate the use of assistive listening systems by people who use hearing aids. Additionally, the company will monitor use of assistive listening systems at all theaters and purchase additional receivers where necessary to meet additional demand, even at theaters where receivers will be provided at the rate of four percent of seats.
The agreement also contains strong provisions requiring maintenance, advertisement, and promotion of the use of assistive listening systems. Cineplex will ensure that employees at all theaters know where receivers are located and how they work in order to respond to customer questions, test systems periodically, and ensure prompt repair of equipment. The company will promote the use of assistive listening systems at its theaters by developing a brochure to be distributed to audiologists in all of the areas of the country where it has theaters, by advertising the availability of systems in newspapers and on pre-recorded telephone announcements for every theater, and, beginning January 1, 1997, by displaying an on-screen announcement prior to every feature film shown at a Cineplex Odeon theater indicating that assistive listening systems are available.
A county court complex in Colorado agreed to provide van accessible parking in its two parking lots.
A Montana city appointed an ADA coordinator and posted notices in all city facilities notifying the public of its policy to provide access to city programs, services, and activities.
In Montana, a wheelchair user complained that a restaurant could only be entered by means of a flight of stairs. The owner agreed to post a menu at the base of the stairs on the first floor of the building with directions to a nearby phone to be used for placing an order with the restaurant. The restaurant agreed to deliver meal orders to customers on the first floor and made arrangements with a coffee shop located on the first floor to provide seating for customers unable to climb stairs.
The Salt Lake City, Utah, office of a nationally recognized insurance company installed an entrance ramp and a door buzzer to provide accessibility to its facility.
A Utah county sheriff's department developed policies, procedures, and training to ensure effective communication in law enforcement situations for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.
A group of wheelchair users complained that a South Dakota arena did not comply with the ADA. The management company agreed to provide additional integrated seating; make concession stands accessible; install signage for people with visual impairments; redesign the box office to include an accessible window; and include information about available accommodations in the advertisement materials for events. The management company also agreed to send a letter to all vendors in kiosks notifying them of their ADA obligations; implement an ADA training program for all employees; and institute new policies and procedures to maximize the availability of companion seating.
A wheelchair user complained that a Colorado restaurant was inaccessible. The restaurant installed curb ramps so that wheelchair users will have unobstructed access to the restaurant.
In Utah, a person who is deaf complained that a doctor's office refused to provide an interpreter for effective communication during an office visit. The doctor acknowledged his responsibilities and agreed to comply with the effective communication requirements under the ADA. He also apologized for the manner in which his staff handled communications with the complainant.
A person who uses a wheelchair complained that a South Dakota restaurant was not accessible. The owner agreed to renovate the ground floor restrooms to make them accessible and to create additional accessible parking. The owner also agreed to install an elevator.
A person with a disability complained that a Colorado restaurant had only one accessible parking space that was not the appropriate width and that was located in an area that was too steep. Additionally, she complained that the accessible space was not located on the shortest accessible route to the entrance. The respondent agreed to provide two eight-foot parking spaces with the appropriate access aisle and to relocate the spaces immediately adjacent to the front entrance.
Backpay Awarded in Denver Police Litigation -- The U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado issued a decision in United States v. City and County of Denver granting plaintiff, Jack Davoll, full back pay with interest in the amount of $149,858.75 and front pay of $76,793.66. Davoll is a former Denver police officer who sought reassignment after he suffered injuries in the line of duty to his back, neck, and shoulder and could no longer perform the essential functions of a police officer. The Department earlier won a jury award on his behalf of $300,000 in damages for pain and suffering because of Denver's refusal to reassign him to a vacant job that he was qualified to perform -- such as criminal investigator or probation officer. The Court also granted full back pay relief in simultaneous private litigation to two other plaintiffs who were denied reassignment. Paul Escobedo was granted $250,000 in back pay and $59,626.03 in front pay and Deborah Clair received $250,000 in back pay and $66,551.37 in front pay.
Exhaustion of State Remedies not Required in Title III Cases -- The U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado ruled that plaintiffs do not have to file a discrimination complaint with a State agency before filing suit under title III. In Colorado Cross Disability Coalition v. Hermanson Family Limited Partnership I plaintiffs allege that a retail store violated the barrier removal and alterations provisions of title III. The Department filed an amicus brief arguing, as the court held, that plaintiffs do not have to exhaust State administrative remedies before they can file a lawsuit under title III.
Supreme Court Says ADA Clearly Protects Prison Inmates -- In a unanimous opinion the Supreme Court ruled in Pennsylvania Department of Corrections v. Yeskey that a motivational boot camp operated for selected inmates by the Pennsylvania State prison system is subject to the requirements of title II of the ADA. Prisoners who successfully complete the boot camp program are entitled to a significant reduction in their sentence. The Court agreed with the Department of Justice in ruling that the broad language of title II clearly covers prisons and provides no basis for distinguishing programs, services, or activities of prisons from those provided by other public entities. It rejected the State's arguments that the law is ambiguous and that prisoners cannot be "qualified individuals with disabilities" because they are not in prison voluntarily.
Supreme Court Declares that Unjustified Isolation Is Discrimination -- In Olmstead v. L.C., the Supreme Court ruled that the ADA's "most integrated setting appropriate" mandate requires States to avoid undue institutionalization of people with disabilities. As urged by the Department in its amicus brief, the Court upheld the ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit that Georgia may have violated the ADA by confining two individuals with mental disabilities in an institution rather than providing services through a community-based program as recommended by the State's treating professionals. In finding that unjustified isolation is a form of discrimination under the ADA, the Court pointed to the stigma of unworthiness, and the unequal access to family and social interaction, employment, education, and cultural enrichment that result from unnecessary institutionalization. According to the Court, an institutional placement is unjustified when the State's treatment professionals have determined that community placement is appropriate, the transfer is not opposed by the individual, and the placement can be accomplished without fundamentally altering the State's program. In applying the fundamental alteration defense, courts are to consider not only the expense of providing community-based care to the plaintiffs in a particular case, but also the "need to maintain a range of facilities for the care and treatment of persons with diverse disabilities" and "the States' obligation to administer services with an even hand."
Supreme Court Affirms that Receipt of Social Security Disability Benefits Does Not Automatically Bar ADA Suit -- The Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Cleveland v. Policy Management Systems Corp., as urged by the Department in an amicus brief, that in determining whether a plaintiff is a qualified individual with a disability in a title I employment suit, courts should not give any special weight to the fact that the individual has also applied for Social Security disability benefits. In Cleveland, the plaintiff, after suffering a stroke and losing her job, applied for and obtained Social Security benefits, claiming she was unable to work because of her disability. Subsequently, she filed suit under the ADA contending that she was qualified for the job and that she was discriminated against because the employer fired her without providing reasonable accommodation. The Court agreed with the Department that because the qualification standards under Social Security and the ADA are different, application for or receipt of Social Security benefits is not by itself inconsistent with being a qualified individual with a disability. For example, Social Security does not consider reasonable accommodation in determining whether an applicant is able to perform the applicant's past or other work. The court also ruled that, in order to avoid having her suit dismissed, the plaintiff must provide an explanation that would allow a reasonable juror to conclude that, despite having applied and received Social Security benefits, the plaintiff could still perform the essential functions of her job with or without reasonable accommodation.
Supreme Court Finds Collective Bargaining Agreement did not Waive Employee's Right to Bring ADA Suit -- In Wright v. Universal Maritime Service Corporation, the Supreme Court ruled that a South Carolina longshoreman could file an ADA lawsuit charging employment discrimination even though the job was covered by a collective bargaining agreement that generally required arbitration of employee grievances. The Court agreed with an amicus brief filed by the Department of Justice that the arbitration provision at issue in the agreement between the International Longshoremen's Association and several South Carolina stevedore companies was not specific enough to waive an employee's right to seek court enforcement of ADA rights. The Court did not reach the issue of whether even an unmistakably clear agreement could require an individual to arbitrate a claim rather than go to court.
Supreme Court Rules Asymptomatic HIV-infected Patient is Person with a Disability -- The Supreme Court decided in Bragdon v. Abbott that asymptomatic HIV status is a disability under the ADA. Plaintiff, a dental patient in Bangor, Maine, infected with HIV, but who had no outward symptoms of the disease, was denied treatment by a dentist. The patient filed suit under the ADA, alleging that, as a result of the virus, she was "disabled" and therefore protected by the Act. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held that the patient's asymptomatic HIV status constituted a disability because it was a physical impairment that substantially limited the "major life activity" of reproduction. The Supreme Court agreed with the amicus brief filed by the Department of Justice and upheld the court of appeals in a 5-4 decision, finding that asymptomatic HIV status met all the requirements under the statutory definition of a disability -- it is a physical impairment (from the moment of infection), it impairs the major life activity of reproduction, and it "substantially limits" that activity. The court also emphasized that its conclusion was consistent with the Department of Justice's views on this issue as expressed in its regulations and technical assistance manual. As to whether the plaintiff's HIV infection posed a "direct threat" to the dentist's health, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the court of appeals for further review of the evidence.
Supreme Court Will Review Constitutionality of ADA Damages Suits Against States -- The Supreme Court will review the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Garrett v. University of Alabama at Birmingham, which upheld the constitutionality of title I and title II lawsuits brought by individuals seeking damages awards from States. The Department intervened to defend the ADA in numerous suits nationwide, including Garrett. Most appellate courts have agreed with the Department and upheld the ADA suits against States. Garrett is a consolidation of two employment suits against Alabama State agencies. One involves the alleged discriminatory demotion of an individual with breast cancer by the University of Alabama, and the other a claim that the Alabama Department of Youth Services failed to reasonably accommodate an individual with chronic asthma. States have argued that, because the ADA's protections go beyond the equal protection rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, Congress lacks authority to subject them to lawsuits under title I and title II of the ADA. The Department, however, believes that the ADA is constitutionally appropriate legislation to remedy the history of pervasive discrimination against people with disabilities, and almost all of the appellate courts have agreed.
last update: June 27, 2000