| U.S. Department of Justice |
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Section
Enforcing the ADA
A Press Report from the Department of Justice for the Mid-Atlantic Region: Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.
This report covers the ADA activities of the Department of Justice after the ADA first went into effect on January 26, 1992.
Through lawsuits, consent decrees, and formal and informal settlement agreements the Department of Justice has achieved greater access for individuals with disabilities in hundreds of cases. Under general rules governing lawsuits brought by the Federal Government, the Department may not file a lawsuit unless it has first unsuccessfully attempted to settle the dispute through negotiations.
The Department may file lawsuits in Federal court to enforce the ADA and may obtain court orders including compensatory damages and back pay to remedy discrimination. Under title III the Department may also obtain civil penalties of up to $55,000 for the first violation and $110,000 for any subsequent violation.
Some lawsuits are resolved at the time the suit is filed or afterwards by means of a negotiated consent decree. Consent decrees are monitored and enforced by the Federal court in which they are entered.
The Department files amicus briefs in selected ADA cases in which it is not a party in order to guide courts in interpreting the ADA.
The Department sometimes resolves cases without filing a lawsuit by means of formal and informal agreements.
U.S. v. Law School Admission Council, Inc. -- The Department filed suit against the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) for not making reasonable modifications in policy to allow individuals with physical disabilities in appropriate cases to have additional time to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, alleges that LSAC violated the ADA when it denied four individuals with physical disabilities, including cerebral palsy and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, additional time on the multiple choice portion of the LSAT, a standardized test administered to those seeking admission to law school. The complaint alleges that LSAC illegally followed a policy of requiring applicants with physical disabilities to submit a psychoeducational assessment as the basis for determining whether extra time is appropriate. Such assessments, which are typically used to diagnose whether individuals have learning disabilities, are not appropriate for determining whether extra time is needed for individuals with physical disabilities. The complaint also asserts that LSAC failed to individually assess requests for accommodations, provide adequate reasons for denying accommodations, and engage in an interactive process with individuals seeking testing accommodations. The lawsuit asks the court to order LSAC to change its policies, pay civil penalties, and award compensatory damages to the four named individuals.
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.
Miller v. District of Columbia -- The District of Columbia agreed to pay $15,000 each in compensatory damages to two deaf individuals whose repeated TDD calls to the D.C. 9-1-1 system went unanswered. This consent decree resolves the Department's suit against the District of Columbia for operating a 9-1-1 telephone emergency system that failed to provide direct, effective access to persons with disabilities who use telecommunications devices for the deaf (TDD's). The agreement leaves in place an earlier court order finding that the District had violated the law and requiring it to take action to bring the 9-1-1 system into compliance.
Major Racing Facility Agrees to Comprehensive Barrier Removal -- The United States filed a complaint and consent decree in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware resolving its investigation of Dover Downs, a 100,000-seat horse and auto racing facility located in Dover, Delaware, that features the Dover Downs International Speedway. Under the consent decree in United States v. Dover Downs Entertainment, Inc., Dover Downs agreed to bring the new and altered portions of the facility into compliance with the ADA Standards for Accessible Design and to remove architectural barriers to access in the existing portions of the facility. It will make the grandstands accessible by providing over 300 accessible wheelchair seating locations with companion seating and accessible routes and ramps to these seating areas. It will provide designated accessible parking areas adjacent to grandstand entrances and develop a policy for the transportation of people with disabilities between the accessible parking areas and the gates serving the Speedway's grandstand seating. Restrooms serving the outdoor grandstands will be made accessible and accessible routes will be provided to all designated accessible restrooms. Service counters and betting windows will be lowered and other steps will be taken to make the Dover Downs Slots facility fully accessible. Dover Downs also agreed to provide annual employee training regarding nondiscriminatory service to individuals with disabilities and to pay $20,000 in compensatory damages to the complainant.
United States v. Physorthorad -- The Department filed a lawsuit and two consent decrees simultaneously in this case involving a newly-constructed two-story medical office building in Pennsylvania that was built without an elevator and that contained several other violations of the ADA Standards for Accessible Design including inaccessible staff rooms, restrooms, showers, and parking. Under the consent orders, which were negotiated separately with the owner of the building and the architectural firm that designed it, an elevator has been installed and other structural modifications have been made to bring the building into compliance. The architect agreed to pay $8,000 in civil penalties -- the first time that an architect has paid civil penalties for violations of the ADA's requirements for new construction. The owner also agreed to pay civil penalties of $10,000.
United States v. Becker C.P.A. Review --In a consent decree resolving the first case filed by the Department of Justice under the ADA, Becker C.P.A. Review, which prepares over 10,000 students annually to take the national certified public accountant exam, agreed to amend its auxiliary aids policy. Becker will no longer limit its offered auxiliary aids to audiotape transcripts prepared for the instructors' use, and will provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services, including qualified sign language interpreters and assistive listening devices, to students with hearing impairments. The company may require a student to attend a consultation meeting, at which time the student would explain his or her individual needs and means of communication. Becker would explain the nature of the class and the proposed auxiliary aid or service. However, Becker may request that the student try its proposed aid or service at a Becker class prior to the session that the student wishes to attend. If the student can articulate, based on experience or skills, why the proposed aid or service will not provide effective communication, the student will not be requested to try out the proposed auxiliary aid or service. Becker also agreed to appoint a national ADA coordinator and to train its staff regarding the policy revision; pay $20,000 to the Department of Justice to be distributed to seven deaf and hearing impaired individuals, all former Becker students; and establish a $25,000 scholarship fund for accounting students who have hearing impairments at California State University.
United States v. Omega Professional Center V Condominium Council -- The United States Attorney's Office for the District of Delaware filed a complaint and a consent decree resolving a complaint that the owners and operators of Omega Professional Center, a commercial complex housing physicians' offices, failed to remove architectural barriers that restrict access to individuals with disabilities. The Omega Professional center agreed to provide accessible parking spaces and an accessible route to the front entrance, conduct a review of all its facilities, and remove any additional barriers to access. It also agreed to pay $5,000 each to two complainants and to pay $10,000 in civil penalties to the United States.
United States v. Bekins Van Lines -- The Department settled, through a pair of consent decrees, its AIDS discrimination suit against Bekins Van Lines and its Philadelphia, Pennsylvania agent, Bekins Transfer and Storage. The suit alleged that the defendants had contracted to move the belongings of two persons, but refused to do so when the moving crew saw an individual with AIDS on the premises. Collectively, the defendants agreed to pay a total of $44,500 to settle the litigation. By consent decree, Bekins Van Lines agreed to pay compensatory damages to the individual who has AIDS and to the two persons who were to have their belongings moved. Bekins Van Lines also agreed to include a policy statement in its procedural manual addressing the transmission of infectious diseases, including HIV and AIDS. Under the second agreement, Bekins Transfer and Storage agreed to pay $14,500 to the United States, adopt the nondiscrimination policy developed by Bekins Van Lines, and send its operations manager and dispatchers to an educational seminar on the ADA.
Friendly's Agrees to Chainwide Barrier Removal Program Under Title III -- The U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts-based Friendly Ice Cream Corporation entered into a consent decree under which Friendly's will engage in an aggressive barrier-removal program to increase accessibility throughout its chain of 704 restaurants in 15 States. The consent order requires Friendly's to come into substantial compliance within six years. In the first year, Friendly's will complete barrier removal at 117 locations, including altering the entrances (removing steps, widening doorways, and redesigning vestibules) at those 93 restaurants that currently have inaccessible entrances. Other alterations required by the consent order include redesigning dining areas to accommodate wheelchair users; striping parking areas to include accessible spaces; and altering bathrooms by widening doorways, increasing unobstructed floor space, installing grab bars and accessible door hardware. In addition, the consent order requires the company to pay a civil penalty of $50,000.
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.
Project Life Inc. v. Glendening -- The U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland filed an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit charging that the Maryland Port Administration and several other State agencies violated the Fair Housing Act and title II of the ADA by refusing to grant a long-term berth to Project Life, which plans to operate a 30-day residential and education program aboard the U.S.S. Sanctuary in Baltimore Harbor for women recovering from substance abuse. The complaint alleges that the Maryland Port Authority required Project Life to adhere to special conditions only because of the history of disability of the program participants, including requiring Project Life to obtain "community support" for its project; to obtain approvals from a State alcohol and drug commission and a not-yet established port advisory committee; and to have its clients use a separate entrance to the port. The court had earlier refused to dismiss the case, holding that the actions of the Maryland Port Authority are covered by the ADA and the Fair Housing Act. Defendants are now arguing that the case is not "ripe" for court review because they have not yet formally refused the berth and the two additional commissions have not yet approved or denied the berth. The U.S. Attorney's brief argued that, because defendants have already imposed additional eligibility requirements on Project Life, the discrimination has already occurred, and the case is "ripe" for court action.
Galloway v. Superior Court of the District of Columbia, District of Columbia -- A blind individual filed a lawsuit in Federal district court charging that the District of Columbia Superior Court's policy of categorically excluding blind persons from jury service violates title II of the ADA and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The Federal district court judge agreed, and awarded the plaintiff $30,000 in damages. The Department of Justice argued in support of the plaintiff's view that compensatory damages are available remedies under both the ADA and section 504.
Day v. Republic Foods -- The Department filed an amicus brief supporting a suit against Burger King for failing to remove architectural barriers in existing restaurants and for violating the ADA Standards for Accessible Design in new construction. Burger King Corporation asserts that, as a franchisor, it had no responsibility for whether franchisees were complying with the ADA's barrier removal or new construction requirements. The Department's brief argues that a franchisor is liable for new construction violations by franchisees when it exercises control over the design or construction of the new facilities built by the franchisees. The brief also argues that franchisors are liable as public accommodations for new construction and barrier removal violations when the franchise agreement gives the franchisor so much control over the operations of a franchisee that the franchisor can be viewed as "operating" the franchisee's restaurant.
Title I and II
Arlington County, Virginia -- The Department reached an agreement with the Arlington County Police Department resolving a complaint by an individual who allegedly was denied a temporary clerical job because she has epilepsy. According to the complainant, the police department, through a temporary employment agency, extended to her a verbal offer of employment. At that time, she was advised that she would begin temporary employment with the police department and that she would be required to take a polygraph examination. The temporary agency, on behalf of the County, inquired whether she regularly took any medication that could affect the polygraph test. She advised the County through the temporary agency that she took dilantin and phenobarbital for her epilepsy. Later that day, the complainant was advised by the temporary agency that the police department had withdrawn its offer of employment. When she asked the temporary agency why the offer was withdrawn, she was advised that the police department was concerned that due to her medications the polygraph examination may create stress for her. Under the agreement, the complainant was offered a job similar to the one she alleges she was denied (a four-week, temporary, full-time secretarial position) contingent upon signing a waiver and passing the County's required polygraph examination. The agreement also provided for $2500 in monetary damages and required the police department to continue efforts to educate its employees about the ADA.
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 --
Sussex County and State Police 9-1-1 Center, Delaware
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.
Auxiliary Aids and Services -- The Department reached separate agreements with police departments in Montgomery County, Maryland, Glendale, Arizona, Roswell, New Mexico, and Rochester, New York, requiring them to develop policies and procedures to ensure that appropriate auxiliary aids and services are provided in their interactions with individuals who have hearing impairments. The departments agreed to establish procedures to ensure that deaf individuals who use sign language would have interpreters in circumstances where interpreters are necessary for effective communication -- for example, when criminal suspects are being advised of their constitutional rights or being questioned by police. The police departments agreed to train police officers on the appropriate use of interpreter services and to ensure that interpreters are sufficiently qualified.
Borough of Conway, Pennsylvania -- The Department entered into an agreement with the Council for the Borough of Conway, Pennsylvania, resolving a complaint alleging that the second floor meeting room where the Council's public meetings are held is not accessible to individuals with disabilities who are not able to climb stairs. The Borough Council agreed to adopt and publish a procedure for relocating all public meetings to an accessible location with reasonable notification (within a week before the meeting). It also will post a statement describing the procedures to follow for requesting reasonable modifications to its policies, practices, and procedures.
New Oxford Borough, Pennsylvania -- The Department reached an agreement with the Council for New Oxford Borough, Pennsylvania, resolving a complaint that the second floor meeting room where the Council's public meetings are held is inaccessible to individuals with disabilities who are unable to climb stairs. In addition, the complaint alleged that the Borough's library, located in the basement, is also inaccessible to individuals who use wheelchairs because of stairs and broken sidewalks leading to the building entrance. The Council agreed to adopt and publish a procedure for relocating all public meetings to an accessible location with reasonable notification and to set aside a room on the accessible first floor for the use of the library so that individuals with disabilities can access library services. It will also repair or replace the sidewalk as part of an accessible route from the parking lot to the building entrance and adopt and post a written policy statement indicating procedures to be used to obtain reasonable modifications of policies, practices, and procedures.
McDowell County, West Virginia -- The Department reached an agreement with McDowell County, West Virginia, resolving a complaint that the county's facilities, including its courthouse, were not accessible to individuals with mobility impairments. The county agreed to complete structural changes necessary to make the commissioner's office, sheriff's department, courthouse annex, and first floor of the main courthouse accessible by September 1, 1998. It also adopted a policy providing for proceedings scheduled for the second and third floors of the courthouse to be moved to an accessible location upon request by a person with a disability. In addition, staff of the county land office, which is located in an inaccessible basement, will meet with individuals with disabilities at alternative accessible locations or in their vehicles.
Lehigh County, Pennsylvania -- The Department entered an agreement with Lehigh County resolving a complaint alleging problems with the county's ADA grievance procedure. The county agreed to adopt and post a written policy statement indicating procedures to obtain reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures. In addition, the county will adopt and publish a procedure for providing prompt and equitable resolution of complaints, including the name, telephone number, and office address of the ADA coordinator.
Lancaster, Pennsylvania -- The Department entered into an agreement with the Police Department of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, resolving a complaint alleging a failure to provide effective communication. The complainant, who is deaf and uses sign language for communication, alleged that she was detained by the police department for over three hours without explanation, and that a requested interpreter was not provided. The police department agreed to adopt guidelines for effective communication in police situations, including the provision of interpreters when necessary, and to train personnel in carrying out the guidelines. It will also purchase TDD equipment and train police personnel in its use.
Fairfax County, Virginia -- The Department entered into an agreement on effective communication issues with the Office of the Sheriff for Fairfax County, Virginia, which operates the county jail. The complainant, an arrestee who is deaf, alleged that there was a public telephone in the jail cell, but that a TDD was not available for his use. The complainant further claimed that he was not provided with an interpreter, and that none of the jail officials wrote notes to him. The agreement requires the sheriff to post a sign at the booking desk stating that a TDD is available, add a question on its booking form so that the booking officer can determine if an inmate needs an interpreter or other aid to effectively communicate, and retrain its deputies on how to effectively communicate with deaf inmates.
Northampton County, Pennsylvania -- The Department entered into an agreement with the County of Northampton, Pennsylvania, resolving a complaint about the county's grievance procedures. The complainant alleged that the county did not have an ADA coordinator, that he made several attempts to file an ADA grievance with officials of the county, and that he was not able to locate the ADA coordinator and was eventually referred to a local independent living center. The county agreed to adopt and post a written policy statement indicating procedures to follow to obtain reasonable modifications to policies, practices and procedures. In addition, the county will adopt and publish a procedure for providing prompt and equitable resolution of complaints, including the name, telephone number, and office address of the ADA coordinator. The county also agreed to provide copies of the policy statement and grievance procedures to all county employees and train all staff to ensure that people with disabilities are treated in a nondiscriminatory manner.
Virginia Department of Health -- The Department reached an agreement with the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Health resolving a complaint alleging that emergency medical technician training provided by Virginia was not accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing. The department of health agreed to provide sign language interpreters in training programs that require interaction with program moderators. It will provide written transcripts in training programs that only require the trainee to view a video. The department of health will publicize the availability of interpreters and transcripts and will provide them free of charge to people with hearing impairments.
Fairfax, Virginia -- The City of Fairfax, Virginia, agreed not to automatically exclude individuals with hearing impairments as volunteer firefighters. Instead, Fairfax will conduct an individual assessment to determine if an individual with a hearing impairment can meet the qualifications for the position. The agreement resolves a complaint by an individual who is deaf in his left ear and who applied for a position as a volunteer firefighter. The complainant was accepted for the position by a vote of the volunteer members and underwent a physical examination. Applying medical standards developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Fairfax excluded the complainant from the volunteer position because of his hearing loss. Fairfax notified the Department that the NFPA standards have been modified so that failure to meet the hearing requirement does not automatically exclude an applicant from consideration. The city agreed to give priority consideration to the complainant if he reapplied and qualified for the position. It also agreed to pay the complainant $850.
Borough of Olyphant, Pennsylvania -- The Borough of Olyphant, Pennsylvania, agreed to construct an accessible ramp to the rear entrance of the Olyphant Municipal Building and to alter the restroom facilities on the first floor of the building so that there will be an accessible unisex restroom. Olyphant will also install signage on inaccessible restrooms indicating where the accessible restroom is located. Furthermore, Olyphant will modify its policies to provide that, upon request, borough officials whose offices are located on the second floor of the municipal building will conduct business in the first floor conference room with persons with disabilities who cannot access the second floor. This policy will be posted in a conspicuous place in the lobby of the municipal building along with instructions on how and where to make such a request. Finally, Olyphant will continue to take all possible steps to find an accessible permanent location for the meetings currently held in inaccessible municipal building rooms and, until an accessible permanent location is found, move public meetings to an accessible location upon request.
Wetzel County, West Virginia -- The Department reached an agreement with the Wetzel County Commission resolving a complaint alleging that the programs, services, and activities conducted in the Wetzel County Courthouse are inaccessible to individuals who use wheelchairs. The commission stated that because of financial constraints it is unable to make the entrance to the courthouse and the restroom accessible. The commission agreed to adopt alternative methods to ensure that its programs, when viewed in their entirety, are readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, including by meeting individuals with disabilities at accessible locations outside of the courthouse. The commission will post a notice at all entrances to the courthouse and at the parking spaces designated for persons with disabilities that summarizes the ADA's program accessibility requirement, states that upon request the proceedings of the court and the commission will be moved to an accessible location, and identifies the county's alternative methods of providing program accessibility.
Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania -- Prospective jurors with disabilities will now be able to request accommodations prior to proceedings in open court under an agreement between the Department and the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. The complaint alleged that the only available means for requesting accommodations for a disability was during voir dire in open court. This procedure resulted in the unnecessary public disclosure of information about prospective jurors' disabilities and the unwarranted exclusion of some prospective jurors because of this information. Under the agreement the court will include information about requesting accommodations in the initial jury summons. It will also adopt and publish procedures for evaluating requests and maintaining the confidentiality of such requests. If an accommodation is not available for a particular court date, the court will reschedule the juror for a time when the accommodation can be provided. The court also agreed to designate an ADA coordinator and to post publicly its policy on making reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and procedures.
Stowe Township, Pennsylvania -- A formal agreement between the Department and the Board of Commissioners of Stowe Township, Pennsylvania, resolved a complaint alleging that the Board of Commissioners' public meetings were not accessible to people with disabilities because they were held on the inaccessible second floor of the municipal building. The commissioners agreed to establish a policy by which members of the public can request modifications to policies, practices, and procedures of the Commission. In addition, the agreement requires the Commission to move its public meetings to an accessible location upon reasonable notice (no more than one week), and to utilize an existing audiovisual system on the accessible first floor on all occasions when the public meetings are not moved.
Clinton Township, Pennsylvania -- The Board of Supervisors for Clinton Township agreed to purchase an amplification system for use during town meetings. In addition, the agreement requires the board members to use the system microphones to ensure that members can be heard.
Supreme Court of Pennsylvania -- The Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, which hears complaints of attorney misconduct, agreed to establish a written policy for providing auxiliary aids or services and to provide qualified interpreters when necessary upon reasonable notice. The complaint alleged that the office failed to ensure effective communication with an individual who requested an interpreter in order to appeal the outcome of a complaint lodged with the office.
Chester County, Pennsylvania -- The Chester County Prison located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, agreed to ensure effective communication with inmates who are deaf or hard of hearing and to post signage clearly marking an accessible route to the prison's visiting room. The agreement resolved a complaint alleging that the prison failed to furnish necessary auxiliary aids during individual and group counseling sessions and disciplinary hearings. The prison also allegedly failed to provide an accessible route for complainant's mother, who has a mobility impairment, to reach the prison's visiting room.
Mercer County, West Virginia -- The County agreed to develop a compliance plan to make the services, programs, and activities conducted in the Mercer County Courthouse accessible to individuals with mobility impairments.
Prince George's County, Maryland -- The Prince George's County Police and Fire Department agreed to provide people with disabilities an equal opportunity to volunteer as emergency medical technicians. The agreement resolves complaints filed with the Department of Justice charging that the county violated the ADA by refusing to certify two qualified applicants with hearing impairments. Under the terms of the agreement, the county will no longer automatically reject volunteer firefighter or volunteer rescue technician applicants solely on the basis of disability. Instead, it will evaluate on an individual basis every applicant's ability to perform the essential functions of the position. The county will train all personnel, including medical personnel, involved in making decisions on volunteer application decisions on how to properly review applications under the ADA. It also offered to reevaluate the rejected applications of the complainants.
O'Neill's Place, Portland, Pennsylvania -- The Department signed an agreement resolving a complaint alleging that O'Neill's Place, a tavern and restaurant, barred a patron with epilepsy from its premises, unless accompanied by his parents, after the patron had a seizure during a visit there. The agreement requires O'Neill's to allow the complainant and other persons with disabilities to frequent its premises on the same basis as persons without disabilities and to post a notice that it has entered into an agreement with the Department.
Sledge, Inc., d/b/a The 9:30 Club, Washington, D.C. -- A Washington D.C. concert club agreed to settle a complaint by a deaf individual who alleged that the club refused his request in advance for a sign language interpreter for a concert. The owners of the 9:30 Club agreed to provide a sign language interpreter for any performance when requested in advance by customers who are deaf or hard of hearing and to give ADA training to their employees who deal with the public.
American Association of State Social Work Boards; Assessment Systems, Inc., Culpeper, Virginia -- Two national standardized testing agencies agreed to provide qualified readers for test takers with vision impairments. The American Association of State Social Work Boards and Assessment Systems, Inc., will also pay $3,000 to a complainant who was not allowed to use his own reader for the social work license examination. Instead, he was allegedly required to use a college student who had been hired to work at the registration table and had never read for a person with a vision impairment. During the exam, the reader allegedly stumbled over technical terms and made mistakes in marking and recording the answers. Under the agreement, AASSWB and ASI will adopt written policies to ensure that readers are proficient in reading for people with vision impairments, that they are familiar with the examination, and that they work with the test-taker prior to the examination to allow the reader to adapt to the test-taker's style of receiving information. The agreement also makes clear that the testing entities may also simply choose to allow test-takers with vision impairments to supply their own reader.
Affordable Airport Shuttle, Gaithersburg, Maryland -- Affordable Airport Shuttle, a small company that provides service to all three Washington D.C. area airports with five inaccessible vans, agreed to contract with a transportation company to provide accessible van service to all patrons with mobility impairments requesting its services.
Nation's Capital Tours, L.L.C., Silver Spring, Maryland -- A Washington, D.C., area tour operator agreed to improve access to its sightseeing services by purchasing or leasing accessible vehicles or sharing accessible vehicles with other local sightseeing service providers. It also will not require an individual with a disability to be accompanied by an attendant.
Commercial Real Estate Firm Pays $560,000 in Damages, Penalties for Discrimination in Leasing -- Under an agreement with the Department of Justice, TrizecHahn Corporation, a commercial real estate corporation that refused to lease space to a nonprofit organization that serves persons with disabilities will no longer discriminate against people with disabilities and will take corrective action to ensure that it does not happen in the future. TrizecHahn owns, manages, and develops retail and office properties throughout the United States, including a facility in Rosslyn, Virginia. The ENDependence Center, based in Arlington, Virginia, attempted to lease office space in TrizecHahn's Rosslyn, Virginia, building, but the leasing agent refused to enter into any negotiations with the center and refused to lease the space to the center because the center serves persons with disabilities. Under the terms of the agreement, TrizecHahn will --
- no longer discriminate against individuals with disabilities when leasing commercial real estate;
- pay $550,000 to the center and $10,000 in civil penalties to the United States; and
- train employees in the Washington, D.C. area on the requirements of the ADA that pertain to the leasing of commercial real estate.
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, Virginia -- The Department entered into an agreement resolving a complaint alleging that Colonial Williamsburg was inaccessible to persons with vision, hearing, and mobility impairments. During the Department's investigation many modifications to improve the accessibility of hotels, restaurants, walkways, restrooms, and entrances to historic structures were completed, and policies were set in place to provide auxiliary aids and services for people with hearing and vision disabilities. The agreement requires Colonial Williamsburg to modify handrails, insulate hot water pipes, adjust accessible lavatory counters, provide signage directing patrons to accessible restrooms, and to provide an additional accessible restroom in the visitors center.
Dr. Robin Rinerson, Falls Church, Virginia -- A Virginia doctor agreed to make the entrance to her professional office accessible to people with mobility impairments. Dr. Rinerson will install a ramp to her office entrance and allow sufficient maneuvering space for opening the doors.
Airlie Conference Center, Warrenton, Virginia -- The Airlie Foundation agreed to make accessible its conference and retreat center near Washington, D.C. The Airlie Conference Center's main conference building, Airlie House, is a historic structure that has been expanded over time to include nine separate levels. The primary campus buildings are historic houses and former farm buildings -- stables, a silo, a hayloft, tackrooms -- that have been converted into meeting and sleeping rooms. Renovations and additions have resulted in a multi-level mix of structures that cover a hilly 100-acre campus, and present significant access problems. The Foundation agreed to construct an addition to Airlie House that will house an elevator, completely accessible toilet facilities, an office, and other amenities. Upon completion of this addition, visitors to Airlie House will have access to all major facilities in the building, including the main dining room and Airlie Center's largest conference room, both of which had been completely inaccessible. The Foundation has also agreed to make numerous changes to facilities campus-wide and to provide accessible parking at these facilities. In addition, a number of significant changes, such as the addition of fully accessible guest rooms, were made during the Department's investigation. The Foundation has also agreed to pay $2,000 in damages to the complainant.
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.
Hospital Center Pays Damages, Agrees to Nondiscriminatory Treatment of Patients with HIV -- The Department reached an agreement with The George Washington University, The George Washington University Medical Center, The George Washington University Hospital (GWUH), and District Hospital Partners, L.P., to resolve a complaint that cardiothoracic surgeons at GWUH violated title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act by denying open heart surgery to a patient because he has HIV. The agreement requires GWUH to pay $125,000 to the complainant and his attorneys; to issue a hospital policy establishing that patients cannot be denied, or discouraged from seeking, surgery or other medical treatment because of infection with HIV or AIDS; to conduct annual training for staff on this new nondiscrimination policy; to amend its bylaws and regulations to provide for discipline of hospital staff who violate this nondiscrimination policy; to conduct a grand rounds symposium for local area cardiothoracic surgeons that addresses nondiscrimination against persons with HIV and AIDS who need open-heart surgery; to advise patients of GWUH's nondiscrimination policy; and to establish an internal mechanism for responding to patients' concerns that they have been denied treatment, or discouraged from seeking treatment, because of HIV, AIDS, or any other disability.
Warner Theatre, Washington, D.C. -- The Warner Theatre agreed to provide interpreters upon request for any performance if the request is made at least ten days prior to the performance for which the individual holds a ticket. If a request for an interpreter is received later than ten days prior to the performance, the Warner Theatre will make reasonable efforts to provide interpreter service. The agreement further provides that the Warner Theatre will provide comprehensive training for its employees, including instruction on how to comply with the provisions of the agreement and instruction on handling telephone calls from individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing or who have speech impairments.
Fisher Funeral Home, Portsmouth, Virginia -- The Department settled a complaint against the Fisher Funeral Home in Portsmouth, Virginia, in which the complainant alleged that her family was charged an additional $300 to embalm the remains of her brother because he had died from AIDS-related complications. A subsequent investigation by the Department determined that during a 16-month period, between July 1992 and November 1993, the Fisher Funeral Home required eight other families to pay an additional charge for embalming services for individuals who died from AIDS-related complications. As part of the agreement, the funeral home agreed to adopt and post a written policy prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability, including HIV and AIDS; pay damages totaling $6,300, $1,500 to one family and $600 to each of the other eight families; and provide training for funeral home employees concerning universal precautions and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements.
Bel-Loc Diner, Baltimore, Maryland -- The Department entered into an agreement with the owners and operators of the Bel-Loc Diner, a popular restaurant in Baltimore. Under the terms of the agreement, the owners and operators of the Diner will provide accessible parking spaces, construct a ramp to the Diner's main entrance, and widen the doors in the main entry vestibule. The agreement also requires the Diner to police the use of the accessible parking spaces, make sure they are available for use by individuals with disabilities, and maintain the parking spaces and ramp in good condition, including prompt removal of snow.
Arlington, Virginia -- Exxon Gas Station in Arlington, Virginia agreed to provide gas dispensing services to persons with disabilities and implement a procedure that would ensure that persons with disabilities could bypass the electronic card reader devices when dispensing their own gasoline. Furthermore, Exxon agreed to install detailed signage describing this procedure.
Quality Hotel Downtown, Washington, D.C. -- Staff of the Quality Hotel Downtown in Washington, D.C., had not permitted a guest to use a motorized scooter as a mobility device to get to his room. The hotel agreed to pay the complainant $10,000 in damages and to train all employees on the requirements of the ADA.
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.
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 Pennsylvania city removed physical barriers inside its county courthouse and added four accessible parking spaces with appropriate signage and curb cuts to provide an accessible route to the entrance of the courthouse.
In Pennsylvania, a wheelchair user complained that a pizzeria did not have an accessible entrance. The owner agreed to install a permanent ramp to provide access to the entrance.
In Pennsylvania, a wheelchair user complained that a bar's entrance was inaccessible to persons using wheelchairs because the entry gate was too narrow. The owner agreed to widen the gate to 36 inches and to install signage directing people with disabilities to the accessible entrance.
Two northern Virginia franchised fabric stores agreed to make their facilities accessible by adding curb cuts, accessible parking spaces, an accessible entrance, and appropriate signage. The franchiser also installed folding auxiliary shelves at the counters in both stores.
A wheelchair user complained that a Pennsylvania theater was not accessible. The theater owner agreed to build ramps at the side entrance and to install a buzzer for anyone requiring assistance of any kind. The theater owner agreed to transfer films scheduled to be shown in inaccessible theaters to accessible theaters if requested by customers with disabilities 24 hours before the show. The owner agreed to post a sign about this service in the lobby, to announce the service on the box office automated phone message, and to provide a telephone number for patrons to call to request the relocation of films. The owner also agreed to add sensitivity training to the staff training program.
In Pennsylvania, a wheelchair user complained that a hotel had assigned his previously reserved accessible room to someone else. The owner agreed to establish policies and procedures to ensure that reserved accessible rooms are given only to the customers who reserved them. He also agreed to provide disability awareness training to staff, apologized in writing to the complainant, and offered him a free three-night weekend stay.
A wheelchair user complained that a Pennsylvania doctor's office was not accessible. The parties agreed that because the cost of making the entrance accessible was prohibitive, it was not readily achievable to remove the barrier. The doctor agreed to tell the receptionist to inform potential patients that the office is inaccessible and to offer to schedule appointments at the doctor's nearby accessible office. The doctor agreed to pay for any additional transportation costs incurred by patients who needed to be seen at the accessible office.
A wheelchair user complained that a Pennsylvania professional building did not have an accessible restroom. The building manager agreed to renovate the restroom to make it accessible.
A deaf consumer complained that the owner of a Virginia deli hung up on her when she tried to place an order using the Virginia Relay Service. The owner apologized for hanging up on the customer, explaining that he had not been educated about relay service telephone calls, and agreed to accept relay calls in the future. The complainant was also delivered a free dinner.
Rehabilitation Center for Persons with Mental Disabilities May Challenge Town's Refusal to Let it Operate -- The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland ruled in Pathways Psychosocial Support Center, Inc. v. Town of Leonardtown that an organization intending to operate a rehabilitation center for people with mental disabilities in downtown Leonardtown, Maryland, could challenge the town's opposition to its plans under the ADA. The Department of Justice filed an amicus brief in support of the Pathways Psychosocial Support Center, which was refused permission by the town to purchase a building and was later denied an occupancy permit by the town. The town asserted that the organization could not bring a lawsuit because it was not an individual with a disability. The district court, agreeing with the Department's brief, ruled that the organization was entitled to sue because it was allegedly injured as a result of its association with people with mental disabilities.
Federal Court Rules that the ADA Covers Insurance Policies -- The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, ruling that the ADA prohibits discrimination in the terms and conditions of insurance policies, and not just physical access to facilities, allowed a suit challenging disability discrimination in landlord insurance to continue. The Department filed an amicus brief in Wai v. Allstate Insurance Co. in support of a landlord who wanted to rent a single-family house to an organization that would operate it as a group home for persons with mental retardation but who was refused standard landlord property and casualty insurance. She was told by the insurance companies that she must obtain more expensive commercial insurance for the house.
Doctor with Staff Privileges May Sue Hospital under Title III -- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled in Menkowitz v. Pottstown Memorial Medical Center that a physician diagnosed with attention deficit disorder who has staff privileges, but who is not a hospital employee, may challenge his dismissal under title III. The lower court had found that title III only protects clients or customers of a place of public accommodation. The Department's amicus brief in the court of appeals argued that title III's protections are not limited to clients and customers, but extend also to volunteers and other participants, such as doctors with admitting privileges, who may be denied the full and equal enjoyment of the privileges of a place of public accommodation.
Temporary D.C. 9-1-1 Order Made Final -- A D.C. Federal judge issued a final order in Miller v. District of Columbia requiring the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department and the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department to provide direct, effective access for TDD users to its 9-1-1 emergency response system. The order replaces an earlier temporary restraining order that applied only to the police department and requires the D.C. government to install and maintain TDD equipment, make policy changes, and provide training that will allow operators to handle TDD calls at each call-taker position.
Application for Social Security Disability Benefits Does not Bar ADA Claim -- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia held in Swanks v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) that a successful application for Social Security disability benefits does not automatically prevent an individual from succeeding in an ADA employment discrimination suit. After WMATA allegedly refused a request for reasonable accommodation and discharged the plaintiff from his job as a special transit police officer, he applied for Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration concluded that his congenital abnormality of the spine and associated urinary incontinence left him unable to work within the meaning of the Social Security Act and awarded him disability benefits. The plaintiff then filed a title I ADA suit alleging that WMATA failed to make a reasonable accommodation for his disability -- 10-minute exercise periods each hour that would enable him to maintain better control of his bladder. The district court ruled that plaintiff's receipt of Social Security disability benefits is an admission that he is physically unable to work and thus bars any claim under the ADA asserting that he is qualified for the job. The Court of Appeals, however, agreed with the Department's amicus brief that, because Social Security does not consider reasonable accommodation in determining whether an individual is able to work, a finding by the Social Security Administration that an individual is unable to work should not automatically bar an ADA claim.
Line of Sight Over Standing Spectators Required in New Sports Arenas -- As urged in the Department's amicus brief, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in Paralyzed Veterans of America v. D.C. Arena (MCI Center) that accessible wheelchair seating in the new MCI Center for basketball and hockey in Washington, D.C., must provide lines of sight over standing spectators. The Court deferred to the Department's longstanding interpretation of the ADA regulations that require wheelchair seating in assembly areas to provide lines of sight that are "comparable" to those of other spectators. As provided in the Department's Title III Technical Assistance Manual, in facilities where spectators can be expected to stand during the event, a comparable line of sight means a line of sight over spectators standing in front of a wheelchair user. The court, however, did not agree with the Department's argument that "all or substantially all" of the accessible seating locations must have a line of sight over standing spectators. Instead, it affirmed the district court's finding that the defendant's latest plan to provide sight lines over standing spectators in 75 to 88 percent of the wheelchair locations, depending on the seating configuration for a particular event, represented substantial compliance with the line-of-sight requirement.
Supreme Court Lets Stand Helen L. Decision -- The Supreme Court has decided not to review Helen L. v. Didario, a case in which the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that the failure to provide home care services can in some cases violate title II. The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW) had refused to provide home attendant care services, under an existing program, to an individual with a mobility impairment who needs such services in order to live at home with her two children. In order to obtain the assistance that she needs, she was forced to enter a DPW-maintained nursing home even though she does not need nursing care. The State asserted that the attendant care program is underfunded and that the plaintiff must continue on the waiting list. Pennsylvania agreed, however, that the most appropriate setting for the plaintiff is in the attendant care program. The State also agreed that attendant care for the plaintiff in her home would cost Pennsylvania $9,300 less per year than nursing home care. The Department argued in an amicus brief in the Third Circuit that the title II regulation, which requires public entities to provide services in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of the individual with a disability, mandates, in this particular situation, that the plaintiff be permitted to enter the existing attendant care program. The Third Circuit agreed that Pennsylvania had violated title II and ordered the State to admit the plaintiff to the home care program.
Court Stops Virginia Bar Mental Health Inquiry -- The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ordered the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners to stop asking applicants for the bar whether they had "within the past five years been treated or counseled for any mental, emotional, or nervous disorder." The Department filed several amicus briefs in Clark v. Virginia Board of Law Examiners challenging the Board's unnecessarily broad inquiry into past mental health treatment. We argued that broad questions pertaining to a history of treatment or counseling for mental, emotional, or nervous conditions that do not focus on current impairments of an applicant's fitness to practice a given profession violate title II. Virginia has appealed the order to the Fourth Circuit.
Ruling Supports Integrated Seating in Union Station Case -- The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied defendant's motion for summary judgment in Fiedler v. American Multi-Cinema, Inc., a case in which the Department filed a brief supporting plaintiff's demand for integrated movie theater seating. The court agreed with the Department that (1) the ADA applies to public accommodations located in space leased from the Executive branch of the Federal government, (2) existing motion picture theaters having more than 300 seats must disperse wheelchair seating locations if it is readily achievable for them to do so, and (3) plaintiff was entitled to a trial on the merits of defendants' assertion that, in an emergency, plaintiff and other individuals who use wheelchairs would constitute a direct threat to the health and safety of others if they were allowed to sit in wheelchair seating locations other than at the back of the theater.
Supreme Court Says ADA Clearly Protects Prison Inmates -- In a unanimous opinion the Supreme Court ruled in Pennsylvania Department of Corrections v. Yeskey that a motivational boot camp operated for selected inmates by the Pennsylvania State prison system is subject to the requirements of title II of the ADA. Prisoners who successfully complete the boot camp program are entitled to a significant reduction in their sentence. The Court agreed with the Department of Justice in ruling that the broad language of title II clearly covers prisons and provides no basis for distinguishing programs, services, or activities of prisons from those provided by other public entities. It rejected the State's arguments that the law is ambiguous and that prisoners cannot be "qualified individuals with disabilities" because they are not in prison voluntarily.
Supreme Court Declares that Unjustified Isolation Is Discrimination -- In Olmstead v. L.C., the Supreme Court ruled that the ADA's "most integrated setting appropriate" mandate requires States to avoid undue institutionalization of people with disabilities. As urged by the Department in its amicus brief, the Court upheld the ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit that Georgia may have violated the ADA by confining two individuals with mental disabilities in an institution rather than providing services through a community-based program as recommended by the State's treating professionals. In finding that unjustified isolation is a form of discrimination under the ADA, the Court pointed to the stigma of unworthiness, and the unequal access to family and social interaction, employment, education, and cultural enrichment that result from unnecessary institutionalization. According to the Court, an institutional placement is unjustified when the State's treatment professionals have determined that community placement is appropriate, the transfer is not opposed by the individual, and the placement can be accomplished without fundamentally altering the State's program. In applying the fundamental alteration defense, courts are to consider not only the expense of providing community-based care to the plaintiffs in a particular case, but also the "need to maintain a range of facilities for the care and treatment of persons with diverse disabilities" and "the States' obligation to administer services with an even hand."
Supreme Court Affirms that Receipt of Social Security Disability Benefits Does Not Automatically Bar ADA Suit -- The Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Cleveland v. Policy Management Systems Corp., as urged by the Department in an amicus brief, that in determining whether a plaintiff is a qualified individual with a disability in a title I employment suit, courts should not give any special weight to the fact that the individual has also applied for Social Security disability benefits. In Cleveland, the plaintiff, after suffering a stroke and losing her job, applied for and obtained Social Security benefits, claiming she was unable to work because of her disability. Subsequently, she filed suit under the ADA contending that she was qualified for the job and that she was discriminated against because the employer fired her without providing reasonable accommodation. The Court agreed with the Department that because the qualification standards under Social Security and the ADA are different, application for or receipt of Social Security benefits is not by itself inconsistent with being a qualified individual with a disability. For example, Social Security does not consider reasonable accommodation in determining whether an applicant is able to perform the applicant's past or other work. The court also ruled that, in order to avoid having her suit dismissed, the plaintiff must provide an explanation that would allow a reasonable juror to conclude that, despite having applied and received Social Security benefits, the plaintiff could still perform the essential functions of her job with or without reasonable accommodation.
Supreme Court Finds Collective Bargaining Agreement did not Waive Employee's Right to Bring ADA Suit -- In Wright v. Universal Maritime Service Corporation, the Supreme Court ruled that a South Carolina longshoreman could file an ADA lawsuit charging employment discrimination even though the job was covered by a collective bargaining agreement that generally required arbitration of employee grievances. The Court agreed with an amicus brief filed by the Department of Justice that the arbitration provision at issue in the agreement between the International Longshoremen's Association and several South Carolina stevedore companies was not specific enough to waive an employee's right to seek court enforcement of ADA rights. The Court did not reach the issue of whether even an unmistakably clear agreement could require an individual to arbitrate a claim rather than go to court.
Supreme Court Rules Asymptomatic HIV-infected Patient is Person with a Disability -- The Supreme Court decided in Bragdon v. Abbott that asymptomatic HIV status is a disability under the ADA. Plaintiff, a dental patient in Bangor, Maine, infected with HIV, but who had no outward symptoms of the disease, was denied treatment by a dentist. The patient filed suit under the ADA, alleging that, as a result of the virus, she was "disabled" and therefore protected by the Act. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held that the patient's asymptomatic HIV status constituted a disability because it was a physical impairment that substantially limited the "major life activity" of reproduction. The Supreme Court agreed with the amicus brief filed by the Department of Justice and upheld the court of appeals in a 5-4 decision, finding that asymptomatic HIV status met all the requirements under the statutory definition of a disability -- it is a physical impairment (from the moment of infection), it impairs the major life activity of reproduction, and it "substantially limits" that activity. The court also emphasized that its conclusion was consistent with the Department of Justice's views on this issue as expressed in its regulations and technical assistance manual. As to whether the plaintiff's HIV infection posed a "direct threat" to the dentist's health, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the court of appeals for further review of the evidence.
Supreme Court Will Review Constitutionality of ADA Damages Suits Against States -- The Supreme Court will review the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Garrett v. University of Alabama at Birmingham, which upheld the constitutionality of title I and title II lawsuits brought by individuals seeking damages awards from States. The Department intervened to defend the ADA in numerous suits nationwide, including Garrett. Most appellate courts have agreed with the Department and upheld the ADA suits against States. Garrett is a consolidation of two employment suits against Alabama State agencies. One involves the alleged discriminatory demotion of an individual with breast cancer by the University of Alabama, and the other a claim that the Alabama Department of Youth Services failed to reasonably accommodate an individual with chronic asthma. States have argued that, because the ADA's protections go beyond the equal protection rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, Congress lacks authority to subject them to lawsuits under title I and title II of the ADA. The Department, however, believes that the ADA is constitutionally appropriate legislation to remedy the history of pervasive discrimination against people with disabilities, and almost all of the appellate courts have agreed.
last update: June 27, 2000