U.S. Department of Justice
Ticketmaster, Inc., the world’s largest ticketing company, has agreed to improve its services for people with disabilities. Under the terms of an agreement signed with the Department of Justice on December 22, 2005, customers will be able to purchase accessible seating via telephone and email during the entire time period that customers can purchase regular seating through Ticketmaster’s web-based automated system (approximately 22 hours a day). In addition, all requests for accessible seats will be queued so that customers are served on a first-come first-served basis. Although it will still be necessary to purchase accessible seats through sales agents rather than on-line, these steps will ensure a fairer ticketing process until the web-based system is redesigned and able to process customer requests for accessible seating.
Ticketmaster has also agreed to inform customers promptly when it has exhausted its inventory of accessible seating and to advise customers if additional accessible seating might be available directly from the venue; to improve the process for customers with disabilities seeking to purchase more than one seat for their companions and will make efforts to seat everyone in the party in or near the wheelchair section; to work with venues on implementing procedures to maintain the inventory of unsold accessible seats until two weeks prior to the event; and to release those seats for general sales only after all regular seating is sold out; and to designate a Disability Coordinator.
The agreement addresses numerous problems people with disabilities had encountered in purchasing accessible seats and companion seats for concerts, sports events, theaters, and other venues served by Ticketmaster. Ticketmaster will also continue its efforts to develop a system to sell accessible seating directly on its web site.
NORTH CAROLINA ACCESSIBILITY CODE RECEIVES ADA CERTIFICATION
The North Carolina Accessibility Code (NCAC) has been certified as meeting or exceeding the accessible design requirements of the ADA. The Department notified the State of North Carolina on November 28, 2005, of its decision to issue the certification of ADA equivalency. Department of Justice certification simplifies the process of complying with the ADA. In a state with an ADA-certified code, businesses that conform to the state’s code process during construction or alteration of a facility can use that as evidence of ADA compliance if later challenged under the ADA.
The Department held public hearings to solicit comments on this matter in Cary, North Carolina, on May 16, 2005, and in Washington, D.C., on June 20, 2005. Virtually all comments supported final certification of the NCAC.
Notice of the issuance of the final certification of equivalency was published in the Federal Register on December 8, 2005. Assistant Attorney General Wan Kim will host a ceremony to recognize this significant accomplishment for the State on February 9, 2006, in Cary, North Carolina.
North Carolina is the sixth state to obtain ADA certification for its code. The States of Washington, Texas, Maine, Florida, and Maryland were the first five. Washington has subsequently adopted new accessibility requirements and has submitted them to the Department for review.
OPTIMA GAS STATIONS AND CONVENIENCE STORES AGREE TO IMPROVE ACCESSIBILITY
COUNTY DETENTION CENTERS TO PROVIDE EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION
The Anne Arundel County (Maryland) Department of Detention Facilities executed a settlement agreement with the Department on November 28, 2005, resolving a complaint involving a deaf man who communicates primarily through American Sign Language (ASL) and who does not communicate by speaking or lipreading. The deaf man alleged that he was denied appropriate auxiliary aids and services needed for effective communication during his incarceration at the Jennifer Road Detention Center from October 6, 2003, through May 19, 2004. Specifically, the complainant alleged that he was denied effective communication with medical personnel, equal access to telecommunications so he could make calls to his attorney, family, and friends, and closed captioning on television sets.
The settlement agreement provides for equitable relief and monitoring at the two detention centers operated by Anne Arundel County. The county will institute procedures for determining whether an inmate needs any auxiliary aids or services for effective communication; maintain a list of sign language and oral interpreting services available to provide qualified interpreters when needed; provide TTYs and telephones with volume control and hearing-aid compatability when needed; and guarantee effective communication in all programs and services for inmates including orientation, meetings with correctional specialists and counselors, rehabilitative and educational programs, medical evaluations, reclassification hearings, classification appeals, disciplinary hearings, and status reviews.
TAXI COMPANY AGREES TO TRANSPORT
CUSTOMERS WHO USE WHEELCHAIRS
DEPARTMENT INTERVENES TO SECURE FACILITY FOR ADULTS WITH MENTAL ILLNESSOn September 19, 2005, the Department intervened in a lawsuit in eastern Michigan alleging that the city of Royal Oak, Michigan, denied Easter Seals-Michigan a land-use permit for a day facility for adults with mental illness in violation of the ADA. The Department’s complaint alleged that the city improperly denied the land-use permit because of community opposition to the facility that was based on fears and stereotypes regarding people with mental illnesses. Easter Seals had operated a similar facility in a nearby town without incident for over 19 years. When Easter Seals decided it needed a newer facility with a more open floor plan, it located and leased the property in Royal Oak. The new Easter Seals facility is intended to provide support, vocational and employment training, and social skill-building for adults with mental illness.
On November 29, 2005, the case was resolved by a consent judgment filed by the parties and signed by the Court. Under the judgment, the facility will be permitted to open at the contested location, the city of Royal Park will pay $300,000 in monetary damages to the private plaintiffs, and municipal employees will receive ADA compliance training. The City will also report to the Justice Department on future land use requests involving individuals with disabilities that the City denies or grants with conditions.
RHODE ISLAND MOTEL AGREES
TO BECOME ACCESSIBLE
THREE LAWSUITS SEEK REASONABLE HOUSING ACCOMMODATIONS
FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
On December 12, 2005, the Department filed a federal lawsuit charging that the Town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, engaged in disability discrimination in violation of the Fair Housing Act. In its complaint, the Department alleges that the defendant refused to grant a reasonable accommodation to a resident of a public housing complex who had requested a transfer to a wheelchair-accessible apartment. The transfer was necessary because the resident’s nine-year-old daughter has cerebral palsy and is unable to navigate stairs. The complaint seeks monetary damages on behalf of the resident and her family as well as corrective actions.
On December 21, 2005, a federal court in New Jersey issued an order denying the defendants’ motion for summary judgment in a Fair Housing Act case brought by the Department. The Department’s complaint alleges that the defendants, the condominium association and property manager of the Port Liberte Condo 1 Association in Jersey City, New Jersey, violated the Fair Housing Act by failing to provide an accessible parking space sufficiently close to the unit of a disabled resident who had requested a reasonable accommodation. The court ruled that factual issues in dispute involving the extent of the resident’s disability and the reasonableness of his request for a parking space adjacent to his building made summary judgment inappropriate. The court’s opinion is posted at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/housing/documents/liberteordersj.pdf.
DEVELOPER, BUILDER, AND ARCHITECT
OF CONDOMINIUM COMPLEX ARE SUED
The Department’s suit identifies numerous violations, including doorways that are too narrow for wheelchair passage, kitchens and bathrooms that lack sufficient maneuvering space for people using wheelchairs, and public and common use areas that are not accessible to people with physical disabilities. The complex also lacks accessible routes that allow people using wheelchairs to travel from their units to the public and common use areas; many of the public and common use routes have one or more steps, no curb ramps, or steep slopes.
ILLINOIS COMPANY SUED FOR REFUSING
TO SELL LAND TO A GROUP HOME PROVIDER
The case was referred to the Department after the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) received a complaint, conducted an investigation, and issued a charge of discrimination. The complaint seeks monetary damages for the victims, corrective actions, and civil penalties to be paid to the government to vindicate the public interest.
In this issue, we highlight complaints involving places where people go for fun, entertainment, and exercise.
On January 27, Division staff made a presentation in Orlando, Florida, before the Medical Accessibility Task Force, a group formed jointly by the Florida Medical Association, the Florida Hospital Association, and the Florida Coordinating Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. The speech addressed the ADA’s requirements for the medical community.
On January 28-February 1, Division staff attended the American Correction Association (ACA) Winter Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, to disseminate information and answer questions about the ADA and its applicability to correctional facilities.
February 6, 2006