| U.S. Department of Justice |
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Section
Enforcing the ADA
A Press Report from the Department of Justice for the Southeast Region: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Tennessee
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.
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. The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee -- The Department resolved by consent order a charge filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by Jeffrey Ola, who was denied a position as a paramedic in the Metro Government's Fire Department because he has hearing loss in one ear. The Metro Government based its rejection on National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) medical standards, which prescribe absolute exclusions for certain physical conditions. The consent order prohibits the Metro Government from following any standards that require categorical rejection based on medical conditions, including those of the NFPA. The consent order also requires the Metro Government to offer Mr. Ola an EMT position, pay $54,295.74 in back pay and compensatory damages, and to change its policies to provide an individualized assessment of all candidates.
Cunningham v. Goldberg -- The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee resolved by consent decree a lawsuit in which it intervened to challenge architectural barriers at the Public Eye restaurant in Memphis, Tennessee. The consent decree requires the provision of an accessible entrance to the restaurant, the removal of a step barrier within the restaurant, and renovations to a restroom. It also requires the Public Eye to reposition a public telephone, make Brailled or recorded menus available to persons with impaired vision, and provide training to employees on assisting patrons with disabilities. The owner also agreed to pay a civil penalty of $1,000 to the United States. In addition, the parent company of the restaurant's owner agreed to restripe three accessible parking spaces adjacent to Public Eye to comply with the ADA Standards for Accessible Design and to make a $5,000 contribution to a Memphis disability rights organization.
United States v. Wynock -- The Department resolved by consent decree a lawsuit challenging the outright exclusion of people with disabilities from a motel in South Carolina. The Ocean Plaza Motel in Myrtle Beach refused to rent a room to a group of two teenagers and their mothers because the two teenagers have cerebral palsy and use wheelchairs. Under the consent decree, the owner and operators agreed to implement and post a formal written policy that the motel will not deny persons with disabilities the services, facilities and accommodations of the motel; will train its employees in the equal and dignified treatment of guests with disabilities; remove architectural barriers at the motel over a two-year period, where such removal is readily achievable; pay $92,000 plus interest to the complainants over the two-year period; and pay civil penalties of $5,000 to the U.S. Treasury.
United States v. VSP Partnership -- The Department filed, and resolved by consent decree, a lawsuit involving accessibility problems against Villas by the Sea, a hotel and resort in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Florida. Under the terms of the consent agreement, Villas by the Sea will correct inaccessible alterations made to the facility after January 26, 1992 (the effective date of title III's alterations requirements), make necessary path of travel modifications, provide three accessible guestrooms, and undertake other barrier removal throughout several facilities to ensure accessibility.
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.
Rogers v. South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control -- The Department argued in an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit that title II covers the employment practices of public entities. The suit challenges the distinctions between mental disorders and physical disorders in the benefits available under the State's long-term disability plan for its employees. The lower court ruled that title II covers employment but found that the long-term disability plan is not discriminatory. The Department's brief in the court of appeals argues that the broad language of title I and its legislative history make clear that Congress intended there to be employment coverage under title II, as well as title I, with title II procedures patterned after those of section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
Johanson v. Huizenga Holdings -- The Department filed an amicus brief in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida solely on the issue of whether architects should be held liable under the ADA if the features of arenas that they design do not comply with the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. The suit involves the new indoor hockey arena for the Florida Panthers of the National Hockey League designed by the Ellerbe Becket architectural firm.
Stevens v. Premier Cruise Lines -- The Department filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in support of the right of an individual to challenge disability discrimination by a cruise line. The complaint alleges that Premier Cruise Lines located in Miami, Florida, violated the ADA by charging her an increased fare for an accessible cabin and by failing to remove architectural and communication barriers on the ship to make it accessible to persons with disabilities. The amicus brief argues that the plaintiff has the right to ask the court to consider ordering changes in its ships and policies because she has alleged that she would take another cruise with defendants if their ADA violations were corrected. The brief also asserts that the ADA covers cruise vessels when they are in the ports or other internal waters of the United States, even if they are registered in a foreign country.
Titles I and II
South Carolina Department of Social Services, Columbia, South Carolina -- The South Carolina Department of Social Services agreed to issue new State requirements for caregivers employed in child care facilities that will no longer automatically disqualify persons with disabilities who, because of their disability, were unable to earn a high school diploma. A caregiver is any member of a child-care provider's staff who assumes some responsibility for supervising children. Under the new rules individuals who receive a certificate of completion instead of a high school diploma and who can perform the essential functions of the caregiver position must be given an equal opportunity to be hired and may not be discriminated against in the terms and conditions of their employment. South Carolina also agreed to revise the job requirements for caregivers to ensure that they accurately reflect the actual knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to perform the essential functions of the position.
Arizona and North Carolina Agree Not To Discriminate Against School Bus Drivers With Diabetes -- School bus drivers in Arizona and North Carolina will no longer face discrimination in hiring or risk being fired just because they use insulin to control diabetes. Two out-of-court agreements with the Department of Justice settled complaints that school districts in Arizona and North Carolina fired diabetic school bus drivers with accident-free driving records. Under Arizona and North Carolina law, persons with diabetes who use insulin were barred from operating a school bus. The Arizona Department of Transportation and the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles applied their laws without regard to whether a person's condition actually prevented them from safely operating a vehicle. Under both agreements, the States will stop the practice of automatically barring individuals from operating a school bus who use insulin to control their diabetes. North Carolina will enact new regulations. Consistent with the ADA's requirements, the States will rigorously assess people with diabetes who use insulin on an individual basis to see if the person's diabetes can be controlled and monitored. Drivers who are deemed eligible to operate a school bus also will be subject to stringent self-monitoring and other requirements designed to ensure continued safety. Under the agreements, the Arizona complainant will receive $10,000 and the North Carolina complainant $9,000. For several years, the two individuals had operated school buses for local school districts safely and without any health-related incidents. They ultimately were terminated by their school districts because of their use of insulin. The Yuma, Arizona, Elementary School District No. 1 has agreed to reinstate one person to her school bus driver position.
Barbour County, Alabama -- The Department reached an agreement with Barbour County, Alabama, resolving a complaint alleging that the jail discriminated against an inmate because of his mental illness. The county will ensure that inmates with mental illnesses will receive prescribed medication while incarcerated and appropriate monitoring by the designated health care provider for the jail. In addition, the jail will train its staff on its ADA responsibilities and post notices informing individuals with disabilities how to receive assistance in gaining access to the jail's services, programs, and activities.
Georgiana, Alabama -- The City of Georgiana, Alabama, agreed to remove architectural barriers at the City Hall, the Police Station, the Magistrate's Court and Council Chamber, and the Hank Williams, Sr., Museum -- the childhood home of the well-known country music singer-songwriter. The City will install entrance ramps, modify existing rest rooms, and alter sidewalks to provide access to the programs offered at the sites.
Pearl River County, Mississippi -- The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Mississippi entered into an agreement with the Pearl River County 9-1-1 Commission, which oversees the administration of 9-1-1 services for the entire county. The Commission has agreed to install additional equipment so that each answering position has TDD response capability; establish procedures for effective processing of TDD calls, including training for emergency dispatchers; develop and implement a public education program to promote the use of 9-1-1 by individuals who use TDD's; and conduct semiannual audits of the quality of service provided to TDD users.
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 --
Lauderdale County, Mississippi
Sumner County Sheriff, Tennessee
County of Charleston, South Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
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.
Van Buren County, Tennessee -- The Department entered into an agreement with Van Buren County, Tennessee, to resolve a complaint in which it was alleged that programs, services, and activities offered in the county's courthouse are not accessible to persons using wheelchairs. The complainant also alleged that the county had not appointed an employee responsible for coordinating its efforts to comply with the requirements of title II. Under the agreement the county appointed an ADA coordinator and formally agreed to take specific steps to ensure that meetings and court proceedings ordinarily held in the courthouse are accessible to persons using wheelchairs.
Johnson County, Tennessee -- Johnson County will renovate its courthouse to make it accessible to people with disabilities. It also agreed that county personnel will meet individuals with disabilities at accessible locations when services, programs, and activities are not provided in accessible buildings.
Citrus County, Florida -- Citrus County agreed to provide raised and Brailled characters on signs designating permanent rooms and spaces in its courthouse and to renovate the restrooms so that at least one men's toilet room and one women's toilet room is fully accessible. Each toilet room will have visual alarms and at least one accessible lavatory, mirror, and dispenser.
Natchez, Mississippi -- The Department entered into an agreement with the City of Natchez, Mississippi, to resolve access problems at the county library and violations of the ADA Standards for Accessible Design in the construction plans for a new convention center and visitors bureau. The city agreed to provide van-accessible parking, companion seating, and a 36-inch alternative accessible stall in addition to the standard accessible stall in one of the restrooms at the convention center and visitors bureau. The city also took lead responsibility for installing a ramp to make the entrance to the county library accessible.
Moore County, North Carolina -- The Department entered into an agreement with the Board of Commissioners of Moore County, North Carolina, resolving a complaint alleging that the Commissioners held public meetings on the top floor of the historic county courthouse building in Carthage, a location accessible only by stairs. The Department found that the battery-operated, tractor-type device purchased by the board to provide access to that floor was inadequate because it did not permit independent access and operation, and because it did not provide access for people who use "scooter" type wheelchairs or for individuals with mobility disabilities who do not use wheelchairs. The board agreed to relocate public meetings to an accessible location, if requested to do so, until a planned elevator is installed. It will also adopt a written policy statement on how to obtain reasonable modifications in policies, practices and procedures and a written procedure for resolving complaints, including the name, telephone number and office address of the ADA coordinator.
Jackson, Mississippi -- The Mississippi Coliseum, one of the largest stadiums in that State, will be made accessible to people with disabilities under an agreement with the Mississippi Fair Commission and the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration. As part of an ongoing renovation of the 10,000-seat coliseum, the State will make one percent of the seating accessible to people who use wheelchairs and provide companion seating. The agreement calls for the accessible seats to be dispersed throughout the coliseum with lines of sight over standing spectators. The State will also provide accessible restrooms, concession stands, and parking lots; institute new ticketing policies for accessible seating; train paid and volunteer staff on the requirements of the ADA, and appoint ADA coordinators to assist people with disabilities.
Kingstree, South Carolina -- The Town of Kingstree agreed to make public documents available on tape at the request of individuals who are blind or who have impaired vision. The tapes will be provided at no cost and within three days of the request. Kingstree agreed to adopt and post a written policy statement on making reasonable modifications in policies, practices and procedures for people with disabilities. In addition, Kingstree will adopt and publish a procedure for providing prompt and equitable resolution of ADA complaints.
North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina -- The Department entered into an agreement with the City of North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, resolving a complaint alleging that a variety of city buildings and programs were not accessible to people with mobility impairments and people with hearing impairments. As a result of the agreement, North Myrtle Beach will prepare a self-evaluation report, and, if necessary, a transition plan; adopt a formal policy statement regarding provision of auxiliary aids and services, including an effective communication policy for the city's police department; post public notices describing the city's efforts to comply with the ADA; designate ADA coordinators and ensure that they receive adequate training; and distribute educational materials regarding title II to all city employees.
Conway, South Carolina -- The City of Conway entered into an agreement to resolve a complaint involving issues of both physical and communications accessibility. The agreement requires the city to complete a self-evaluation report, and if necessary, a transition plan; and implement a written policy regarding the city's interactions, including those of the police, with people who are deaf or hard of hearing. The city will appoint two ADA coordinators, one for the police department and one for the city generally. It will post a notice in various city buildings identifying the ADA coordinators and describing the city's efforts to comply with the ADA. Conway will also ensure that the ADA coordinators view an educational video on title II, and it will distribute materials describing the city's title II obligations to all city employees.
Pitt County, North Carolina -- The Department entered into a formal agreement with the Pitt County North Carolina Board of Commissioners concerning the failure to provide effective communication for hard of hearing participants at their meetings, even after the commissioners obtained an assistive listening system. The agreement requires commission members to use the system microphones to ensure that they can be heard. The board also established a policy by which members of the public can request reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and procedures of the commission.
Hancock and Harrison Counties, Mississippi -- The Department entered into two separate agreements with Hancock and Harrison Counties to resolve complaints alleging that both counties disqualified a prospective juror who is deaf because of his disability. The Counties agree to establish a policy to ensure that individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing will not be excluded from jury service or from participation as parties, witnesses, or spectators in any court proceedings because of their disabilities.
Destin, Florida -- Following a compliance review, the City of Destin, Florida agreed to remove barriers in its newly constructed city hall building that failed to comply fully with the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. Measures agreed to include installing a ramp leading into a side entrance, modifying four restrooms, installing signage, providing access to council chambers, and widening doorways in the building. The City of Destin has also filed a complaint with the Florida licensing board against the original architectural firm that designed the city hall for its failure to comply with the ADA Standards.
Tallahassee, Florida -- The Department entered into an agreement with the Florida State Courts System ensuring effective communication in court proceedings. The complainant, a defendant in an eminent domain proceeding who is hard of hearing, alleged that the Twentieth Judicial Circuit of Florida discriminated against her on the basis of her disability by failing to take appropriate steps to ensure that its real-time transcription system provided effective communication during the proceedings. The agreement requires that all Florida courts ensure that real-time transcription services be accurate in order to ensure effective participation by people who are deaf or hard of hearing. The agreement also includes minimum guidelines for real-time transcriptions.
Marshall County, Mississippi -- An agreement resolved two complaints involving the discharge of volunteer firefighters for HIV-related reasons. One complainant alleged that he had been removed from membership in a county-funded volunteer fire department after the fire department learned he was HIV-positive. The other complainant alleged that he had been removed from membership with county-funded fire departments as a result of his known association with the first complainant. The County agreed to reinstate the complainants immediately to regular membership as volunteer firefighters, with all appropriate equipment and training, and pay each $1,000 in damages. In addition, the County agreed to ensure that the volunteer fire departments will not retaliate or harass these individuals for asserting rights protected by the ADA, to conduct training for all volunteer firefighters on universal precautions to prevent the transmission of HIV during firefighting activities, to issue a nondiscrimination policy, and to adopt grievance procedures for reviewing claims of discrimination.
Pickens County, South Carolina -- The Pickens County Court agreed to provide effective communication with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. This agreement resolved a complaint that the court denied the request of a woman who is hard of hearing that her daughter be permitted to assist her while she testified by repeating questions so that the complainant could understand them. The court adopted a policy to provide auxiliary aids and services when necessary to afford effective communication, and to give primary consideration to the request of an individual with a disability for a specific aid or service. The court will notify the public and train court personnel about these policies.
Pinellas County, Florida -- The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office entered a formal agreement involving auxiliary aids issues. The agreement resolves a complaint alleging that the Sheriffs Office did not secure the services of a qualified interpreter for an inmate who was deaf and failed to provide him with a TDD so that he could make outgoing calls. The Sheriff's Office agreed to maintain the additional TDD's that it purchased, to permit inmates and visitors to have access to 800 numbers for the purpose of making calls through telephone relay services, and to establish procedures for securing the services of qualified interpreters whenever necessary to ensure effective communication with individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.
Atlanta, Georgia --The Georgia World Congress Center Authority has agreed to make significant alterations to the Georgia World Congress Center, a large convention facility, and one of the proposed venues for the 1996 Olympic Games. The alterations include widening doors to the auditorium; providing accessible seating for people who use wheelchairs; providing alternatives to turnstile entrances to food service areas; altering specific features in designated food service areas; and altering telephones, restrooms, door hardware, and water fountains.
Hickman County, Kentucky -- Hickman County agreed to develop a compliance plan to provide access to the services, programs, and activities conducted in its courthouse, thus resolving a complaint alleging that a man using a wheelchair was unable to enter the circuit clerk's office to renew his driver's license because the doors were too narrow.
Madison County, Florida -- The Board of Commissioners of Madison County agreed to install an elevator, widen doors, renovate toilet facilities and water fountains, and install appropriate signage to make its programs at the Madison County Courthouse accessible for persons with mobility impairments. The County also will submit an interim plan for making its programs accessible until the renovations are completed.
Pinellas County, Florida -- The Sixth Judicial District of Florida entered into an agreement requiring the courts in that district to establish a written policy on providing qualified interpreters for participants, including parties, witnesses, jurors, and spectators, who are deaf or hard of hearing; secure the services of a qualified interpreter when necessary to ensure effective participation; notify the public about the policy; and inform and instruct all appropriate district court officials to comply with the policy.
Clearwater, Florida -- The complaint alleged that the police department had failed to provide an interpreter in the arrest of an individual who is deaf. The Clearwater police department agreed to establish and publicize a written policy for providing interpreters whenever necessary for effective communication.
Duke Will Make Comprehensive Changes for Campus Accessibility -- Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, agreed to make a broad range of programs and facilities more accessible to persons with disabilities including academics, dining and living facilities, and social aspects of campus life. Under the agreement, Duke will --
- modify elevators, entrances, counters, food service lines, telephones, and bathrooms throughout campus so they are accessible to persons with disabilities;
- create accessible circulation paths to, among, and within university buildings and other facilities by repairing sidewalks and modifying hallways, doors, and ramps;
- ensure that all programs and classes in which individuals with physical disabilities are enrolled are located in accessible spaces;
- modify shuttle bus route schedules to ensure that accessible buses run regularly and frequently on each route;
- make dormitory rooms fully accessible upon enrollment of students with disabilities until two percent of all dormitory rooms on campus are accessible;
- enlarge doorways in at least half of the rooms on floors with accessible rooms in 18 of 25 dormitories, so students using wheelchairs can visit friends;
- provide accessible seating in the Cameron Indoor Stadium and other assembly areas, access to stages and backstage areas around campus, and assistive listening devices in assembly areas;
- provide accessible parking throughout campus;
- replace signs throughout campus so they can be read by people with vision impairments and so that people with mobility impairments are properly directed to accessible routes and spaces; and,
- pay $25,000 in civil penalties to the United States and $7,500 in compensatory damages to the complainant, a wheelchair user who graduated from Duke in 1997.
Gulliver Academy, Coral Gables, Florida -- The Department entered an agreement with Gulliver Academy, a private for-profit school, resolving a complaint filed by a student with cerebral palsy who alleged that, after she was admitted to the school, she was excluded because of the accommodations she needed. The school agreed to identify and remove architectural barriers, modify practices to provide individual assistance in the use of campus facilities, designate a disability coordinator, and adopt an extensive administrative protocol for the admission and accommodation of students with disabilities.
Orlando Science Center, Orlando, Florida -- The Orlando Science Center agreed to correct violations of the ADA's new construction requirements. The Center will create two additional wheelchair spaces with fixed companion seating in both its theater and planetarium, lower counter tops, and make its photo lab and all restrooms accessible.
Neurologic Institute of the Gulf Coast, Gulfport, Mississippi -- Under an agreement with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Mississippi, the Neurologic Institute of the Gulf Coast will provide sign language interpreters when necessary to ensure effective communication with its patients who are deaf or hard of hearing. The Institute agreed to provide interpreters upon 48 hours notice for regularly scheduled appointments; to post its interpreter policy in writing in the office, and to conduct an ADA training seminar for its staff.
Saxton Pierce Restaurant Corporation, d/b/a Mazzio's Pizza, Clinton, Mississippi -- The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi entered into an agreement with Mazzio's Pizza to resolve violations of the ADA Standards for Accessible Design in the company's architectural designs for a new restaurant. Under the agreement, Mazzio's will provide the required number of accessible parking spaces with proper dimensions and signage, including one van-accessible space to comply with the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. Mazzio's modified the plans for the restrooms to provide maneuvering space on the pull side of the door in the vestibule outside the restrooms and clear floor space underneath the lavatories. In addition, Mazzio's altered its design to provide an accessible entrance into the kitchen area and to relocate the planned common use lavatory in the kitchen preparation area to provide the required maneuvering space.
Southeastern Conference, Birmingham, Alabama -- The Southeastern Conference (SEC), one of the nation's major collegiate athletic conferences, agreed to resolve a complaint filed by a high school swimmer with a learning disability who was prevented from enrolling at the University of Tennessee because of an SEC academic eligibility rule. In an earlier consent decree with the Department of Justice the NCAA agreed to modify many of its eligibility procedures so that the academic abilities of student-athletes with learning disabilities would be measured more accurately. The NCAA consent decree allows student-athletes with learning disabilities, who fail the rigid initial eligibility requirements, to be designated as "partial qualifiers" who are entitled to earn back a year of athletic eligibility, if they can demonstrate academic success in the classroom by completing a certain number of courses with a permissible grade point average. Under the new rules, the NCAA considered the complainant a partial qualifier and offered him the opportunity to earn another year of competition if he succeeded in the class room. However, the SEC prohibits anyone who is not a full qualifier on the day he or she enrolls as a freshman from ever participating in athletics. In its agreement with the Department of Justice, the SEC agreed to exempt student-athletes with learning disabilities from its restrictive policy, bringing its rules into line with the new NCAA policies.
Penn Treaty Network America Insurance Company, Sarasota, Florida -- The Penn Treaty Network America Insurance Company entered an agreement with the Department resolving a complaint by a deaf individual who alleged that she was denied nursing home insurance solely because of her disability. The company agreed to reconsider her application for insurance and to develop a company policy for its employees and agents to ensure effective communication with customers with hearing impairments.
Seminar Concepts, Hattiesburg, Mississippi -- Under an agreement with the U. S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Mississippi, Seminar Concepts, which offers continuing education courses in the field of physical and occupational therapy, will provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services to students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Seminar Concepts will consult with a student who requests an auxiliary aid and notify the student well in advance of the course as to what auxiliary aid it intends to provide. Seminar Concepts will train its staff on the ADA's auxiliary aids requirements and provide information on requesting auxiliary aids in its advertising and application materials.
Swifty Mart Convenience Stores, Tallahassee, Florida -- The owners of Swifty Mart Convenience Stores agreed to remedy access violations at 53 stores. Swifty Mart will provide accessible parking spaces with appropriate signage; curb ramps where an accessible route crosses a curb; refueling assistance to any person with a disability who specifically requests refueling assistance when more than one employee is on duty and no security risk will result; and ADA training for employees. It also agreed to pay a civil penalty of $5,000 and to ensure that any stores that it purchases or leases in the future will meet the requirements of the ADA Standards for Accessible Design.
First Intermed Corporation, Brandon, Mississippi -- The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Mississippi entered an agreement with the First Intermed Corporation, owner of the MEA Medical Clinic, an after-hours emergency clinic, to remedy violations in architectural plans for a new facility. The agreement requires modifications to bring the new facility into compliance with ADA Standards for Accessible Design, including modifying parking, curb ramps, interior door widths, door hardware, counter heights, and restrooms.
Central Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, Mississippi -- The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Mississippi reached an agreement with Central Mississippi Medical Center resolving a complaint that the Center denied a request for an interpreter for a deaf individual to attend child birth classes. The Center will institute a policy to ensure that individuals will receive the auxiliary aids and services needed for effective communication, including sign language interpreters. For courses or seminars offered by the Center, no more than 48 hours prior notice will be required to receive an interpreter. The Center will also provide ADA training to its employees and pay $1,000 in damages to the complainant.
Cumberland Child Care, Smyrna, Georgia -- The Department entered into an agreement with Cumberland Child Care resolving a complaint by parents alleging that their preschool child was prevented from bringing his asthma inhaler to class. The child care center had a policy barring children from bringing any medications with them to the center, including asthma inhalers. Because of this policy, the parents placed the child in another child care facility. In the agreement, Cumberland Child Care agreed to allow the child to bring the inhaler to class and agreed to administer emergency asthma treatment with the consent of the parents in accordance with the doctor's instructions. Cumberland also agreed to pay $1,500 in damages to the complainant.
Best Western Marina Park Hotel, Miami, Florida -- The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida reached an agreement that will vastly improve accessibility at the Best Western Marina Park Hotel in Miami. The Marina Park agreed to hold accessible rooms open for people with disabilities until all other rooms are rented; remove barriers to access throughout the hotel, including in the hotel entrance, parking, guest rooms, restaurant, lobby areas and restrooms; and provide auxiliary aids. The hotel will have six guest rooms accessible to persons with mobility and hearing impairments, two of which will have roll-in showers, and an additional six guest rooms accessible to persons who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Miramar Beach Apartments, Sarasota, Florida -- The Department entered into an agreement with the Miramar Beach Apartments, a vacation resort located in Sarasota, Florida, resolving an allegation that the complex had refused to allow a blind woman to rent the apartment of her choice because she was blind and accompanied by her service dog. The Miramar Beach Apartments agreed to pay her $7,500 in compensation and to ensure that persons with disabilities and their service animals are welcome.
Denny's Restaurant, Lumberton, North Carolina -- The Department entered into an agreement with B&G Management, Inc., operator of a Denny's Restaurant in Lumberton, North Carolina, resolving a complaint alleging that the restaurant refused to serve a customer and his wife because he was accompanied by a service animal. B&G agreed to adopt a policy that all persons with disabilities, including those accompanied by service animals, will be welcome in the restaurant, and that no proof of an animal's certification as a service animal will be required. B&G also agreed to post this policy in the restaurant and train its employees to ensure that it is carried out. In addition, B&G paid $1,000 to the complainant in compensatory damages.
Shoney's, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee -- The Department entered into a nationwide agreement with Shoney's resolving a complaint alleging that a Shoney's restaurant in Huntsville, Alabama, violated the ADA by failing to allow a service animal into the restaurant. Shoney's agreed to develop a company-wide policy on service animals, train its employees, and post the policy in all of its restaurants. The policy will state that all persons with disabilities, including those accompanied by service animals, are welcome, and that no proof of an animal's certification as a service animal is required. In addition, the agreement includes a payment of $1,000 to the complainant in compensatory damages.
Hotel Bel-Air, Los Angeles, California; Lauderdale Beach Hotel, Fort Lauderdale, Florida -- The Department signed agreements with hotels in California and Florida resolving complaints concerning their alleged failure to provide auxiliary aids and services to deaf and hard of hearing guests, including visual alarms to alert them to smoke and fire, visual notification devices to alert them of incoming telephone calls and door knocks or bells, TDD's, television decoders, and phone amplifiers. The hotels agreed to obtain all of the auxiliary aids and services, make a good faith effort to make arrangements to rent or share additional TDD's, if needed, upon request, and honor the request within two hours of receiving it. The complainant in each case received $5,000 in compensatory damages.
Disney Agrees to Interpreters, Captioning, Assistive Listening Systems -- The Department and Walt Disney World reached a comprehensive agreement resolving complaints that Disney had failed to provide auxiliary aids for effective communication for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing. Under the agreement Disney will --
- provide oral and sign language interpreters at numerous specified attractions by March 1, 1997, at Walt Disney World in Florida, and by December 31, 1997, at Disneyland in California, upon notice two weeks in advance of an individual's planned visit;
- make captioning systems available without reservation at the entrance to specified rides or shows no later than December 31, 1997, at both Disney resorts;
- provide transcripts to persons who are deaf or hard of hearing at attractions and allow these individuals an opportunity to ride an attraction promptly a second time in order to better understand the written text;
- schedule interpreters at specified shows, performances, and rides on a rotating basis so that guests can attend all interpreted attractions in one day at one of the three parks at Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California;
- provide closed captioning on video monitors in queues for attractions and other arcades throughout the parks;
- make interpreter schedules available from Walt Disney World and Disneyland Guest Services;
- provide assistive listening systems and written transcripts for most attractions for hard of hearing guests who desire them;
- train employees to improve services for guests who are deaf or hard of hearing;
- advertise its services for guests who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Comfort Inn, Lake Buena Vista, Florida -- The Comfort Inn of Lake Buena Vista, Florida (located near Walt Disney World) -- one of the nation's largest Comfort Inns with 640 guest rooms, a restaurant, and two swimming pools -- has agreed to undertake a wide range of barrier removal measures to ensure accessibility. The hotel will provide 19 fully accessible guest rooms with accessible bathrooms, including six bathrooms with roll-in showers, as well as 13 additional rooms equipped for persons with hearing impairments. The hotel will also repair four recently modified "accessible" guestrooms to reposition the toilets, lavatories, clothes rod, and door sign to make them accessible; insulate the hot water pipes and provide accessible door hardware; take measures to ensure that its parking lots, lobby, lobby restrooms and common use areas are accessible; modify drinking fountains; ensure that there is at least one accessible elevator at each bank; and provide lifts to enable individuals with mobility impairments to use its swimming pools.
New Olympic Stadiums Are Fully Accessible -- The Department entered into agreements to ensure full accessibility at five venues newly designed and constructed for the 1996 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. The agreements with the Atlanta Committee on the Olympic Games and the Metropolitan Atlanta Olympic Games Authority make the Olympic Stadium, the Aquatic Center, the Stone Mountain Tennis Center, and the field hockey stadiums at Morris Brown College and Clark Atlanta University models for accessible stadium design nationwide. Under the agreements, the facilities --
- will provide accessible seating as an integral part of the seating plan;
- have at least one percent of their total seating accessible for persons using wheelchairs;
- disperse the accessible seating throughout the stadiums, including in specialty seating areas, such as the suites and the club level of the Olympic Stadium;
- provide a conventional seat next to each wheelchair space so that spectators with disabilities can sit next to family and friends;
- ensure that virtually all wheelchair seats have a comparable "line of sight" so that wheelchair users can still see the playing surface even when spectators in front of them stand up during an event;
- provide an accessible route from parking and transportation areas to the wheelchair seating locations that connects with all public areas of the stadiums; and
- provide full accessibility at all concession stands, restrooms, parking areas (including parking for vans), automatic bank machines, locker rooms, portable toilets, and employee common-use areas.
After the conclusion of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, these five facilities will be converted into smaller, permanent sports facilities. For example, the Olympic Stadium will become the new home for the Atlanta Braves and the Aquatic Center will become a swimming facility for the Georgia Institute of Technology. The agreements ensure that the post-Olympic configuration of the facilities will also be fully accessible.
Knoxville, Tennessee -- The Department entered an agreement with a Knoxville doctor to resolve a complaint that he had refused to accept a patient because she is deaf. The patient alleged that she scheduled a routine appointment for medical services with the doctor through the relay service of Tennessee but that, when she arrived at the doctor's office accompanied by an interpreter, she was refused treatment because she is deaf. Under the agreement, the doctor agreed to compensate the patient for the alleged denial of treatment with a payment of $2,000; pay civil penalties of $1,000 to the United States; develop a written policy of nondiscrimination regarding treatment of patients with disabilities; and ensure that all of the doctor's employees are appropriately trained to carry out this policy.
Raindancer Restaurant, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida -- Raindancer Restaurant, a steak restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida has built a ramp and made its restrooms accessible under an agreement with the Department. In addition, the two complainants each received $900 worth of gift certificates for meals at the restaurant.
Blue Parrot Inn, Key West, Florida -- The Blue Parrot Inn in Key West, Florida, agreed to modify its policy that required a person with a disability accompanied by a service animal to pay a non-refundable fee for the cost of fumigating the room to exterminate fleas. The Inn agreed to no longer impose the fee, to modify its advertising and brochures accordingly, to educate its staff about the new policy, and to pay the complainant $250 in damages.
Hickory, North Carolina--The Department settled a complaint against the owners of the Life Enhancement Center health club regarding allegations that the health club had excluded an individual who uses a wheelchair from the pool and jacuzzi. The health club owners later allowed him to use the pool, jacuzzi, and other equipment, but only if he wore a protective helmet at any time he was out of his wheelchair. Several aspects of the newly constructed facility failed to meet the ADA new construction standards. Under the agreement, the owners agreed to change their previous policies and to allow persons who use wheelchairs to use the pool and jacuzzi, eliminate the protective helmet requirements, and make all changes necessary to bring the facility into compliance with the new construction standards by June 15, 1994.
Emerald Lanes, Greenwood, South Carolina -- The owners of Emerald Lanes, a bowling center, agreed to construct a ramp and a new door at the front entrance; build a new, accessible unisex restroom and vestibule leading to it; and add accessible parking. The agreement resolved a complaint from an individual who uses a wheelchair for mobility who could not watch his children participate in a bowling league and banquet because the facility was inaccessible.
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; and
- 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 Georgia county jail widened the entrance of a visitor's booth, purchased two text telephones, and installed call buttons and toilet grab bars in several rooms of its medical ward.
A Kentucky city government agreed to provide individuals with disabilities auxiliary aids and services, including sign language interpreter services, at its public meetings and to provide closed captioning for public meetings and public announcements televised on its cable access channel. It also installed hardware for each of its telephone emergency dispatchers that will provide direct access to 9-1-1 callers using TDD's.
A collection agency in Memphis, Tennessee, agreed to accept calls from persons using TDD's through the local relay service.
A private Florida bus company agreed to provide equal service to people with mobility impairments by ensuring that the lifts on all of its buses are fully operational and by keeping a radio-dispatched mini-van on standby as a backup in cases where a bus without a lift or a bus with a malfunctioning lift is unable to pick up a person using a wheelchair.
A pediatric dentist in North Carolina agreed to change his policy of limiting scheduled appointments for disabled children to specified "handicapped" days. The doctor agreed to schedule patients with disabilities at any available time and to train his staff accordingly.
A wheelchair user complained that the upper floors of a Tennessee courthouse located in a historic building were not accessible. The historical society agreed to have an elevator installed in the courthouse.
In Florida, a person complained that a policy restricting the amount of time a person has to mark a ballot discriminated against people with disabilities. The voting official agreed to modify the policy for persons with disabilities and to educate poll workers about the policy. The official agreed to inform the public by issuing a public service announcement to all media outlets and to develop an informational web site.
A wheelchair user complained that a conference facility in Kentucky was inaccessible. The president of the facility agreed to post signs directing people with disabilities to the accessible parking spaces, to repair a walkway surface, and to have a wheelchair lift reinspected and repaired. He also agreed to make the restrooms accessible and to find a way to modify the existing thresholds to provide access for persons with disabilities while maintaining the historical significance of the building.
In South Carolina, a person with a hearing impairment complained that a live performance theater was inaccessible to patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing. The theater now provides interpreters for patrons and has made available ten sets of FM assistive listening devices. The theater installed a TDD at the ticket counter with appropriate signage indicating the location of the TDD and upgraded the pay telephone to include amplification. The theater expanded the visual fire alarm system to include the restroom areas and installed Brailled signage. In addition, the theater agreed to include the symbol for interpreted programs when printing new brochures for the next season of performances.
In Florida, a person with a disability affecting his ability to swallow complained that a bus driver did not allow him to carry water in a closed container onto a tour bus. The tour company management agreed to discipline the driver, including the loss of a bonus and the withholding of new assignments for a six-week period. Management revised company policy to require all drivers to comply with the ADA and to give them notice that violations of this policy will be grounds for termination, and distributed it to all drivers. The company also implemented several changes to make it easier for customers to file a complaint directly with the company.
Public Transit Authority May Be Liable for Discrimination by Private Contractor -- The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina allowed a lawsuit to continue that challenges the inaccessibility of the Raleigh, North Carolina, bus system to wheelchair users. In James v. Peter Pan Transit Management, Inc., the court ruled, as urged by the Department in an amicus brief, that the public transit authority may be held liable under title II for discrimination by a private company that provides bus service to the public under a contract with the transit authority and that the plaintiff's claim for damages should not be dismissed. The plaintiff alleged that she was denied equal access to the CAT Connector service, a supplemental van service that connects bus routes and other points of interest and that also serves on a demand-responsive basis areas not fully served by regular transit buses. Specifically, she charged that Peter Pan drivers refused to pick her up, that lift and securement equipment were often missing or inoperable, and that drivers were not adequately trained to use the lift and securement equipment.
Appeals Court Allows Suit Against State Judge -- The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled in Livingston v. Guice that a State court judge does not enjoy absolute judicial immunity from a title II accessibility suit. The suit, brought by a person who uses a wheelchair, charged that the State of North Carolina and a State court judge violated title II by preventing the individual from entering a courtroom through the only accessible entrance known to her. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina dismissed the case on the grounds of judicial immunity. On appeal, the Fourth Circuit agreed with the Department's amicus brief and ruled that the judge was not immune from suit for injunctive relief and that the State was not immune from a claim for monetary damages. After the Fourth Circuit ruling, the parties agreed to an agreement in which the complainant received a damages award from the State, and the court removed physical barriers and updated its self-evaluation and transition plans.
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.
Eleventh Circuit Decides in Favor of Title II Employment Coverage -- In Bledsoe v. Palm Beach County Soil and Water Conservation District, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that claims of employment discrimination against public entities may be brought under title II of the ADA and not just title I. It rejected the district court's holding that only the "outputs" of State and local governments are covered by title II, not "inputs" such as employment, and that title II coverage would be redundant given title I's explicit coverage of employment. The decision followed the Department's amicus brief which argued that the broad language of title II and its legislative history make clear that Congress intended there to be employment coverage under title II, as well as title I, with title II procedures patterned after those of section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The section 504 procedures give complainants the option of either filing an administrative complaint with the Federal funding agency or going directly to court to file suit.
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