| U.S. Department of Justice |
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Section
Enforcing the ADA
A Press Report from the Department of Justice for the Great Lakes Region: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin
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.
U.S. v. New Chicago, Indiana -- The Department filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana against New Chicago, Indiana, alleging that the town illegally retaliated against an employee for having filed a charge of employment discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under title I of the ADA. The complainant, a former dispatcher in the police department, alleged in her EEOC charge that she had been discriminated against by the town in the administration of its employee group health insurance plan. Following the filing of the charge, the town, in retaliation, took a wide range of adverse actions, including refusing to speak to her about alleged deficiencies in her work performance, subjecting her work to unreasonable scrutiny, informing the police commission about alleged deficiencies in her work performance, engaging in reprimands and suspensions, and filing formal charges against her that ultimately resulted in her termination from employment.
Higgins v. Warrior Insurance Group d/b/a Gallant Insurance -- The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois moved to intervene in a lawsuit where the plaintiff alleged that an insurance company terminated her car insurance policy because of her mild mental retardation. Gallant Insurance issued an auto insurance policy to the plaintiff but revoked it when her car was stolen and refused to pay the claim. The company claims that, in response to a question about "nervous" or "medical conditions" on the insurance application, she misrepresented her health status by not indicating that she has mental retardation. The company therefore believes that it was entitled to rescind the policy. The Department believes there was no misrepresentation and that the company's actions violated title III.
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. State of Illinois, City of Aurora and Board of Trustees of the City of Aurora Police Pension Fund -- After eighteen months of litigation initiated by the Department, Illinois repealed discriminatory provisions in its police and fire pension code. This repeal enabled the parties to enter into a consent agreement successfully ending the Department's first title I suit. The Department had sued the State, the Board of Trustees of the Aurora Police Pension Fund, and the City of Aurora for excluding police officers and firefighters from pension funds on the basis of disability. Under the challenged system, police officers and firefighters were required to undergo separate physical examinations after they were hired to determine eligibility for retirement and disability benefits. Even though they were performing successfully on the job, police officers and firefighters could be denied disability and retirement benefits. Under the consent decree, the State is providing extensive notice to affected individuals of their rights. All formerly excluded police officers and firefighters have the right to enter the pension funds and, upon payment of premiums, gain creditable pension rights retroactive to the date they started work.
United States v. City of Pontiac -- The Department of Justice entered into a consent decree resolving its lawsuit against Pontiac, Michigan, which alleged that the city had violated title I by refusing to hire Dennis Henderson as a fire fighter because of his monocular vision. Despite his condition, Mr. Henderson had performed successfully as a fire fighter for 14 years with a neighboring jurisdiction before applying to Pontiac for a position. Pontiac relied on hiring standards established by the National Fire Protection Association that disqualify individuals with monocular vision. Under the consent decree, Pontiac agreed to hire Henderson into a full-time fire fighter position with retroactive benefits and seniority to August 11, 1992. Pontiac also agreed to provide a financial package to Henderson of approximately $105,000, including full back pay and compensatory damages in the amount of $65,000 and full retroactive pension benefits totaling approximately $40,000. Pontiac agreed that in the future it would not apply standards that require automatic exclusions of applicants or employees because of physical or medical conditions. Instead, it will conduct an individual assessment of whether an applicant is qualified or poses a direct threat. Pontiac also agreed that, before rejecting an applicant on the basis that he or she poses a direct threat, it will advise the applicant of that fact and invite the applicant to demonstrate how he or she could safely perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation. Finally, Pontiac agreed to conduct training of its personnel staff and post notices of employee rights under the ADA.
United States v. A.B.C. Nursery, Inc. -- The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin entered into a consent decree resolving a lawsuit filed against ABC Nursery, Inc., in Beloit, Wisconsin, for allegedly refusing to admit a three-year-old boy because he had tested positive for HIV. Earlier this year consent decrees were filed against two other Beloit child care centers, Kiddie Ranch and the Happy Time Day Care Center, resolving similar allegations of discrimination against the same child. All three centers have agreed that a child with HIV infection is disabled under the ADA and that such a child cannot be refused admission to child care programs because of his or her HIV-positive status. The three centers agreed to sponsor, with the participation of the U.S. Attorney's Office, an informational meeting in Beloit for interested child care providers, parents, and staff to discuss the ADA and HIV.
United States v. James Moyes (d.b.a. Bear Lake Tavern), Michigan -- The Department settled by consent decree its lawsuit against the owner of the Bear Lake Tavern, a restaurant and local landmark in Muskegon, Michigan. Among other things, the consent decree requires the owner to convert one of the restaurant's two inaccessible toilet rooms into an accessible unisex toilet room, and to provide damages for individuals with disabilities identified by the United States. The lawsuit arose from a complaint filed with the Department alleging that the owner had violated title III of the ADA by failing to take readily achievable steps to remove barriers to the restrooms and other interior elements.
U.S. v. Venture Stores, Inc., Illinois -- The Department entered into a consent decree resolving its lawsuit against Venture Stores, Inc., a St. Louis, Missouri, firm that operates more than 90 discount department stores in eight States. Venture agreed to modify its policy of permitting only customers with drivers' licenses to pay for merchandise with a personal check, and will now permit individuals who do not drive because of a disability to pay by check if they have a non-driver State ID card. Venture also agreed to make payments to four individual complainants.
Friendly's Agrees to Chainwide Barrier Removal Program Under Title III -- The U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts-based Friendly Ice Cream Corporation entered into a consent decree under which Friendly's will engage in an aggressive barrier-removal program to increase accessibility throughout its chain of 704 restaurants in 15 States. The consent order requires Friendly's to come into substantial compliance within six years. In the first year, Friendly's will complete barrier removal at 117 locations, including altering the entrances (removing steps, widening doorways, and redesigning vestibules) at those 93 restaurants that currently have inaccessible entrances. Other alterations required by the consent order include redesigning dining areas to accommodate wheelchair users; striping parking areas to include accessible spaces; and altering bathrooms by widening doorways, increasing unobstructed floor space, installing grab bars and accessible door hardware. In addition, the consent order requires the company to pay a civil penalty of $50,000.
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.
Office of the City Clerk, Chicago, Illinois -- The Department filed an agreement with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois that resolves U.S. v. City of Chicago, a lawsuit alleging that the Office of the City Clerk violated title I when it withdrew a previously provided accommodation -- transfer to another division offering a more moderate work schedule -- for an employee diagnosed with major depression. Because the city determined that she was not an individual with a disability, it returned her to her original job in the Clerk's Office which required much overtime. She experienced another episode of depression, missed work, and was fired. She was reinstated into a position of comparable salary and with no required overtime through negotiations with the Department. Under the agreement, the City will pay the complainant $65,000 in back pay; pay the City's contribution to the retirement fund for the period from her termination to her reinstatement; restore her seniority; and purge her personnel file of all references to her termination, her depression, her refusal to work overtime, her request for a reasonable accommodation, her filing of a charge with the EEOC, and her involvement in the Department's investigation.
Morgan County Memorial Hospital, Martinsville, Indiana -- The Department entered an agreement with the Morgan County Memorial Hospital to resolve a title I complaint alleging that the hospital discriminated against a nurse with HIV by suspending him because of his disability. The hospital allegedly learned of the employee's HIV status from blood tests taken after the nurse was stuck with a needle. Despite its policies allowing HIV-positive employees to work under certain conditions, the hospital unnecessarily placed him on a leave of absence until he obtained a doctor's release. The hospital agreed to conduct HIV awareness training for a number of personnel who implement hospital policy with respect to employees with HIV. In addition the hospital agreed to pay the complainant, who now works for another employer, $4,800 in damages.
Decatur, Illinois -- An Illinois park district has agreed to pay $17,500 in damages for firing a restaurant waiter allegedly because he had AIDS. The agreement also requires the Decatur Park District to sponsor a training program for employees in all food service facilities it owns or operates, including the Decatur Main Hangar Restaurant. The training program will include discussion of HIV/AIDS transmission, with an emphasis on the food and beverage industry; general HIV/AIDS sensitivity and awareness training; and an explanation of the requirements of the ADA with respect to individuals with HIV/AIDS. Further, the agreement requires the Decatur Park District to publish in all its employee handbooks and personnel manuals a policy of nondiscrimination toward individuals who are HIV-positive or who have AIDS.
City of Calumet, Illinois -- The Department entered into an agreement resolving allegations of employment discrimination by two firefighter applicants who, after being ranked first and third on the City of Calumet's firefighter eligibility list, were each given unlawful pre-employment medical examinations and denied employment because of disability. Under the agreement an individual who was denied employment because he was regarded as having mild obstructive lung disease received an offer of employment as a firefighter, retroactive pension membership, and $19,000 in compensatory damages. Another applicant who was denied employment because he was regarded as having spina bifida occulta and spondylolysis received $17,000 in compensatory damages. The Department did not seek job offer relief for the second applicant, because he was working as a firefighter elsewhere for two years and no longer sought employment with the City of Calumet. In addition, the City agreed that it will ask firefighter applicants only about their ability to do the job in question and not to inquire, on application forms or otherwise, whether an applicant is an individual with a disability; it will require medical examinations of firefighter applicants only after a conditional offer of employment has been extended; and to the extent that the City requires its firefighter applicants to undergo medical examinations after such individuals have been given a bona fide conditional offer of employment, it will use the results of such medical examinations in a manner that is job-related and consistent with business necessity in conformity with title I of the ADA.
Chicago Board of Education, Illinois -- The Department entered into an agreement with the Chicago Board of Education resolving a reasonable accommodation charge involving a teacher with arthritis. The teacher, a thirty-year veteran, was assigned during the 1993-94 school year to teach in a third-floor classroom. His duties required him to escort his class up and down three flights of stairs to activities (lunch, gym and library) in the basement of the building. The complainant asked to have his class relocated to the first or second floor as an accommodation because of his arthritis. After his requests for accommodation were denied by the Board, he went on sick leave. In April 1994, after nearly exhausting his leave and, in order to preserve his eligibility for retirement benefits, he resigned. Under the agreement, the complainant received $20,600 from the Board for monetary losses. The agreement did not provide for reinstatement because the teacher did not wish to return to his former position.
Access to 9-1-1 Systems -- U.S. Attorney's offices entered written agreements to ensure direct, equally effective access for TDD users to 9-1-1 emergency systems in the following localities --
Eau Claire Police Department, Wisconsin
Allen County, Indiana
Fort Wayne, Indiana
New Haven, Indiana
Barrington Hills, Illinois
Crystal Lake, Illinois
South West Dispatch/Palos Heights, Illinois
Tinley Park, Illinois
Arlington Heights, Illinois
Franklin County, Ohio
Indianapolis Airport Authority, Indiana
The agreements require each 9-1-1 center to have TDD capability at each call-taker position, to query every "silent call" with a TDD, and to thoroughly train each call-taker in handling TDD calls.
Saginaw, Michigan -- The Department reached an agreement with the sheriff's department in Saginaw, Michigan that provides jail inmates and visitors with hearing or speech impairments access to TDD's under the same circumstances as telephone services available to nondisabled inmates and visitors.
Knowlton, Wisconsin -- Under an agreement with the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, the Town of Knowlton, with approximately 400 residents, agreed to relocate public meetings from its town hall to an accessible location upon request. The town also agreed to install a ramp at the entrance to the town hall if cost estimates show that it will not result in an undue burden.
Toledo To Be More Accessible to People with Disabilities -- The City of Toledo, Ohio, agreed to make significant changes to its policies and facilities to provide greater access for persons with disabilities. The agreement resolves allegations that Toledo violated title II by failing to take the steps necessary to ensure that its programs are accessible to persons with disabilities. The city agreed to --
- modify its facilities to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to city programs, including the municipal courthouse, district and neighborhood police stations, a market-outlet complex, fire stations, parking garages, museums, community and social service centers, the health department, and other city administrative buildings. Modifications will include providing accessible parking and accessible restroom facilities, installing ramps, widening doors, providing accessible public telephones, and lowering information counters;
- adopt policies and procedures to improve accessibility at city programs, which could include moving programs to an accessible location, if necessary;
- take steps to ensure that effective communication is available to persons with disabilities, including those with hearing, speech, and vision impairments, at city activities such as court proceedings and public meetings;
- submit a plan to the Department that will ensure that parks, pools, ice rinks, and arts programs will become more accessible to persons with disabilities by December 2000;
- train employees on the city's responsibilities under the ADA; and,
- publicize its new nondiscrimination policies on the city's web site and in a local newspaper.
Nineteenth Judicial Circuit, Lake County, Illinois -- The Department entered an agreement resolving a complaint alleging that an Illinois court had required a deaf probationer to pay the costs of sign language interpreter services at court-ordered counseling sessions. The court agreed to pay the complainant $14,000 as reimbursement for the cost of sign language interpreters he provided at his own expense during his program. The court also adopted written policies and procedures requiring contractors to provide auxiliary aids and services when necessary for effective communication with deaf or hard of hearing individuals. The court will assist contractors in paying for interpreter services and monitor the contractors' compliance with the auxiliary aids requirement.
North Community Bank, Chicago, Illinois -- The North Community Bank agreed to make its entrance and its automated teller machine accessible to people with disabilities. The bank allegedly ignored the complainant's requests for barrier removal and suggested that the complainant use an accessible bank facility some miles from his home. The complainant was subsequently injured when he fell over in his wheelchair while attempting to use the inaccessible local ATM. The bank agreed to install ramps to make its entrance and ATM machine accessible. The bank also agreed to have a consultant perform a complete accessibility review of its operations and identify any other barriers to participation by persons with disabilities. In addition, the bank will pay the complainant $8,000 in compensatory damages.
Boone County, Indiana -- The Department of Justice entered into an agreement with Boone County, Indiana, to ensure access at the Boone County Courthouse to persons who are hard of hearing. The county agreed to purchase a portable assistive listening system for the courthouse; to have a number of receivers available equal to at least four percent of the total seating capacity of the courtrooms; to train court personnel in the set-up, use, and maintenance of the assistive listening system; and to post a notice in conspicuous areas of the courthouse notifying patrons of the availability of the system.
Grand Rapids, Michigan -- The Department reached an agreement with the 63rd District Court Probation Department regarding auxiliary aids. The agreement provides that, in those proceedings of the court probation department where an interpreter is required to ensure effective communication with an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing, the court will, upon reasonable notice, secure the services of a qualified interpreter. The court also agreed to provide auxiliary aids and services, including interpreters, at the court's expense; to give primary consideration to the request of the individual with a disability when determining what type of auxiliary aid or service is appropriate; and to notify individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing about the availability of auxiliary aids and services through pamphlets, posters, or other appropriate means.
City of Alton, Illinois -- The Department entered into an agreement with the City of Alton, Illinois, ensuring that people with disabilities will have access to the public square at the site of the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates. The city purchased a ramp and staging equipment that allows persons with mobility impairments access to all public activities. The city also agreed to consult with local organizations representing persons with disabilities when planning for the new construction or alteration of any public facilities.
Outagamie County, Wisconsin -- The Department entered an agreement with Outagamie County, Wisconsin, resolving a complaint involving barriers to access at Outagamie County's Justice Center, a five-story building that includes nine courtrooms, a 500-bed detention center, the sheriff's department, the district attorney's office and numerous county services such as the probate office. The county agreed to renovate the courtrooms to provide wheelchair seating for observers; provide permanent assistive listening systems for the courtrooms; provide accessible restrooms throughout the building; install equipment to reduce the door opening force on the public entrance and exit doors; and provide accessible jail cells, including grab bars in the shower facilities. The agreement also requires the county to complete a self-evaluation report within 120 days, complete all renovations by the end of the calendar year, appoint ADA coordinators to assist people with disabilities having questions or problems, post a notice in the building that describes the county's efforts to comply with the ADA and identifies the ADA coordinators, ensure that the ADA coordinators will view an educational video on title II, and distribute materials describing the county's obligations under title II to all county employees working in the Justice Center.
State of Wisconsin -- The Department concluded an agreement with the Wisconsin State Patrol to resolve a complaint alleging that State patrolmen improperly handled a traffic stop of a deaf individual. Allegedly, the officers initially refused several requests to provide the individual with pen-and-paper when they were trying to communicate with him; they pulled him from his vehicle into their patrol car without providing him with an explanation; they blocked the path between him and his traveling companion, who is deaf, when he was trying to communicate with her through sign language; and they threatened to handcuff him if he continued attempting to sign. The agreement requires the State Patrol to adopt a policy and procedures for providing effective communication to individuals with hearing impairments in various police situations, to place copies of the policy and procedures in the police operating manual, and to publicize the policy and procedures to the public. Further, the State Patrol is required to train its over 600 officers and other personnel on the new policy and procedures and on courteous treatment of persons with hearing impairments by March 31, 1998. Finally, the agreement requires the State Patrol to ensure that TDD's are placed in all police stations throughout the State.
Wood County, Ohio -- The Department entered an agreement with the Wood County, Ohio, Justice Center, resolving an ADA complaint filed by a deaf inmate. The inmate complained that the Justice Center had failed to comply with the ADA by failing to communicate effectively with him about jail policies and events, and by disciplining him for missing a head count about which they had not informed him. He also complained that he was excluded from jail programs, activities, and services -- such as classes, visitation, and the use of telephones -- because of a lack of auxiliary aids. Under the agreement, the sheriff's department agreed to provide interpreter services where necessary for effective communication and made arrangements with an agency to provide interpreters when needed. It purchased a TDD so that a deaf or hard of hearing inmate, or an inmate with a family member who is deaf or hard of hearing, can use the telephones and visiting facilities. Inmates who are deaf or hard of hearing will be individually notified of all building events and emergencies, including meals, recreation, and head counts. The Sheriff's Department also named an officer to be ADA coordinator and established an ADA request and grievance procedure.
Saginaw Township, Michigan -- The Saginaw Township Police Department agreed to provide effective communication with members of the public who are deaf or hard of hearing, resolving a complaint that the police department had failed to provide a sign language interpreter for an arrestee.
Waukesha, Wisconsin -- Resolving a complaint by a Waukesha city alderman who uses a wheelchair alleging that the city hall was inaccessible, the city agreed to hold its closed deliberations in the accessible room in which it holds general meetings, renovate the first floor men's and women's bathrooms to comply with ADA standards, install two automatic door openers at the building's front entrance, and renovate a van accessible parking space.
Wadsworth, Ohio -- Resolving a complaint alleging that the city hall and city court were inaccessible to individuals with mobility impairments, the City of Wadsworth agreed to make alternative arrangements for program accessibility until a new city hall is completed in the spring of 1995, upgrade its parking facilities and entryway to ensure access to individuals with disabilities, inform and train all city managers and employees on its policies and procedures for providing accessibility to individuals with disabilities, and adopt and publish grievance procedures for prompt and equitable resolution of complaints alleging actions prohibited by title II.
Genesee County, Michigan -- The County Board of Commissioners agreed to make restroom facilities in the probate court house accessible to individuals with mobility impairments.
Norwood, Ohio -- The City of Norwood agreed to develop a written plan and timetable for making the services, programs, and activities offered at the Norwood City Hall accessible for persons with mobility impairments; submit architectural plans to the Department for review if the City determines that structural changes are needed; and make the agreement available to the public.
Paulding County, Ohio -- In response to a complaint that the county courtroom was inaccessible to individuals with mobility impairments, the County board of commissioners agreed to relocate court activities to an accessible site upon request, if the request is made in a reasonable period of time before the scheduled court date. The County board also agreed to publicize its new policy.
Country Ruffles and Victorian Lace, Montgomery, Indiana -- The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana entered an agreement with Country Ruffles and Victorian Lace requiring the store to stop excluding service animals. The store also agreed to maintain an accessible route throughout the facility and pay $100 in damages to the complainant, a wheelchair user who, along with her service animal, was barred from the store.
Adelante P.C., Chicago, Illinois -- Adelante P.C., a private social services agency, agreed to adopt written policies and procedures ensuring that deaf clients will receive sign language interpreter services without cost when participating in the agency's counseling programs. The agreement resolves a complaint in which Adelante required a deaf probationer to pay the costs of sign language interpreter services at court-ordered counseling sessions.
French Lick Springs Resort, French Lick, Indiana -- The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana reached an agreement with French Lick Springs Resort requiring the resort to install accessible telephones in the lobby, create or revise policies to ensure effective assistance is provided to guests with disabilities, train its employees, and make structural changes including modifying guest bathrooms, public elevators, and public restrooms. The resort also agreed to pay $7,500 to the complainant and $7,500 in civil penalties.
Headliner's Bar and Grill, Muncie, Indiana -- In an agreement with the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, Headliner's Bar & Grill agreed to install a ramp to the front entrance of the facility and install an accessible restroom. The owner of the building and the restaurant agreed to pay $3,750 in damages to the complainant and $3,750 in civil penalties.
Wold Driving School, Wausau, Wisconsin -- The Department entered into an agreement with the Wold Driving School to resolve a complaint alleging that the school had refused to provide a sign language interpreter during a driver's training course for a student who is deaf. The school agreed to provide auxiliary aids and services, including sign language interpreters, when necessary to ensure effective communication with student drivers who are deaf and to pay the complainant $750 in compensatory damages.
Dairy Point Restaurant, Greensburg, Indiana -- The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Indiana reached an agreement requiring the Dairy Point Restaurant to make its bathroom accessible and to provide accessible parking. The restaurant also paid a $500 civil penalty under the agreement.
Well's Realty, Greensburg, Indiana -- The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Indiana entered into an agreement with Well's Realty concerning a complaint that the facility's front entrance ramp was too steep and therefore not accessible. Well's Realty agreed to install an accessible ramp.
United Skates of America, Columbus, Ohio -- The Department entered into an agreement resolving a complaint brought by an individual whose two children, both of whom are deaf/blind and have cerebral palsy, were allegedly denied access to the skating rink during a birthday party at a facility operated by United Skates of America in Indianapolis, Indiana. The complainant alleged that he was told by the manager that his children were not allowed on the skating rink floor, even with their father's assistance, and that the manager refused to set aside a time when the children, and other people with disabilities, could skate. United Skates agreed to adopt a policy of nondiscrimination that will allow complete access to the skating rink for a person with a disability unless, after the access has been allowed, an individualized assessment shows that participation by the individual would create a direct threat to the health and safety of others. In such cases, an offer will then be made to allow the individual to skate at a time when access would not present a direct threat to others. United Skates also agreed to distribute its nondiscrimination policy to appropriate personnel at each of its 13 rinks annually and to pay the complainant $1,000 in damages.
Village Developers, Muncie, Indiana -- The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana entered an agreement to ensure accessible parking in a private lot adjacent to a restaurant. The agreement requires Village Developers to designate the proper number of parking spots and provide appropriate signage. In addition, Village Developers agreed to pay a civil penalty of $2,000.
Best Western Motel, Mequon, Wisconsin -- A newly constructed Best Western Motel in Mequon, Wisconsin, agreed to remedy violations of the ADA Standards for Accessible Design and change its pricing policy for accessible rooms. The complaint alleged that, when a wheelchair user called the motel to make lodging reservations, he was told the budget room rate was $77. However, when he told the manager that he would need a room that was wheelchair accessible, he was allegedly informed that an accessible room would cost $160 because the only accessible rooms were deluxe rooms with whirlpools. Under the agreement, the motel will make four rooms accessible. One will be a budget room and three will be luxury rooms. Because the motel offers more budget rooms than luxury rooms, the motel agreed to charge individuals needing budget accessible rooms the budget rate for the three luxury accessible rooms. It also agreed to hold open one luxury accessible room and the one budget accessible room until all other rooms have been rented, and to hold open the two other luxury accessible rooms until all other nonaccessible luxury rooms have been rented. In addition, the motel will make changes to provide the correct number of accessible parking spaces, an accessible path of travel to the entrance, and accessible restroom/shower facilities in the indoor pool area. Finally, the motel gave the complainant a free one-night stay in a luxury room.
Menard, Inc., Eau Claire, Wisconsin -- The Department concluded an agreement with Menard, Inc., a home improvement retail chain, to resolve a complaint filed by an individual who is legally blind. She alleged that one of Menard's stores in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, violated the ADA because its staff refused to accept her State-issued identification card in place of a driver's license when she purchased items with a check. She claimed that store staff insulted her and required her husband to produce his driver's license before the store would accept her check. The store did in fact have a written policy in place at the time of the incident stating that State ID's would be acceptable identification for persons who do not drive because of a disability. The agreement requires Menard to train employees at its over 115 stores in carrying out the policy; to post a notice of the policy at all cash registers; and to pay the complainant $1,000 and issue her a written apology.
TST One Indiana, L.L.C., Indianapolis, Indiana -- The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Indiana entered into an agreement with TST One Indiana, L.L.C., a holding company for Tishman Speyer/Travelers Real Estate Venture, addressing accessibility problems in a large office building that houses the National Bank of Detroit and other businesses in downtown Indianapolis. The building has a restaurant and other businesses and services on the basement level, but the only public access to the basement is by an escalator. The agreement requires TST to designate an existing freight elevator as the wheelchair-accessible elevator, and make all repairs and improvements necessary to bring the elevator into compliance with the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. In addition, the agreement requires TST to maintain an accessible route from the elevator to the businesses and services in the basement, including installing automatic doors on two sets of double-leaf doors. The agreement also requires TST to install signage at the top and bottom of the escalator to direct patrons to the accessible elevator.
Howard Johnson River's Edge Hotel, Clarksville, Indiana -- The Department reached an agreement with the Howard Johnson River's Edge Hotel resolving a complaint alleging that the hotel assessed a surcharge for allowing a service animal to stay with its owner. The hotel agreed to adopt a written policy incorporating the ADA's definition of service animal. Service animals will be allowed to stay in the rooms of guests with disabilities without any security deposit or other special fee being required. The hotel agreed to distribute the policy to all hotel employees and to post it in a conspicuous place at the hotel front desk.
Detroit Lions, Detroit, Michigan -- The Detroit Lions agreed to compensate a group of young athletes with disabilities who experienced discrimination when attempting to attend a Lions football game. A sports team of disabled youth won a ticket lottery for school-age teams sponsored by the Lions in which the winners were awarded tickets to Lions professional football games at a cost of one dollar per ticket. When the youngsters tried to redeem their tickets for wheelchair seating, they were told they would have to pay full price for the tickets for the wheelchair locations while other team members who did not use wheelchairs would be able to use the one-dollar tickets for seats. In addition, when the team members using wheelchairs actually purchased full-price tickets, they were not allowed to sit with their teammates in adjoining seats. The Lions agreed to modify their ticketing policy to provide companion seating for accessible wheelchair locations and no longer to require proof of disability in order to purchase tickets for wheelchair seating. The Lions also agreed to give complainants 2,000 tickets to a preseason game (valued at $70,000); official autographed NFL clothing, souvenirs, and collectibles; and visits to Lions locker rooms and camps.
Budget Rent a Car Systems, Inc., Lisle, Illinois -- The Department entered a nationwide agreement with Budget to resolve a number of title III complaints involving its corporate-owned rental locations. Budget agreed to pay a total of $6,000 in damages to three persons who were not allowed to board an airport shuttle bus because they were accompanied by service animals and to reaffirm a policy not to separate persons from their service animals. Budget also agreed to reaffirm a policy that persons who are unable to drive due to disabilities (such as those with visual impairments or seizure disorders) will be allowed to maintain primary financial responsibility for vehicle rentals when accompanied by licensed drivers. When implementing both of these policies, Budget will not inquire into the nature or severity of the renter's disability or ask for identification or certification of the service animals. Budget also agreed to include these policies in its employee education program and to send an announcement of the policies to all licensees, who are urged to adopt the policies as their own.
Pavey's Grocery, Rushville, Indiana -- Pavey's Grocery store of Rushville, Indiana, entered into an agreement with the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana to resolve a complaint alleging that the store was not accessible to patrons with mobility impairments. The complaint alleged that the ramp at the store's main entrance was too steep, and that the door did not open easily. The agreement requires the store to modify the ramp, fix the door, and ensure that the future planned remodeling fully complies with the ADA.
Mid-America Festivals, Shakopee, Minnesota -- The Department entered into a agreement with Mid-America Festivals, operator of the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, the largest renaissance festival in the country. The agreement resolved a complaint filed by a wheelchair user who alleged that he was unable to visit many of the shops and booths at the festival because they were not accessible and because some shops had ramps that were dangerously steep. Under the agreement, Mid-America will provide an accessible ticket window, as well as remove all barriers to access at several food booths and shops. They will also provide accessible portable restroom facilities and accessible telephones, and pay a civil penalty of $4,000.
Sunshine Child Center, Gillette, Wisconsin -- The Department entered into an agreement resolving a complaint filed by the mother of a child with cerebral palsy against the Sunshine Child Center. The complainant alleged that the center refused to put on and remove leg braces that her daughter needed in order to walk. The complaint also stated that the center, which provides separate services to children three years old and younger and children of ages four through 12, intended to keep the child with the younger group of children even after her fourth birthday, because, due to her disability, she required diaper changing at a later age than other children at the center. The agreement requires the Sunshine Child Center to offer to readmit the girl, who was removed by her mother following the center's alleged discrimination. It also requires the center to put on and remove the child's leg braces, if necessary, and to provide the same service to other children with the same need for assistance. In addition, the center agreed to provide diaper changing to children who require the service more frequently and/or at a later age than other children due to disabilities, without segregating them from children in their age group; to publish a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of disability at the center and in printed advertisements of its services; to remove certain barriers to access discovered during the Department's investigation; and to ensure that a newly-constructed facility that will house the center as of June 1997 will comply fully with the ADA Standards for Accessible Design.
Indiana Beach Water Park, Monticello, Indiana -- Indiana Beach Water Park agreed to keep all of its accessible beach entrances open during renovations. The complainant, who uses a motorized electric scooter, alleged that, when she and her family visited Indiana Beach and attempted to enter the beach area, they found that the previously existing accessible walkway had been removed and that they could not find any other way to access the beach. The complainant had to wait in the car while her family spent the day at the beach. Indiana Beach agreed to pay $200 in damages to the complainant.
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;
- in 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.
An Ohio township made the restroom in its municipal building accessible, installed accessible parking, and made assistive listening devices available to persons upon request
A municipal court in a small Ohio town erected directional signs indicating the location of the accessible path and accessible entrance.
A juvenile court in Michigan revised its procedures and adopted a written policy for providing access to individuals with mobility impairments.
A Michigan district court adopted and implemented a policy to ensure effective communication.
A city in Indiana modified restrooms in its city/county building to make them accessible and installed TDD's on each floor of the building along with signage indicating the location of the TDD's.
In Minnesota, a person with a hearing disability complained that she could not hear the proceedings at city council meetings. The city agreed to purchase an assistive listening system and to instruct all city council members in writing to speak directly into the microphones. It also agreed to pay the complainant $500 for attorneys fees and costs.
In Illinois, a person who is deaf complained that a lawyer refused to provide effective communication during a meeting. The lawyer agreed to change his policy and provide qualified sign language interpreters when requested. The lawyer also agreed to donate $500 to a disability rights organization to fund a seminar to teach attorneys how to comply with the ADA.
A wheelchair user complained that a city hall in Ohio was not accessible. The city agreed to create additional accessible parking spaces and to install a ramp to the front entrance and three sets of automatic doors. The city also agreed to install safety sensors in the elevator doors, ensure that they are available for use by people with disabilities, and create accessible parking spaces at another city building.
A group of deaf individuals complained that an Illinois amusement park refused to provide the services of sign language interpreters for effective communication during an annual event sponsored by the park. The manager agreed to provide qualified sign language interpreters during the event, written scripts for the shows, and sign language interpreters during the narrated train rides. He agreed to provide four TTY phones in locations throughout the park and to provide information at the gate about the availability of auxiliary aids and services. He also agreed to hire a permanent liaison to address the needs of customers who are deaf.
A person who uses a wheelchair complained that an Indiana restaurant was not accessible. The owner agreed to post a sign at the inaccessible entrance directing people with disabilities to the accessible entrance and to maintain a clear path of travel throughout the dining area . The owner agreed to install a buzzer so that once persons with disabilities enter the restaurant, they can alert the host or hostess and be seated promptly. Finally, the owner agreed to train the staff regarding the needs of people with disabilities.
Continuing Violations by City Permit Broad Toledo Curb Cut Challenge -- The Department filed an amicus brief in Deck v. City of Toledo in support of a lawsuit alleging that Toledo, Ohio, had failed to provide accessible curb ramps in connection with newly constructed or altered streets or sidewalks. The city argued that, because of the two-year statute of limitations applicable to this case, any claims involving violations that occurred earlier than two years before the lawsuit was filed should be dismissed. The Department's brief argued that, because the city continued to violate the statute within the two-year period, the earlier claims should not be dismissed. The court agreed with the Department and ruled that, because the city had engaged in a "continuing violation" of failing to install curb ramps required by title II, the earlier claims dating back to the effective date of the ADA should not be dismissed.
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