removal of architectural barriers in a conference center



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Settlement Agreement red box DOJ Press Releases


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COMPLAINT DJ # 202-79-34




1. This matter was initiated by a complaint filed by W.E. Pence with the United States Department of Justice (the "Department") against the owners and operators of The Airlie Conference Center, Airlie, Virginia ("Airlie Center"). Airlie Center consists of a variety of facilities located on a 100-acre campus, including Airlie House (the main conference facility), the Airlie Institute (a facility designed for computer conferencing), a number of smaller buildings that contain meeting and sleeping rooms, and a variety of other amenities such as a pub, a swimming pool, and an open-air pavilion. The complaint was investigated by the Disability Rights Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, under the authority granted by section 308(b) of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. The complaint alleges that Airlie Center failed to remove architectural barriers where such removal was readily achievable. The ADA requires owners and operators of existing places of public accommodation, such as Airlie Center, to remove barriers to access to the extent that it is readily achievable to do so. 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(iv); 28 C.F.R. § 36.304.

2. The parties to this Settlement Agreement are the United States of America and The Airlie Foundation (the "Foundation"), the owner and operator of The Airlie Conference Center.

3. The ADA applies to the owner and operator of the Airlie Center because it operates facilities defined as public accommodations in sections 301(7)(A) through (L) of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12181, and section 36.104 of the Department's implementing regulation, 28 C.F.R. pt. 36.

4. The Department's investigation identified a number of barriers to access at Airlie Center. By letter dated February 15, 1996, the Department notified The Airlie Foundation of the existence of these barriers and, further, that the Department believed that the removal of many of the barriers it had identified was readily achievable. Since that time, The Airlie Foundation and the Department have engaged in good faith negotiations in an effort to resolve this matter without resort to litigation. As a result of these negotiations, the Foundation has completed the removal of a number of barriers to access at Airlie Center. The primary purpose of this Settlement Agreement is to set forth the agreement between the parties regarding the removal of certain remaining barriers at Airlie Center. In addition, the parties desire to establish comprehensive policies and procedures for providing services to individuals with disabilities who are guests at Airlie Center and to provide compensation to the individual who filed this complaint.

5. Therefore, in order to avoid further investigation and possible litigation, and in consideration of the mutual promises and covenants contained in this Agreement, the Department and the Foundation have entered into this Settlement Agreement.




6. General: The Airlie Foundation, as owner and operator of The Airlie Conference Center, agrees that, by June 30, 1999, except where otherwise specifically noted below, it will, by making the changes set forth in paragraphs 7 through 12 below, complete the removal of the architectural barriers to accessibility at Airlie Center identified below. The list below also includes modifications the Foundation has already completed during the course of this investigation. The Foundation agrees to complete all barrier removal in a manner that is consistent with title III of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12181-89, and the Department's title III regulation, including the Standards for Accessible Design, 28 C.F.R. pt. 36, Appendix A ("the Standards"), except as specifically provided otherwise.

7. Airlie House

a. Overall Access: To improve overall access to Airlie House, the Foundation will construct a two-story addition to Airlie House (the "Addition"). The Addition will contain an elevator designed to provide vertical access from the accessible parking to be located outside the building to the First ("Main") and Second Floors of Airlie House. The Addition will also contain two new toilet rooms, one for each sex, visitor telephones, staff offices, and a small meeting room. The Foundation agrees to complete the Addition on or before June 30, 1999.

b. Adjacent Parking: Adjacent to the Addition, four new parking spaces, including two accessible spaces, will be constructed. One of the accessible spaces will be a van-accessible (or universal) space. These spaces will be constructed as part of the construction of the Addition and must be completed on or before June 30, 1999.

c. Accessible Route: All of the designated accessible parking spaces will be connected directly to the Addition by an accessible route, as defined in the Standards.

d. Plans: The Foundation has submitted to the Department preliminary plans for the Addition (including plans for the adjacent parking and an accessible route connecting the parking with the Addition), which are attached hereto as Exhibit A and hereby made a part of this Settlement Agreement. On or before August 1, 1998, the Foundation will submit to the Department, for its approval, revised final plans for the Addition, including related technical drawings and specifications. Upon receiving the Department's written approval of the revised plans, the revised plans and related drawings and specifications will be substituted for Exhibit A.

e. Toilet Facilities: Because the Foundation has elected to provide the accessible toilet rooms serving Airlie House as part of the Addition, accessible toilet facilities for guests who are unable to climb stairs will not be available at Airlie House until the completion of the Addition on or before June 30, 1999. In the event a guest at Airlie House who is unable to climb stairs requires an accessible restroom, the Foundation has developed a policy for providing access to accessible toilet facilities as set forth in the document attached hereto as Exhibit B and hereby made a part of this Settlement Agreement.

f. Main (First) Level: Wheelchair access to the Main Level of Airlie House is currently through a rear entrance leading to the Garden Room and requires assistance for safety reasons. From a landing outside of the Garden Room, which is at ground level, a ramp leads to the Main Level. In order to improve access to the Main Level, on or before September 30, 1998, the Foundation will install handrails along both sides of the ramp. The handrails will be constructed in accordance with the drawings that are attached hereto as Exhibit C and hereby made a part of this Settlement Agreement. Upon completion of the Addition, wheelchair users will no longer be required to access the Main Level through the Garden Room and will, instead, enter through the Addition, which completely complies with the Standards.

g. Access to the Airlie Room: In order to provide wheelchair access to the Airlie Room (the main dining room for Airlie Center), the Foundation has installed a wheelchair lift to transport wheelchair users from the Main Level to the level of the Airlie Room. On or before July 31, 1998, the handle to the door of the lift located on the Main Floor shall be extended, as shown on Exhibit D to this Agreement, which is hereby made a part of this Agreement. The Foundation agrees to ensure that, at any time any individual who requires use of the lift to access the Airlie Room is present at Airlie Center, the lift shall be unlocked and capable of independent use.

h. Access to the Registration Desk: In order to improve access to the services provided at the Registration Desk located on the Main Level, the Foundation has altered the Front Registration Desk Door to facilitate communication with Airlie personnel and has provided a clipboard to be hung adjacent to the Door for use in written transactions.

i. Library: In order to improve access to the Library, which is located on the Main Level, the Foundation removed the existing French Doors and installed a single door that complies with the Standards. It also modified the existing threshold to comply with the Standards.

j. Second Level: Prior to this investigation, the rooms and corridors located on the Second Level of Airlie House were separated by steps that precluded wheelchair access between rooms. In order to improve access to the Second Level, the Foundation has built up the floor in order to create a single level that connects all of the rooms, including the Federal Room, Airlie Center's largest meeting room, the Jefferson Room, a medium-size meeting room, several smaller breakout rooms, and a newly remodeled unisex toilet room.

k. The Federal Room: In order to improve access to the Federal Room, the largest meeting space at Airlie Center, the Foundation has removed the existing French Doors and installed a single door that complies with the Standards.

l. Second Floor Unisex Toilet: The Foundation has installed a new fully accessible unisex toilet room.

m. Level C: In order to provide access to the Studio, which is the only public space located on Level C, on or before September 30, 1998, the Foundation will (i) create a van accessible or universal parking space immediately outside the entrance to the Studio, and (ii) install an automatic door to the Studio on an accessible route from the parking space. The Department has agreed that the Foundation may install an automatic door in lieu of providing a level landing area immediately outside of the door because of constraints imposed by the topography of the site.


8. The Farmers House

a. Sleeping Facilities: To provide accessible sleeping rooms to serve overnight guests using Airlie House, the Foundation has converted three previously inaccessible sleeping rooms located in the Farmers House into two fully accessible sleeping rooms with roll-in shower stalls.

b. Parking: Two accessible parking spaces, one of which will be a van-accessible or universal space, will be constructed as close as possible to the entrance to the Farmers House by September 30, 1998.

9. The Silo House (Pub)

a. Unisex Toilet Room: The Foundation has completed a fully accessible unisex toilet room in a recreation room that is immediately adjacent to the Pub in order to serve patrons of the Pub, a bar/lounge facility that serves as an informal meeting place for visitors to Airlie Center.

b. Parking: One van-accessible or universal parking space will be constructed as close as possible to the entrance to the Pub by September 30, 1998.

10. The Storeroom

a. Unisex Toilet Room: The Foundation has completed an accessible unisex toilet room to serve the Storeroom, a mid-size meeting room.

b. Entry Ramp and Landing: The Foundation has replaced the existing entry ramp at the Storeroom with a ramp that fully complies with the Standards, including a level landing area at the entry.

c. Parking: One van-accessible or universal parking space will be constructed as close as possible to the entrance to the Storeroom by September 30, 1998.

11. The Pavilion

a. Accessible Route: On or before September 30, 1998, the Foundation will construct an accessible route to connect the Pavilion, an open air structure located in the Airlie House gardens, with the closest parking area, and with the pad for the portable toilet room described below.

b. Location for Portable Toilet Room: On or before September 30, 1998, the Foundation will construct a level pad on which to locate an accessible portable toilet room for use during Pavilion events.

c. Parking: One van-accessible or universal parking space will be constructed as close as possible to the path to the Pavilion by September 30, 1998.

12. North Campus Facilities:

a. Stable Sleeping Facility: In order to provide an accessible sleeping room to serve overnight guests using the Airlie Institute, the Foundation has renovated the sleeping room located in the Stable to bring it into full compliance with the Standards.

b. Parking at the Stable: One van-accessible parking space has been constructed immediately adjacent to the Stable.

c. Parking at the Airlie Institute: One van-accessible or universal parking space will be constructed as close as possible to the Airlie Institute by September 30, 1998.




13. Within twenty (20) days of the effective date of this Agreement, the Foundation shall pay to W.E. Pence, the complainant in this matter, compensatory damages in the amount of Two Thousand and 00/100 Dollars ($2,000.00). Payment shall be made by certified check or money order payable to Mr. Pence.





14. No later than August 15, 1998, the Foundation shall develop a comprehensive written policy for providing goods and services to individuals with disabilities in accordance with the requirements of title III of the ADA, and shall submit the policy to the Department for review and approval. The policy shall include a method for ensuring that individuals with mobility impairments can comfortably and conveniently travel among the various buildings and facilities at Airlie Center. The policy shall also provide for temporary alternatives to barrier removal at Airlie House (such as access to accessible toilet facilities) until the Addition is completed. Within thirty (30) days of the Department's approval of the policy, the Foundation shall implement the policy and shall make the policy known to all of its employees and potential guests.





15. The Attorney General is authorized, pursuant to section 308(b)(1)(B) of the ADA, to bring a civil action to enforce title III of the ADA in any situation where the Attorney General believes a pattern or practice of discrimination exists or a matter of general public importance is raised. In consideration of the terms of this Settlement Agreement, the Attorney General agrees to refrain from filing a civil suit under title III in this matter.

16. The Department may review compliance with this Agreement at any time. If the Department believes that this Agreement or any portion of it has been violated, it will so notify the Foundation in writing and it will attempt to resolve the issue or issues in good faith. If the Department is unable to reach a satisfactory resolution of the issue or issues raised within thirty (30) days of the date it provides notice to the Foundation, it may elect to either:

(i) institute a civil action in federal district court seeking to enforce the terms of this Settlement Agreement. If the government demonstrates in such a proceeding that the Foundation has failed to comply with any portion of this Agreement, the Foundation shall be liable to the United States for a civil penalty in an amount of $50,000.00 or such other amount as the court may determine is appropriate; or

(ii) notify the Foundation that the Settlement Agreement is no longer operative and reopen its investigation of Department of Justice Complaint # 202-79-34 and/or commence litigation under title III of the ADA in federal district court.

17. The parties agree that in the event the Department seeks enforcement of this Agreement in federal district court or initiates litigation under title III in federal district court, the United States Court for the District of Columbia shall have personal and subject matter jurisdiction over such litigation, in all respects.

18. Failure by the Department to enforce this entire Settlement Agreement or any provision thereof with regard to any deadline or any other provision herein shall not be construed as a waiver of its right to do so with regard to other deadlines and provisions of this Agreement.

19. In the event that the Foundation is required to obtain, for any of the steps to remove barriers to access specified in this Agreement, any building, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, or other permit or approval, the Foundation will seek such permit or approval in good faith and in a timely fashion. If any necessary permit or approval is not granted within the time anticipated by the Foundation for obtaining the permit or approval, or is denied, the Foundation will notify counsel for the United States within ten (10) days of the Foundation's receipt of notice of such delay or denial. The parties will thereafter attempt, in good faith, to determine how much additional time is required to secure the permit or approval and complete the work at issue, or if the permit or approval has been denied, shall attempt to identify alternative methods of removing the barrier in question, or otherwise providing access to the goods or services affected by the barrier.

20. Not later than thirty (30) days after the completion of the Addition, the Foundation shall certify to the Department, in writing, that it has fulfilled all of its obligations under this Settlement Agreement. The certification shall set forth each of the obligations that has matured by the date of the certification and shall describe the steps the Foundation has taken to fulfill each obligation. The certification shall include "as built" drawings of the architectural changes required by this Settlement Agreement. The drawings shall be certified by the Foundation's architect as representing a true, complete, and correct depiction of the buildings and/or facilities shown thereon.` Sixty (60) days after the Foundation has completed all aspects of this Settlement Agreement, and has provided to the United States the certification of its compliance and the drawings described above, this Settlement Agreement will terminate, unless, prior to the expiration of sixty (60) days, the United States has advised the Foundation, in writing, that the Foundation has failed to ensure that all of the terms of this Settlement Agreement have been satisfied. The parties expressly agree that providing the certification is essential to the enforcement of this Agreement, and that a failure to provide the certification required by this paragraph constitutes a breach of this Agreement sufficient to warrant the penalties set out in paragraph 16.

21. The Foundation acknowledges that barrier removal is a continuing obligation, and agrees to continue its program of evaluating Airlie Center for architectural barriers and removing such barriers when readily achievable. If, however, the Foundation fulfills its obligations under the Settlement Agreement (including delivery of the certification required pursuant to paragraph 20 above) and this Settlement Agreement terminates as provided above, the Department agrees that it will not initiate an investigation against the Foundation for failure to engage in readily achievable barrier removal at Airlie Center pursuant to section 36.304 of the Department's title III regulation for a period that (i) commences on the date the Settlement Agreement terminates pursuant to paragraph 20 above, and (ii) expires on the date that is three (3) years thereafter.

22. Any notice required or permitted to be given pursuant to this Agreement shall be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the parties at the following addresses:

a. If by the Foundation to the Department, to:

John L. Wodatch
Disability Rights Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
P.O. Box 66738
Washington, D.C. 20035-6738

with a copy to:

Anne M. Pecht
Trial Attorney
Disability Rights Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
P.O Box 66738
Washington, D.C. 20035-6738


b. If by the Department to the Foundation, to:

Douglas E. Larson
Airlie Foundation
6809 Airlie Road
Warrenton, Virginia 20187

23. This document is a public agreement. A copy of this document, or any information concerning its contents, may be made available to any person.

24. The effective date of this Settlement Agreement is the date of the last signature below. This Agreement shall be binding on all of the Foundation's successors in interest, and the Foundation has a duty to so notify all such successors in interest.

25. A signer of this document in a representative capacity for a partnership, corporation, or other entity, represents that he or she is authorized to bind such partnership, corporation, or other entity to this agreement.

26. This Agreement and the architectural drawings and other Exhibits attached hereto constitute the entire agreement between the parties on the matters raised herein, and no other statement, promise, or agreement, either written or oral, made by either party or agents of either party, that is not contained in this written agreement, shall be enforceable. This Agreement is limited to the facts set forth above, and it does not purport to remedy any other potential violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act or any other federal law. This Agreement does not affect the Foundation's continuing responsibility to comply with all aspects of the Americans with Disabilities Act.


For the United States:


Bill Lann Lee
Acting Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division



John L. Wodatch, Chief
L. Irene Bowen, Deputy Chief
Anne Marie Pecht, Attorney
Disability Rights Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
P.O. Box 66738
Washington, D.C. 20035-6738
(202) 307-2891




For the Owners and Operators of The Airlie Conference Center:



Douglas C. Larson
Airlie Foundation
6809 Airlie Road
Warrenton, Virginia 20187
(540) 347-1300





Exhibit B


Airlie House Toilet Facilities

Interim Policy (September 1998 - June 1999)

Purpose: Guidance for all Airlie employees involved in planning activities at Airlie House

Airlie House currently does not have any toilet facilities that are accessible to guests with mobility impairments who are unable to climb stairs. The Airlie Foundation recently entered into a Settlement Agreement with the Department of Justice, resolving a complaint filed by a former guest who alleged that Airlie Conference Center violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 by failing to provide accessible toilet facilities at Airlie House.

Under the Settlement Agreement, we have agreed to construct an addition to Airlie House that will contain an elevator, fully accessible toilet rooms, an additional conference room, and other amenities (the "Addition"). Because the Addition will not be completed until June of 1999, the Foundation has also agreed to develop policies for ensuring that all guests will be provided with accessible toilet facilities in the interim. The Department of Justice agreed to these interim policies because we have represented to the Department that all Airlie guests with disabilities will have the opportunity to plan their visit to Airlie Center and to arrange in advance for the use of accessible toilet facilities at Airlie House (until the Addition is completed and such arrangements are no longer necessary).

During our customary process for planning guest visits, each Airlie guest is afforded the opportunity to discuss any disability-related modifications he or she needs in order to participate fully in conference and other events. As part of that process, all guests who will be visiting Airlie House must be informed that toilet facilities for individuals with mobility impairments are limited. If appropriate, the guest should be informed that a fully accessible unisex toilet is available on the Second Floor of Airlie House. You must, however, inform the guest that, until the Addition is completed, individuals who are unable to climb stairs will have access to the Second Floor of Airlie House only through the use of a stair climbing machine.

If a guest may need to use the stair climbing machine, you should fully describe the machine and the way it operates to the guest. (Literature describing the lift and its operation is available and can be mailed or faxed to the guest.) Some guests will not be comfortable with the fact that the machine is not attached to a wall. Guests should also be made aware that the machine cannot transport motorized wheelchairs; they must either use a manual chair or transfer to the seat that comes with the machine.

If the guest is unable or prefers not to use the stair climbing machine, please discuss the following options:

(i) The closest accessible toilet rooms are located in two accessible sleeping rooms at the Farmers House. If the guest is not already staying in one of the two accessible rooms at the Farmers House (or in one of the other accessible guest rooms at Airlie Center), a room can be reserved for his or her use, at no charge. If necessary (that is, the guest does not have an appropriate vehicle or prefers not to drive), Airlie will rent an accessible van or other vehicle to transport the guest between locations. If this option is selected, it is important to coordinate the guest's schedule so that sufficient time is allowed between conference and other activities for transport between buildings; or

(ii) Airlie can rent an accessible portable toilet room (port-a-john), to be temporarily located adjacent to Airlie House. For example, a portable toilet room could be located next to the door to the Studio, and the Studio could be used as a primary meeting space.

Please convey to our guests that we are willing to work with them to develop the most comfortable and convenient arrangement possible and that we are open to their suggestions. It is essential that all Airlie personnel responsible for making these arrangements familiarize themselves with the facilities currently available and ensure that they are able to describe them clearly to our guests.

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February 5, 2001