SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT

UNDER THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT

BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

AND

MID-AMERICA FESTIVALS CORPORATION

 

Department of Justice Press Releases | Settlement



BACKGROUND

 

1. This matter was initiated by a complaint filed with the United States Department of Justice (the "Department") in September of 1992 against Mid-America Festivals Corporation located in Shakopee, Minnesota. The complaint was investigated by the Department under the authority granted by section 308(b) of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C.§ 12188. The complaint alleged that the Minnesota Renaissance Festival was operating in violation of the ADA because its owners and operators failed to remove architectural barriers where such removal was readily achievable. The complaint alleged that the majority of the individual shops at the Festival had lips at the entrances, some several inches high, preventing persons who use wheelchairs from gaining access to the shops. The complaint further alleged that at the remaining stores that had ramps, the ramps were so steep that they posed a danger to persons with disabilities. The Department subsequently expanded its investigation to include all areas of architectural access for persons with disabilities.

2. The parties to this Settlement Agreement ("Agreement") are the United States of America and Mid-America Festivals Corporation ("Mid-America").

3. Mid-America is a private corporation that operates and manages the Minnesota Renaissance Festival.

4. The Minnesota Renaissance Festival ("Festival") is an annual festival consisting of entertainment, food, and arts and crafts, that is open to the public for seven consecutive weekends starting in the middle of August. The Festival facilities consist of permanent structures including stages, shops, and food and craft booths.

5. Mid-America is a public accommodation as defined by title III of the ADA because it is a private entity that operates a "place of exhibition or entertainment," "place of public gathering," and/or a "place of recreation." 42 U.S.C. § 12181; 28 C.F.R. § 36.104(3)(4)&(9).

6. The subject of this Agreement is the removal of architectural barriers to access at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 12182(2)(A)(iv) and 28 C.F.R.§ 36.304.

7. The Department's investigation identified a number of architectural barriers to access. The Department believes that the failure to remove these barriers violates title III of the ADA. The United States and Mid-America agree that it is readily achievable to remove many of the barriers to access identified by the Department.

8. As a result of the Department's investigation, Mid-America removed certain barriers for the 1996 Festival including providing an accessible ticket window at the ticket booth location that complies with Standards for Accessible Design, 28 C.F.R. part 36, Appendix A, (hereinafter "Standards") § 7.2, and providing an accessible entrance to the First Aid facility. Mid-America also made modifications at some ramps and food counters. In addition, Mid-America developed and reduced to writing a policy for providing goods and services to individuals with disabilities in accordance with the requirements of title III of the Act. This policy is attached as Appendix A to this Agreement.
 

ACTIONS TO BE TAKEN BY MID-AMERICA FESTIVALS

9. Mid-America shall complete the following actions prior to the opening of the 1997 Minnesota Renaissance Festival:

Parking

a. Provide at all times during the Festival one or more persons to assist Festival patrons who use the parking designated for patrons with disabilities.

Entrance to Festival

b. Provide and maintain throughout the duration of the festival an accessible prepared path from the drop off area to the entrance and exit of the facility. Standards § 4.3.

Food Counters

c. At every food area with booths owned and operated by Castle Kitchens, provide at least one booth of each type of food or beverage with a service counter no higher than 36 inches above the ground as stated in Standards § 7.2, where it is readily achievable to do so.
(1) If Mid-America determines that it is not readily achievable to provide an accessible counter for a particular type of food or beverage, Mid-America will describe in detail and provide pictures of each such area, and explain the reason for its judgement that barrier removal is not readily achievable, including in its explanation pertinent financial or other information that led it to conclude that barrier removal is not readily achievable. See 42 U.S.C. § 12181(9) and 28 C.F.R.§ 36.304. Mid-America shall also explain whether it intends to implement alternatives to barrier removal, and, if so, what these alternatives are and when they will be implemented. See 28 C.F.R. § 36.305. This information with be provided to the Department no later than January 31, 1997.

(2) The Department shall be entitled to evaluate each barrier that Mid-America contends is not readily achievable to remove. The Department shall notify Mid-America in writing in a timely fashion if it disagrees with Mid-America's determination concerning barrier removal. If, after negotiation between the parties, it is determined that a particular barrier is readily achievable to remove, it will be removed by the first day of the 1997 Renaissance Festival. If such negotiation fails to produce a timely resolution of the matter, then the parties agree to participate in mediation with a mediator to be agreed upon by the parties. All mediation must be completed prior to the opening day of the 1997 Renaissance Festival. If mediation fails to resolve the matter then the Department may institute a civil action in an appropriate federal district court, and may seek relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 12188(b)(2).

Restroom Facilities

d. At every festival restroom or "privy" area, provide at least one accessible portable toilet on an accessible route that complies with the Standards §§ 4.1.2(6), 4.16, 4.22. Modify lavatories provided at privy areas to comply with Standards §§ 4.22, 4.19. Mid-America shall also place signage complying with the Standards at each privy area that directs individuals to the accessible portable toilets. Standards § 4.30.

Telephones

e. At every bank of public pay phones provide at least one accessible pay telephone in compliance with Standards §§ 4.1.3(17)(a)&(b), 4.31.

Access to and within Individual Shops - At all individually-owned booths/shops, Mid-America shall:

f. Provide ramps in compliance with the Standards for Accessible Design to provide access to shops where the public can enter. Standards § 4.8. Modify existing ramps to comply with the Standards including the addition of edge protection or handrails where appropriate. Where red rock is used to fill in areas at the bottom and/or top of ramps, Mid-America agrees to maintain the red rock surface at a firm, stable, and accessible slope throughout the duration of the Festival. Standards §§ 4.5, 4.8.

g. Provide an accessible path within shops where patrons are allowed to enter, including the removal of all objects protruding into the accessible path. Standards §§ 4.3, 4.4.

h. Within shops, provide at all service counters at least a portion of the counter or an auxiliary counter that complies with the Standards. Standards § 7.2.

i. At independently owned food booths, provide at least one booth of each type of food or beverage with a service counter no higher than 36 inches above the ground as stated in Standards § 7.2.

j. By January 31, 1997 Mid-America shall identify to the Department of Justice each shop and/or craft and food booth at which Mid-America determines it is not readily achievable to (1) provide access into the booth either through a ramp or other means, and/or (2) provide an accessible route within the shop, and/or (3) provide an accessible counter within the booth. Mid-America will describe in detail and provide pictures of each such area, and explain the reason for its judgement, including in its explanation pertinent financial or other information that led it to conclude that barrier removal is not readily achievable. See 42 U.S.C. § 12181(9) and 28 C.F.R. § 36.304. Mid-America shall also explain whether it intends to implement alternatives to barrier removal, and, if so, what these alternatives are and when they will be implemented. See 28 C.F.R. § 36.305. The Department shall be entitled to evaluate each barrier that Mid-America contends is not readily achievable to remove. The Department shall notify Mid-America in writing in a timely fashion if it disagrees with Mid-America's determination concerning barrier removal. If, after negotiation between the parties it is determined that a particular barrier is readily achievable to remove, it will be removed by the first day of the 1997 Renaissance Festival. If such negotiation fails to produce a timely resolution of the matter, then the parties agree to participate in mediation with a mediator to be agreed upon by the parties. All mediation must be completed prior to the opening day of the 1997 Renaissance Festival. If mediation fails to resolve the matter then the Department may institute a civil action in an appropriate federal district court, and may seek relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 12188(b)(2).

10. Policies, Practices and Procedures

a. In order to give all Festival employees and individual shop owners training for providing access to patrons who have disabilities, Mid-America has created materials and will distribute them to all shop owners and employees prior to the 1997 Festival. The materials include information about the requirements of the ADA, Mid-America's policies with respect to providing access to the programs, activities, and services at the Festival, the location of accessible toilet facilities and telephones, and the procedures for contacting professional staff if questions or problems arise pertaining to accessibility for persons with disabilities.

b. Mid-America will provide written information within the 1997 Festival brochure, and every Festival brochure thereafter, regarding the accommodations available to individuals with disabilities at the Festival. This will include information about the location of accessible toilets and telephones; the parking assistance provided; Mid-America's policies with respect to providing access to the programs, activities, and services at the Festival; and the procedures for contacting professional staff if questions or problems arise pertaining to accessibility for persons with disabilities, in addition to any other relevant information. Mid-America will prominently display the written information and make it available for distribution at all Festival entrances and ticket and information booths.

11. With every contract signed hereinafter between Mid-America and individual shop or booth owners at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, Mid-America will institute a clause in the contract requiring that the shop or booth owners provide access to their good or services for Festival patrons with disabilities.

12. Within 20 days of the signature of this agreement, Mid-America shall pay to the United States a civil penalty in the amount of Four Thousand dollars ($4,000.00). Payment shall be made by certified check or money order payable to the United States Department of Justice, and tendered to counsel for the United States.

 

IMPLEMENTATION AND ENFORCEMENT OF THE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT

13. The Department is authorized, pursuant to section 308(b)(1)(B) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12188(b)(1)(B), to bring a civil action enforcing the ADA in any situation where a pattern or practice of discrimination is believed to exist or a matter of general public importance is raised. In consideration of the terms of this agreement set forth above, the Department agrees to refrain from further investigation of this matter or from filing civil suit against Mid-America with respect to matters covered by this Agreement.

14. The Department may review compliance with this agreement at any time. If the Department believes that this agreement or any requirement thereof has been violated, it will provide Mid-America with the opportunity to cure the violation. The Department and Mid-America shall engage in good faith negotiations to resolve any dispute arising under this Agreement. If, despite good faith negotiations, the Department and Mid-America are unable to resolve the dispute, then the Department may institute a civil action for relief in Federal district court, and the Department is authorized to seek civil penalties for any violation of this agreement, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.§ 12188(b)(2)(C).

15. A violation of this Agreement shall be deemed a subsequent violation of the ADA. 42 U.S.C. § 12188(b)(3) and 28 C.F.R. § 36.504(b).

16. Failure by the Department to enforce this entire agreement with regard to any deadline herein shall not be construed as a waiver of its right to do so with regard to future deadlines and other provisions of this agreement.

17. By October 1, 1997, Mid-America shall certify to the Department, in writing, that it has fulfilled all of its obligations under this Agreement. The certification shall set out each of the obligations that has matured by the date of the certification, shall describe the steps Mid-America has taken to fulfill those obligations, and shall provide pictures of all modifications done pursuant to this Agreement. The certification shall also identify all continuing obligations under this agreement, and describe how Mid-America is meeting those obligations. The parties expressly agree that providing such 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 14.

18. Both this Agreement and the certification are public documents. Copies of these documents or any information contained herein may be made available to any person. Mid-America or the Department shall provide copies of these documents to any person upon request.

19. In the event that Mid-America is required to obtain, for any of the steps to remove barriers to access, electrical, plumbing, or other permits or approval, Mid-America 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 Mid-America for obtaining the permit or approval, or is denied, Mid-America will promptly notify counsel for the Department. 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. This agreement does not require Mid-America to take any steps to remove barriers to access for which permits or other approvals are necessary, where Mid-America has timely and in good faith taken all necessary steps to secure such permits or approvals, but such permits or approvals have been denied.

20. This agreement shall become effective as of the date of the last signature below. This agreement shall be binding on all of Mid-America's successors in interest, and Mid-America has a duty to so notify all such successors in interest.

21. If at any time Mid-America desires to modify any portion of this Agreement because of changed conditions making performance impossible or impractical, it shall promptly notify the Department in writing, setting forth the facts and circumstances thought to justify modification and the substance of the proposed modification. Until there is a written agreement by the Department to the proposed modification, the proposed modification shall not take effect.

22. This agreement constitutes 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 or the attached plans, shall be enforceable. This agreement is limited to the facts set forth herein and it does not purport to remedy any other potential violations of the ADA, including title III's provisions regarding alterations and new construction, or any other Federal law. This agreement does not affect Mid-America's continuing responsibility to comply with all aspects of the ADA.

23. The Department agrees that Mid-America's completion of the steps set forth in this Agreement will fully resolve the administrative complaint submitted to the Department relating to the removal of barriers by Mid-America.

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

 

For the United States:

 

Deval L. Patrick
Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights

By:

Date:

John L. Wodatch
L. Irene Bowen
Kaye L. Pestaina
Attorneys

Disability Rights Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
P.O. Box 66738
Washington, D.C. 20035-6738
(202) 307-0663

 

For Mid-America Festivals Corporation:

 

By:

 

Date:

 

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