U.S. Department of Justice
ADA BUSINESS CONNECTION MEETS IN NEW ORLEANS
On March 21, 2005, the ADA Business Connection met in New Orleans, Louisiana. This project brings together local and national leaders of business and disability communities to initiate discussions and encourage ongoing collaborations in an effort to make everyday commerce accessible to people with disabilities. (See previous story in Issue Two.) The meeting, which was led by Assistant Attorney General Alex Acosta and co-hosted by Craig Miller, President and CEO of Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Inc. and Vice Chairman of the National Restaurant Association, focused on accessible customer service practices in the hospitality industry. Speakers at the meeting included Pedro Mandoki, Chairman of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, Gene Alleman, General Manager of a New Orleans taxi company operating accessible London fleet cars, and Charles Tubre, Systems Advocate for the Advocacy Center.
PHYSICIANS TO PROVIDE EQUAL ACCESS TO EXAMINATIONS
The Department recently reached agreements with two medical practices, resolving complaints alleging unequal treatment for people with disabilities. The two parties involved were a solo family practitioner in California and a medical office providing ob/gyn services in four locations in Florida. Under the agreements, the physicians agreed to provide equal access by purchasing accessible, adjustable height examination tables, adopting an ADA nondiscrimination policy, and arranging training for themselves and staff on the requirements of the ADA. They also will ensure that when a patient schedules an appointment, staff will ask the patient if he or she will need any special assistance, modification of policy, or auxiliary aid or service because of a disability. In addition, the complainants will receive $1,000 each.
On February 23, 2005, HUD announced that it has granted “safe harbor” status to the 2003 International Building Code (IBC) on the condition that the International Code Council (ICC), the publisher of the IBC, clarifies the requirement for accessible pedestrian routes. According to the ICC, 44 states, along with the District of Columbia, have thus far adopted the IBC.
The ICC had requested that HUD review the accessibility provisions of the 2003 IBC to determine whether the code could be recognized as one of the safe harbors for compliance with the accessibility requirements of the Fair Housing Act, the regulations implementing the Act, and HUD’s Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines. HUD’s draft report identified eight areas in which the 2003 IBC appeared to be inconsistent with the FHA or the Guidelines. Following its analysis of public comments, HUD determined that seven of the areas were no longer problematic, but that one “major issue” remained. HUD specifically found that a section of the 2003 IBC appeared to give builders much greater latitude in deciding whether to provide an accessible pedestrian route than the Guidelines and other HUD-recognized safe harbors allow.
HUD’s final report concluded that the 2003 IBC could be granted safe harbor status for this section only if the ICC issued a statement maintaining the ICC interprets the code as “requir[ing] an accessible pedestrian route from site arrival points to accessible building entrances, unless site impracticality applies . . . .” The final report also explained the process by which the ICC is to “publish and disseminate” this statement. Further information on this matter is available online at www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/disabilities/modelcodes/.
OVER 375 APARTMENTS IN TENNESSEE AND MISSISSIPPI TO BE RETROFITTED
On March 21, 2005, a federal court in Memphis, Tennessee, approved a consent decree reached by the Department with ten Memphis firms involved in the design and construction of five apartment complexes in Tennessee and Mississippi. The settlement resolved lawsuits previously filed by the Department and the Memphis Center for Independent Living (MCIL), a fair housing rights organization, alleging failures to design and construct apartments with accessible features for people with physical disabilities, as required by federal law. The agreement affects over 375 ground floor apartments.
|Map of the United States showing the vicinities where apartments are being made accessible under recent Fair Housing Act consent decrees.|
The eight firms had designed and constructed apartment complexes in Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming. As part of the decree, they agreed to make accessibility retrofits to individual units and the complexes’ common areas. They also agreed to (1) establish a $100,000 fund to compensate individuals injured by the inaccessible housing, (2) pay $15,000 to the Intermountain Fair Housing Council, a fair housing rights organization in Idaho, and (3) pay $10,000 in civil penalties to the Department.
This case began when the Intermountain Fair Housing Council filed a complaint with HUD, who, in turn, referred the complaint to the Justice Department for investigation. After determining that several properties designed and constructed by the defendants did not comply with the Fair Housing Act, the Department filed suit in 2002.
This matter arose out of a complaint filed with HUD in 1998 by the Intermountain Fair Housing Council. After investigation, HUD referred the matter to the Department of Justice, which filed suit in April 2005.
This consent decree follows a separate settlement in 2003 with the architectural firm involved, which ultimately required the architect to pay $340,000 to resolve the Department’s claims.
This matter arose in late November 2001 when a man responded to an advertisement for a rental apartment for his mother. During an initial conversation, the son informed the property manager that he was looking for an apartment for his mother, who uses a wheelchair. In a subsequent meeting when he first viewed the apartment, the son again told the manager that he was looking at the apartment on behalf of his mother, who uses a wheelchair. In response, the manager stated the owner would not rent to his mother because of her disability In its complaint, the Department seeks declaratory and injunctive relief and monetary damages for the complainants.
This is the first action the Department has filed in Hawaii to enforce the Act’s accessibility requirements.
The Department seeks declaratory and injunctive relief and monetary damages for the complainants.
The settlement agreement resulted from a findings letter issued by the Department on October 9, 2002, detailing unconstitutional conditions at the nursing home. In particular, the Department found that the nursing home (1) exposed residents to unsafe living conditions and undue restraints, (2) failed to provide adequate medical and mental health care, (3) failed to provide residents with adequate nutrition and hydration, and (4) failed to protect residents from unnecessary institutionalization.
The agreement between the Department and Mercer County requires the nursing home to improve care planning, rehabilitation/restorative care services, mental health care, and mealtime assistance. The agreement also ensures that each resident will be served in the most integrated setting appropriate to his or her needs.
The ADA is comprehensive in its reach and does not just apply to architectural barriers and effective communication concerns. In this issue, we focus on a wide array of topics that have been successfully mediated.
In New Hampshire, an individual with food allergies complained that a dinner train tour refused to allow her to bring her own food on the train. The tour operator has since affirmed its existing policy of allowing customers to bring medically necessary food on the train and developed a new policy of making alternate dietary selections available to all customers upon 24 hours notice. The tour operator also now advertises this new policy in its print advertisements, brochures, and website.
A father of a child with multiple disabilities complained that a Virginia barber refused to cut his son’s hair because of the child’s disabilities. The owner of the barber shop subsequently dismissed the barber involved, placed the manager on an unpaid leave of absence, and required the manager to attend a customer relations course at a local community college. The owner also agreed to pay the child’s father $5,000.
In Oregon, a person with a developmental disability, accompanied by a job coach from a social service agency, was denied service at a restaurant when the restaurant host believed the individual was going to behave in an unacceptable manner because of his disability. The owner of the restaurant has since sent a written apology to the agency and provided assurance that no person with a disability will be refused service in the future.
In Florida, an individual with a respiratory disability complained that a hospital offering outpatient physical therapy and other medical services did not have enough accessible parking spaces. When the complaint was initiated, the hospital had 27 accessible parking spaces. Then, prior to mediation, 18 more were added. Now, the hospital has agreed to construct another 19 accessible parking spaces.
A wheelchair user who has paralysis on one side of his face complained that a Maryland restaurant employee insulted him, refused him service, and told him to leave because of his appearance. As a result of this complaint, the respondents modified their policies to include training both on the ADA and appropriate conduct towards customers. They also provided the complainant with a complimentary meal.
In California, a parent of an adolescent with Down Syndrome alleged that an entertainment facility refused to modify its ticketing policy, which required persons with lottery-awarded wristbands to proceed unaccompanied to the ticket window to purchase their one allotted ticket. Following this complaint, the arena modified its policy to allow persons with disabilities to be accompanied if needed. It agreed to post this policy change on its website and in its handout materials and to train its staff on the requirements of the ADA. In addition, the arena apologized to the parent, provided four complimentary tickets to four upcoming events, and made a donation of $500 to a charitable organization identified by the parent.
A parent claimed that a summer camp in South Carolina refused to allow her son, who has multiple disabilities, to attend a camp program, which included overnight stays, unless she provided a full-time attendant for him. In the course of mediation, the parties agreed to explore whether or not the child needed continual supervision and, if so, who would provide it. After several months of good faith discussions before the camp’s program began, the camp agreed to let the child attend its program without requiring an accompanying attendant.
June 10, 2005