Department of Justice Seal

Disability Rights
online  News
horizontal divider

U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division

June 2006
Issue Thirteen

Disability Rights
Online News

is a bi-monthly update about the Civil Rights Division’s activities in the area of disability rights. The Division enforces laws prohibiting discrimination based on disability in employment, housing, access to businesses serving the public, access to government programs and services including voting and public transportation, and unconstitutional conditions in institutions of confinement.

In this Issue:


Fair Housing

Rights of
Institutionalized Persons

ADA Mediation

ADA Outreach


On March 27, 2006, the Department signed a settlement agreement with National Pizza Corporation, International, Inc. (NPC) the largest franchisee of Pizza Hut restaurants in the nation. Under the agreement, 800 Pizza Hut restaurants in 25 states that are owned or operated by NCP will become more accessible to people with disabilities.

“Too often, the ease and enjoyment of restaurant dining is not a reality for individuals with disabilities,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “I commend NPC for their commitment to take the steps necessary to make its Pizza Hut restaurants accessible. These improvements will allow more Americans to participate and enjoy everyday activities with their family and friends.”

The agreement requires NPC to: 1) designate or hire a Compliance Officer who will be trained on the ADA’s accessibility requirements; 2) eliminate all barriers that can reasonably and feasibly be eliminated in facilities built before the ADA, meeting criteria set out in the agreement; and 3) bring all post-ADA facilities into compliance with the accessibility requirements set out in the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. At the 180 NPC-operated outlets that are dedicated solely to delivery and carry-out, have no in-restaurant dining, and are owned by a party other than NPC, NPC will make its best efforts to work with landlords to ensure accessibility. NPC will also build all future facilities in compliance with the ADA Standards for Accessible Design.

To assist NPC in carrying out these obligations, on April 4, 2006, the Department conducted a full day ADA training in Memphis, Tennessee, for NPC representatives who will implement the agreement.


The Department recently completed an initiative to help state and local law enforcement agencies understand their responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In an outreach mailing to 25,000 police departments, sheriff’s offices, highway patrols, and other state and local law enforcement agencies throughout the country, Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, offered a variety of free ADA publications and videotapes developed specifically for law enforcement audiences.

“This disability rights initiative demonstrates the Department’s continuing commitment to help state and local governments – including law enforcement – understand and comply with the ADA,” said Assistant Attorney General Kim when announcing the initiative on May 2, 2006.

The agencies received information on how to order the videotape “Police Response to People with Disabilities.” This video addresses law enforcement situations involving people who have mobility disabilities, mental illnesses, mental retardation, epilepsy or other seizure disorders, speech disabilities, hearing disabilities, or vision disabilities. Intended for roll-call training, the video is divided into eight segments ranging from 5 1⁄2 to 10 1⁄2 minutes in length.

The agencies also received two new compliance assistance publications – a brochure for officers and a model policy – on how to communicate effectively with people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Failure to provide effective communication is the most frequent complaint the Department receives against law enforcement under the ADA. The mailing explained how to obtain additional copies of these two publications, as well as other materials, from the ADA Website or the ADA Information Line.

In addition, a fully accessible streaming video version of “Police Response to People with Disabilities” is avalable for viewing on the ADA Website, giving web users immediate access to the video. In particular, public safety officers whose vehicles are equipped with Internet access can quickly review the relevant segment for guidance when interacting with a person with a disability as a witness, suspect, victim, or person in need of assistance.

For more information about this initiative, see information for law enforcement on the ADA Website (

horizontal divider


On April 10, 2006, the federal court in Massachusetts granted the Department’s motion to intervene in Medley v. Town Sports International, Inc., a case challenging a summer day camp’s denial of admission to a child with type-1 diabetes, and entered a joint consent order filed by the parties on March 20. The camp had denied the parent’s request that camp staff supervise their daughter while she tested her blood glucose level using a small automated gauge and while she keyed into her electronic insulin pump the number of carbohydrates marked on each item of food provided by her parents for lunch and snacks. The consent order requires the camp to follow a list of specific practices to accommodate children with diabetes and also places obligations on the children’s parents to take certain steps to assist the camp in their responsibilities. The order also calls for compensatory damages ($25,000) and civil penalties ($5,000).

horizontal divider


On April 17, 2005, the Department entered a settlement agreement with Modern Dental Professional, Indiana, P.C., d/b/a Monarch Dental Associates (Modern), resolving a complaint filed by a woman on behalf of her husband who is deaf. The complaint alleged that the wife requested a sign language interpreter when she called Modern to schedule a dental appointment for her husband, who needed complex and extensive dental services. Modern refused to provide an interpreter. In the agreement, Modern agreed to: 1) adopt a new Effective Communication Policy and an Effective Communication Assessment Form; 2) post a sign in all of its 10 dental offices informing patients that Modern will provide qualified sign language interpreters when necessary for effective communication; and 3) provide mandatory training to all of its employees on the ADA and its new Effective Communication Policy.

horizontal divider


On April 12, 2006, the Department entered into a settlement agreement with the Michigan Department of Human Services (MDHS) resolving two complaints filed by deaf parents who alleged that MDHS had refused to provide them with interpreters when they were interviewed by MDHS case workers during child abuse and neglect investigations involving their children. MDHS agreed to: 1) adopt a new Effective Communication Policy; 2) require case workers to indicate on a revised intake form if a parent has a disability and requires an interpreter for effective communication; 3) issue a public notice regarding Title II’s applicability to MDHS; 4) update its hotline numbers, its website, and other pertinent literature to include a TTY number and the Michigan Relay number; and 5) train its 150 managers and 9,000 employees annually on the ADA and its requirement to provide interpreters when necessary for effective communication.

horizontal divider


On March 22, 2006, the Department entered an agreement with Automated Petroleum and Energy Company, Inc., the owner and operator of three Florida gas stations with convenience stores -- the Ocala Chevron Station, the Inverness Chevron Station, and the Dade City CITCO Station. The complaint alleged that the company had failed to remove numerous architectural barriers that prevented or restricted access to the stations by individuals with disabilities, including people who use wheelchairs and people with visual impairments. The company agreed to a variety of steps to remove the barriers, including adding van-accessible parking spaces; reconfiguring entrances; rearranging furniture to provide accessible aisles; and providing accessible restrooms by widening doorways, adjusting the height of lavatories and dispensers, and installing grab bars and accessible hardware.

horizontal divider


On April 27, 2006, Assistant Attorney General Kim hosted an ADA Business Connection meeting with 48 leaders of Chicago business and disability organizations. The meeting, co-hosted by Rick Waddell, President and COO, Northern Trust Corporation, and Marca Bristo, President and CEO, Access Living, focused on the many benefits of accessibility for both businesses and customers with disabilities. The featured speaker, Don Thompson, Executive Vice President and COO, McDonald’s USA, presented a persuasive case for developing a corporate culture and resulting business strategies that always include customers and employees with disabilities. Discussion centered around accessibility issues in Chicago’s retail, hospitality, and cultural organizations as well as the city’s resources to affect favorable change for people with disabilities and businesses.

horizontal divider


On March 15, 2006, the Department entered a consent decree with The Kaufman Organization, a New York property management company, resolving an allegation of discrimination in commercial leasing. The Department alleged that the landlord had refused to lease available space in a building to Sinergia, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving low-income individuals with disabilities and their families, because Sinergia planned to use the space to run a day habilitation program for adults with mental retardation and developmental disabilities. Sinergia’s habilitation program assists in the development of social, recreational, vocational, and employment skills.

According to the complaint, after Sinergia expressed its interest in leasing available space on the second floor of a 34th Street building, and after Kaufman sent Sinergia a draft of a lease for that space, an existing tenant in the building objected to Sinergia’s tenancy because of the use Sinergia intended to make of the space. The complaint alleges that, shortly after being notified of the existing tenant’s objection, Kaufman informed Sinergia that it would lease the space only if Sinergia agreed to use the space exclusively for its administrative offices and not use any part of the space to operate its day habilitation program. Sinergia was forced to seek alternative space elsewhere and ultimately accepted less desirable space in another building.

Under the consent decree, Kaufman agreed to pay $175,000 in compensatory damages to Sinergia.

horizontal divider


On March 27, 2006, the Department signed an agreement with City Cab Company of Crestview, Florida, resolving a complaint alleging that the company had denied taxi service to a blind passenger because the passenger was accompanied by a service animal. City Cab agreed to adopt a policy requiring all drivers to transport individuals accompanied by service animals and to provide the complainant with complimentary taxi services for a period of one year.

horizontal divider


A photo of Deputy Assistant Attorney General Grace Chung Becker
Deputy Assistant Attorney General Grace Chung Becker speaking at the Access Forum
On May 16, 2006, in Atlanta, Georgia, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Grace Chung Becker hosted the Civil Rights Division’s third Multi-Family Housing Access Forum program. Launched last year, the program’s objective is to help building professionals understand their legal obligations under the federal Fair Housing Act’s accessibility requirements and to celebrate partnerships that have successfully produced accessible multi-family housing in which everyone profits – developers and consumers alike. The theme of the Atlanta event was “Good Access is Good Business,” and the program was attended by over 120 developers and building professionals, government officials, and individuals with disabilities and those who work on their behalf.

In her opening remarks, Ms. Chung Becker discussed the need for accessible multi-family housing, pointing out that more than 50 million Americans, or 18 percent of our population, live with some form of disability. She emphasized that although the Civil Rights Division has obtained great results – 12,000 housing units in 17 states are to be made accessible to persons with disabilities as a result of settlements in fiscal year 2005 alone – lawsuits cannot and should not be the only approach to Fair Housing Act enforcement. Achieving compliance at the design and planning stages is a more timely and cost effective means of ensuring that the housing needs of persons with disabilities are met.

a photo of Dr. Gary R. Ulicny and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Chung Becker
Dr. Gary R. Ulicny, President of Sheperd Center, with Deputy Assistant Attorney General Chung Becker
The program also featured two speakers: Dr. Gary R. Ulicny, the President and CEO of Shepherd Center, a 120-bed hospital in Atlanta, that specializes in the treatment of persons with spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, and other neuromuscular disorders; and Margaret Shaw, partner at Tekoa Partners, Ltd., a developer of market rate and affordable multi-family housing based in Austin, Texas. These speakers described how, through partnerships between disability organizations and housing professionals, they succeeded in developing accessible – and profitable – multi-family housing complexes. These speakers demonstrated, from their different perspectives, how private housing developers can successfully meet the needs of customers with disabilities while maintaining profitable enterprises.

For more information and to see photos from the forum, go to The next forum will be held in another major city in the fall of 2006. The previous forum was held in Dallas in November 2005.

horizontal divider


On April 4, 2006, the settlement of the Department’s disability-discrimination lawsuit against the owners and managers of the Westminster Square Apartments, in San Antonio, Texas, was approved by the federal court. The Department had alleged that the defendants – the Housing Authority of the City of San Antonio, the San Antonio Housing Facility Corporation, Pat Matherly, and the Pilgrim Allena Housing Development Corporation Occupancy – violated the Fair Housing Act when they refused repeated requests by Antonio and Josefina Maldonado to transfer to a first floor apartment. Antonio Maldonado, a double leg amputee who uses a wheelchair, and his wife Josefina Maldonado, who is also disabled, asked on several occasions to move from their third floor unit to a first floor unit so that they would not be dependent on the elevators and would not have to travel as far to get to their apartment. The complaint alleged that the defendants denied the requests despite the availability of two apartments on the first floor.

The settlement requires the defendants to transfer the Maldonados to a first floor apartment, to pay $125,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees to the Maldonados and the Fair Housing Council of Greater San Antonio, a fair housing organization that assisted them, to implement a comprehensive reasonable accommodation policy, to attend fair housing training, and to comply with other injunctive relief.

horizontal divider


On March 31, 2006, the Department filed a federal lawsuit alleging disability discrimination by the developers, architects, and engineers of six multi-family residential complexes in the Philadelphia area. The Department alleges that the 95 ground floor units at Abram’s Run Apartments in King of Prussia, the 79 ground floor units at Henderson Square Apartments I and II also in King of Prussia, the 87 ground floor units at Fox Ridge Apartments and Fox Ridge Lakeside Apartments in Limerick, and the 39 ground floor units at Lakeview Apartments in Royerstown lack accessible features required by the Fair Housing Act. The Department also alleged that the public and common use areas of these complexes lack required accessible features, and that the rental offices of these complexes lack the accessible features required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Specifically, the Department alleges that the public and common use areas and rental offices are not readily accessible to and usable by people with disabilities; doors in the ground floor units are not wide enough to allow passage for a person who uses a wheelchair; accessible routes within covered units are not provided; bathroom walls lack reinforcement for the later installation of grab bars; bathrooms and kitchens are not wide enough to permit use of a wheelchair; and environmental controls and outlets are not in accessible locations. The suit seeks injunctive relief, monetary damages for those harmed by the lack of accessibility, and civil penalties.

horizontal divider


On March 6, 2006, a federal court in Chicago, Illinois, denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss the Department’s Fair Housing Act lawsuit against the Village of South Elgin. The Department alleges that the municipality discriminated against Unity House, a “sober home” providing a supportive environment for recovering alcoholics and drug users, by denying it a permit to house up to nine residents. The Department alleges that the Village Board’s actions were taken on account of the disability of the residents, and that they amounted to a failure to make a reasonable accommodation.

The defendants moved to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that, in seeking a reasonable accommodation, Unity House had not complied with the procedural requirements of state zoning law. In denying the motion, the court agreed with the Department that even assuming this to be true, the Department could still prevail under an intentional discrimination theory, and whether Unity House complied with the state law involves disputed issues of fact. The order is posted at

horizontal divider


On May 2, 2006, the Department announced a settlement with the State of California regarding conditions at four state hospitals serving individuals with mental disabilities from around the state. The four hospitals – Metropolitan State Hospital in Los Angeles, Napa State Hospital in Napa, Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino, and Atascadero State Hospital in San Luis Obispo – provide inpatient psychiatric care to nearly five thousand people committed to the hospitals.

The extensive reforms required by the five-year agreement will ensure that individuals in the hospitals are adequately protected from harm and are provided adequate services to support their recovery and mental health. The agreement was filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California and will be supervised by a court-appointed monitor.

“Individuals in the care of the State are entitled to be safe and provided with adequate services to promote their mental health and rehabilitation,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “We applaud the leadership of state officials in acting promptly to remedy the problems and implement the reforms embodied in the agreement.”

“A mental health patient in many ways is more vulnerable than other citizens, and therefore particularly needs to be protected from undue harm,” said United States Attorney Debra Wong Yang. “The settlement will lead these well-known and often-used hospitals to enact sweeping changes that will improve the lives of hundreds of patients.”

The Department’s four-year investigation under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act revealed significant civil rights violations at each of the hospitals. The Department found a pattern and practice of preventable suicides and serious, life threatening assaults on residents by staff and other residents. Care provided at the hospitals departed substantially from generally accepted professional standards, and individuals were not served in the most integrated settings appropriate to their needs and the requirements of court-ordered confinements, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The State has agreed to address and correct all of the violations identified by the Department.

The Department has successfully resolved similar investigations of other mental health facilities in North Carolina, New York, Hawaii, and Tennessee. The California settlement is available online.

horizontal divider


The ADA Mediation Program is a Department-sponsored initiative intended to resolve ADA complaints in an efficient manner. Mediation cases are initiated upon referral by the Department when both the complainant and the respondent agree to participate. The program utilizes professional mediators who are trained in the legal requirements of the ADA and has proven effective in resolving complaints at less cost and in less time than traditional investigations or litigation. Over 75% of all complaints mediated have been settled successfully.

In this issue, we highlight complaints against health care providers that have been successfully mediated.

Box Bullet In California, the mother of an adolescent with Down Syndrome complained that a physical therapy provider refused to serve her child because of his disability. The respondent agreed to conduct ADA training at all of its affiliated companies, to establish a central hotline to address any future complaints quickly, to pay $8,000 in compensation to the complainant, and to pay the complainant’s legal fees of $20,000.

Box Bullet In Minnesota, a person who is deaf complained that a doctor’s office failed to provide sign language interpreter services for an appointment. The doctor agreed to provide interpreters when necessary and added telephone numbers of interpreters to the office telephone roster. The doctor also disciplined the employee who refused to provide the interpreter and apologized to the complainant.

Box Bullet In Mississippi, a man who uses a wheelchair complained that a medical laboratory was inaccessible and so it conducted his outpatient lab work in the waiting room in front of other patients. The hospital that owns the laboratory agreed to alter a room to provide accessible private and confidential laboratory services to patients who use wheelchairs.

Box Bullet In Georgia, a deaf individual complained that a doctor’s office refused to provide a sign language interpreter for an appointment. The office agreed to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and entered into a contract with an interpreting service. In addition, the office posted signage indicating that assistance will be provided to persons with disabilities upon request.

Box Bullet In Pennsylvania, a person who uses a wheelchair complained that the entrance to a doctor’s office was not accessible. While the parties agreed that it was not readily achievable to remove the barriers to this office, the doctor agreed to install a ramp at the entrance of his second office. He agreed to inform people with disabilities of the location of his second office and to reimburse them for any extra transportation costs.

Box Bullet A deaf couple in Nevada complained that a health care provider in a remote area did not provide a sign language interpreter for an appointment. The doctor agreed to provide interpreters when requested and the parties worked together to identify potential interpreters in the area. In addition, the doctor agreed to write a letter to all the other medical practitioners in the area about how to provide effective communication to persons who are deaf and hard of hearing, including contact information for local interpreters.

Box Bullet In North Carolina, a person who uses a wheelchair complained that the interior of an eye doctor’s office was inaccessible. The office agreed to widen the doorway between the examination room and the hallway, remove protruding cabinet doors in the examination room to provide additional maneuvering space, and remove chairs from the hallway and examination rooms.

Box Bullet In Florida, a person who is deaf alleged that a doctor’s office did not provide effective communication during an office visit. The doctor’s office developed and implemented a written policy for all office staff members outlining the procedure for providing sign language interpreter services when needed.

Box Bullet In Georgia, a person who uses a wheelchair complained that a doctor’s office was inaccessible because it lacked a ramp, an accessible restroom, and an accessible exam room. The landlord and tenant worked together to resolve the complaint and installed a new concrete ramp at the entrance, appropriate signage designating accessible parking, and grab bars in the rest room and exam room.

Box Bullet In Michigan, a woman who is deaf complained that a doctor’s office refused to provide a sign language interpreter for an appointment, instead requiring her to bring a family member to serve as an interpreter. The doctor agreed to provide effective communication, including sign language interpreter services, for appointments. The doctor also agreed to instruct staff on procedures on how to respond to a request for sign language interpreter services.

Box Bullet In California, a person who uses a service animal complained that she was denied access to the examination room in a doctor’s office because the staff believed that the area would be contaminated by the dog. The doctor modified the office policy to allow service animals access to the examination room.

Box Bullet In Nevada, a person who is deaf complained that a dentist’s office refused to provide effective communication during an office visit. The dentist agreed to institute a policy ensuring compliance with the ADA and to attend training on both the requirements of the ADA and disability awareness. She also agreed to join with a disability rights lawyer in conducting four presentations for professional organizations on the ADA and dentists, wrote a letter of apology to the complainant, and agreed to pay the complainant $100.

Box Bullet In Pennsylvania, a person filed a complaint on behalf of her grandmother who is a wheelchair user, alleging that a doctor’s office failed to provide accessible parking. The doctor agreed to restripe the parking lot to create accessible parking and to create an accessible path of travel from the parking lot to the office.

Box Bullet In Illinois, a person who is deaf complained that a medical specialist’s office refused to provide a sign language interpreter for an initial visit. The physician’s office agreed to provide interpreters and other auxiliary aids for patients when needed and further agreed that, if a patient requires an urgent referral to a specialist or hospital, the physician’s office will coordinate efforts to ensure that the auxiliary aid needed by the patient will be provided.

Box Bullet In Virginia, a person who uses a wheelchair complained that a medical center refused to treat her during a scheduled appointment because they said they could not lift her onto the examining table. The medical center completed a survey of current examination tables and developed a capital budget and timeline to purchase accessible exam tables. It also provided training to staff on ADA requirements.

horizontal divider


Box Bullet On March 29-31, Division staff made three presentations at “The Road Ahead,” the annual conference of the Association for Higher Education and Disability Virginia, held in Roanoke, Virginia. Staff co-presented at a pre-conference session, providing an overview of the requirements of the ADA and section 504 in higher education, and participated in two break-out sessions – a case law update and an overview of the Justice Department’s compliance reviews.

Box Bullet On April 10-12, Division staff conducted three workshops at the National ADA Symposium and EXPO in St. Louis, Missouri. The first session outlined the responsibilities of an ADA Coordinator, the second provided an update on the Division’s ADA activities, and the third provided an overview of Project Civic Access and other Department initiatives. Sponsored by the 10 Regional ADA & IT Centers and hosted by the Great Plains Center, the conference was attended by more than 500 people, including state and local government officials, persons with disabilities, business owners, attorneys and architects.

Box Bullet On April 17 and 18, Division staff made three presentations at Ohio State University’s annual conference on Multiple Perspectives on Access, Inclusion, and Disability, held in Columbus, Ohio. One session addressed how a law school class project led to both the founding of an advocacy law center and a career in public service. A second session, “Justice in Higher Education,” co-presented with the president of Disability Access Information and Support (DAIS), addressed the Department’s role in access to higher education. The third, “Where to Tell Your Story,” provided an overview of various agencies’ responsibilities and included a question and answer session with representatives of EEOC, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.

Box Bullet On April 19, Division staff conducted training through a webcast sponsored by the Independent Living Research Utilization’s Disability Law Resource Project, a grant project funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. The presentation provided information on the Department’s Project Civic Access, an initiative designed to increase the accessibility to local government programs and facilities for persons with disabilities.

Box Bullet On April 22, Division staff conducted an all-day training entitled “Rebuilding Communities: Accessibility Requirements Under the ADA and Section 504” to an audience of architects, city planners, disability advocates, local civil rights enforcement officials, and others at Stetson University in Tampa, Florida. This training followed a one-day training on accessibility requirements under the Fair Housing Act. Together, the sessions were sponsored by the Department of Housing and Urban Development as part of its celebration of April as Fair Housing Month. Both sessions were geared towards recovery after a hurricane, flood, or other natural disaster.

Box Bullet On April 21-23, the Division staffed an ADA booth at the Abilities Expo Conference in Edison, New Jersey. Staff answered questions and disseminated ADA information to the conference’s 6000 attendees.

Box Bullet On April 23 -26, the Division staffed a booth and provided ADA technical assistance at the First Annual Conference of the National Organization of Hispanics In Law Enforcement, held in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Box Bullet On April 24 through 27, Division staff made several presentations at the conference of the National Association of ADA Coordinators in Phoenix, Arizona. Topics of these presentations were: Understanding the ABC’s for Accessibility Compliance; Practical Strategies to Avoid Accessibility Charges and Litigation; Blueprints and Best Practices for ADA Coordinators; Emergency Management -- Major Emerging ADA Issue; Issues in Title I Enforcement; and an update on the Section’s enforcement activities under titles I, II, and III of the ADA.

horizontal divider

June 5, 2006