U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Section

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Enforcing the ADA:

A Status Report from the Department of Justice

October - December 2002

This Status Report covers the ADA activities of the Department of Justice during the fourth quarter (October - December) of 2002. This report, previous status reports, and a wide range of other ADA information are available through the Department’s ADA Home Page on the World Wide Web (see page 11). The symbol (**) indicates that the document is available on the .


INSIDE...

ADA Litigation
Formal Settlement Agreements
Other Settlements
Mediation
Technical Assistance
Other Sources of ADA Information
How to File Complaints

 

2002, Issue 4

 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a comprehensive civil rights law for people with disabilities. The Department of Justice enforces the ADA’s requirements in three areas --

Title I: Employment practices by units of State and local government

Title II: Programs, services, and activities of State and local government

Title III: Public accommodations and commercial facilities

 

I. Enforcement

     Through lawsuits and both formal and informal settlement agreements, the Department has achieved greater access for individuals with disabilities in thousands of cases. Under general rules governing lawsuits brought by the Federal Government, the Department of Justice may not file a lawsuit unless it has first unsuccessfully attempted to settle the dispute through negotiations.


A. Litigation

     The Department may file lawsuits in Federal court to enforce the ADA and may obtain court orders including compensatory damages and back pay to remedy discrimination. Under title III the Department may also obtain civil penalties of up to $55,000 for the first violation and $110,000 for any subsequent violation.

1. Decisions

Title III

District Court Rules AMC’s Stadium-Style Theaters Discriminate Against Patrons Who Use Wheelchairs -- The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California ruled in U.S. v. AMC Entertainment, Inc., that the American MultiCinema, Inc., (AMC) movie theater chain violated the ADA by providing accessible seating only in the front rows on the sloped floor of its new stadium-style movie theaters. The Department sued the chain for denying equal access to persons with physical disabilities in over 80 stadium-style movie theater complexes nationwide. The court concluded that AMC violated the ADA by failing to provide its patrons who use wheelchairs with comparable lines of sight to the movie screen. The court held that, while AMC publicizes its stadium-style seating as providing enhanced, unobstructed lines of sight, patrons who use wheelchairs are excluded from the stadium seating section in the vast majority of AMC’s stadium-style theaters and instead are left to sit in the few rows of seating on the sloped-floor closest to the screen. These seats are less popular, offer poor views of the screen, and isolate persons who use wheelchairs from the rest of the movie audience. Other issues remain before the court, including how to remedy the line of sight violations and whether the theaters contain other ADA violations that do not involve line of sight issues, such as protruding objects and the lack of accessible auditorium ramps and signage.

2. Amicus Briefs

     The Department files briefs in selected ADA cases in which it is not a party in order to guide courts in interpreting the ADA.

Title II

** Anderson v. Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority -- In response to a request from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the Department filed answers to questions raised in a lawsuit alleging violations of the ADA’s paratransit requirements by the public transit authority in Rochester, New York. The ADA requires public transit authorities who operate fixed route bus systems to provide comparable paratransit service to individuals with disabilities who are unable to use fixed route service. The Department’s response argued that the ADA regulations require transit providers to design, fund, and implement their paratransit programs to meet 100 percent of the anticipated demand for next-day paratransit service. It also asserted that, even if a transit provider meets this obligation, it will still violate the ADA if actual day-to-day operations result in a substantial number of trip denials that are not beyond the control of the provider. Finally, the Department argued that the determination of how many denials is “substantial” is not based on a specific mathematical formula but rather on a case-by-case analysis given the transit provider’s service profile, including population size and distribution, geography, type of service, and economic base.

** Barrier Busters v. City of Erie
-- The Department filed an amicus brief in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania in a lawsuit alleging that Erie, Pennsylvania, has violated the ADA’s curb cut requirements. The suit alleges that since 1992, when the ADA went into effect, the city of Erie frequently failed to install curb ramps when it performed road and sidewalk construction and alterations. The city admitted it had not installed “thousands” of ramps, but argued that claims involving violations that occurred more than two years before the lawsuit was filed on June 26, 2002, were barred because of the statute of limitations. The Department argued in its amicus brief that Erie’s consistent practice of violating the ADA’s curb cut requirement was a “continuing violation” and that the court could address all the discriminatory acts involved, not just those occurring during the two-year period before the lawsuit.

Radaszewski v. Garner -- The Department filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit arguing that, even if a court holds that a State agency is itself protected from suit by Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity, the plaintiff may sue officials of the agency in their official capacity for an order requiring them to comply with the ADA. The plaintiff brought suit on behalf of her son, who is an individual with disabilities, against the director of the Illinois Department of Public Aid, in her official capacity, alleging that a reduction in Medicaid benefits violated title II of the ADA. Because of his disabilities, the plaintiff’s son requires nursing care around the clock. When he turned 21, Illinois sought to reduce Medicaid reimbursement funding for in-home nursing care to such an extent that he would have to be placed in an institution in order to receive the care that he requires. The Department’s brief argued that the district court’s dismissal of the case should be reversed and that an earlier decision of the Seventh Circuit preventing suits against State officials in their official capacity should be overruled.

Title III

Meineker v. Hoyts Cinemas Corporation--The Department filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in support of a lawsuit brought by two individuals who use wheelchairs alleging that the location of wheelchair spaces in the Hoyts Cinemas chain’s stadium-style movie theaters violates the ADA requirements for comparable lines of sight and integrated seating. The wheelchair seating in most Hoyts theaters is in front of the stadium-style seating and is very close to the screen. The result is that wheelchair users in these theaters are forced to look up at the screen at sharp angles, often resulting in severe discomfort and distorted views. In addition, because the wheelchair spaces are not located in the stadium-style portion of the theater, wheelchair users are segregated from most other patrons. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York held that the comparable line of sight regulation requires an analysis of viewing angles and not just whether the sight line is obstructed. The court concluded, however, that Hoyts complied with the ADA because the accessible seating, while not in the stadium part of the theater, was still far enough back to provide comparable sight lines and integrated seating. On appeal the Department argued in its amicus brief that Hoyts wheelchair seating did not comply with the ADA because the ADA requires wheelchair users to be provided lines of sight within the range of viewing angles offered to most patrons of the cinema and seating that is integrated into the elevated, stadium portion of the auditorium.

** Barker v. Emory University -- The Department filed an amicus brief in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia arguing that campus housing is covered by the ADA. The plaintiffs, a student at the Emory University School of Law and a disability rights advocacy group, sued Emory claiming that a number of facilities on its campus are inaccessible, including a new student apartment complex owned and operated by the university. Emory asked the court to dismiss the case, arguing that the apartment complex and other dormitories on campus are not covered by title III of the ADA because they are “strictly residential.” The Department’s amicus brief argued that the apartment complex and other dormitories on campus are covered by title III as places of public accommodation because they are facilities, privileges, advantages and accommodations of a “place of education.”


B. Formal Settlement Agreements

     The Department sometimes resolves cases without filing a lawsuit by means of formal written settlement agreements.

Title II

** More Project Civic Access Agreements --The Department has signed two additional agreements under the Department’s Project Civic Access initiative, a wide-ranging effort to ensure that cities, counties, towns, and villages comply with the ADA. Project Civic Access is dedicated to removing barriers to all aspects of civic life, including courthouses, libraries, polling places, police stations, and parks. The new agreements cover --

Bismarck, North Dakota; and
Burlington, Vermont

Fifty-two agreements have been signed to date. They require communities, depending on local circumstances, to --

New Hanover Regional Medical Center, New Hanover, North Carolina --The Department reached an agreement with the New Hanover Regional Medical Center resolving a complaint that the Center’s hospital did not have an operating TTY for public use in its facility. The Center agreed to provide TTY’s in public area telephone banks, areas adjacent to the emergency department, and on request in patient rooms. The Center also agreed to post signs indicating the location of available TTY’s for members of the public who are deaf or hard of hearing and to pay $2,500 to the complainant.

Red Bank, New Jersey -- The Department entered into an agreement with the Borough of Red Bank requiring it to ensure the accessibility of its programs in a wide range of facilities, including a library, senior center, parks, parking lots, and municipal offices. Red Bank also agreed to provide effective communication, including appropriate auxiliary aids and services, implement an ADA grievance procedure, and publish a notice informing the public of its ADA rights.

Guernsey County, Ohio -- The Department of Justice reached an agreement with Guernsey County, Ohio, to ensure that county programs, services, and activities are accessible to persons with disabilities. The county agreed to make physical changes to a wide range of facilities, including the law enforcement center, the county fairgrounds, the engineer’s office building, the county courthouse, the water department, the dog pound, and the human services and health buildings. In addition, the settlement requires Guernsey County to ensure compliance of its new senior citizens center with the new construction requirements of the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. The county also agreed to adopt policies and procedures for providing accessibility and accommodations in the county court system and establish an ADA grievance procedure.

Laramie, Wyoming -- The Department entered into a settlement agreement with Laramie, Wyoming, to ensure that persons who use wheelchairs are provided the same level of access to the city’s “Skate Park” (used by skateboarders) as the general public. The city agreed to provide an accessible route from the street and the parking lot to the park.

Essex County, New Jersey -- The Department entered into an agreement with Essex County, New Jersey, resolving a complaint alleging that the county courthouse complex is not accessible to people with mobility impairments. The county agreed to provide accessible parking, signage, public telephones, interior doors, and toilet rooms. The agreement also requires the county to provide five designated accessible courtrooms with designated accessible seating and access to jury and witness boxes. In addition, the county agreed to make universal lift keys available to the public at each public entrance to provide independent operation of platform lifts; implement procedures to allow individuals with mobility impairments who are visiting inmates housed at the detention center to utilize an alternate accessible visitation room; and provide signage indicating the location of accessible courtrooms and courtrooms equipped with assistive listening devices.

** Quincy, Massachusetts -- The Department reached an agreement with Quincy, Massachusetts, to improve accessibility at a wide range of municipal facilities, including city hall, libraries, community and health centers, police headquarters, and administrative offices at a commercial mall. The city agreed to make physical modifications so that parking, entrances, public telephones, restrooms, service and concession counters, drinking fountains, park picnic tables and ball fields, and police holding cells are accessible; install an assistive listening system in the police training academy; establish procedures and sources for providing auxiliary aids and services to ensure effective communication; adopt and publicize an ADA grievance procedure; and provide directional signage and information about the city’s accessible entrances, programs, services, and activities.

Department of Parks and Recreation, Indianapolis, Indiana -- The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana entered into an agreement with the Indianapolis Department of Parks and Recreation resolving a complaint filed by a golfer who alleged that the city’s Eagle Creek Golf Course violated the ADA because of an inadequate number of accessible parking spaces, inaccessible features in its clubhouse, and the failure to provide an accessible golf cart. In order to ensure program accessibility, the city, which owns and operates 13 public courses, agreed to purchase and provide two different models of individual golf carts that permit a golfer to play from a seated position. These carts will be available at any of the city courses upon advance request and will be rented for the same price as a regular golf cart. The city also agreed to monitor demand for the accessible carts and, if at the end of the 2003 golfing season the number of requests exceeds supply, the city will purchase additional carts. In addition, the city modified parking lots at all 13 city-owned courses to provide accessible parking, and at Eagle Creek agreed to install appropriate signage in the snack bar area and train snack bar staff on their ADA obligations.

Superior Court, Windsor County, Vermont --The Department entered into a settlement agreement with Windsor County Superior Court resolving a complaint by a deaf individual that he lost his case because the court did not provide a sign language interpreter at a hearing. The court agreed to implement a policy on ensuring effective communication, including providing appropriate auxiliary aids and services, and to train its personnel on the requirements of the policy. The court will also publish a notice on hearing notices, jury summons, witness subpoenas, and other documents explaining how to request accommodations.

Mayfield Village, Ohio -- The Department entered an agreement requiring Mayfield Village, Ohio, to make the programs, services, and activities conducted at its community building accessible to people with disabilities. The village agreed to install accessible parking spaces with appropriate signage and provide accessible entrances and toilet rooms at the building.

Sheriff’s Office, Walton County, Georgia --The Department reached an agreement with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office resolving a complaint alleging a failure to provide a sign language interpreter for communicating with a deaf individual arrested and held in jail. The settlement requires the sheriff’s office to implement a policy for providing appropriate auxiliary aids and services when necessary to ensure effective communication with inmates, detainees, arrestees, and members of the public.

Mason Municipal Court, Warren County, Ohio -- The Department entered an agreement with the Mason Municipal Court resolving a complaint by a criminal defendant alleging difficulties in obtaining a free oral interpreter at trial. The court agreed to establish a policy for providing appropriate auxiliary aids to ensure effective communication with people who are deaf or hard of hearing and to train its staff on implementing the policy.

Title III

Days Inn, Mountain City, Tennessee -- Days Inn of Mountain City, Tennessee, agreed to remove barriers in four guestrooms to ensure that they are fully accessible to people with mobility impairments and to people who are deaf or hard of hearing. The hotel also will maintain a TTY at the facility’s front desk and train employees on TTY etiquette and the availability and proper installation of TTY’s, portable visual alarms, and visual notification devices for guest rooms.

New Hampshire Speedway, Loudon, New Hampshire -- The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Hampshire reached a settlement agreement to improve accessibility at the New Hampshire Speedway. The Speedway hosts several motorcycle and auto races each year, including two annual NASCAR-sponsored events that each draw more than 100,000 persons to the track. As a result of the U.S. Attorney’s compliance review and settlement, New Hampshire Speedway, Inc., has installed the appropriate number of accessible parking spaces, provided accessible shuttles from remote parking lots, lowered 11 concession stand counters, extensively modified 11 restrooms to be more accessible, and provided wheelchair seating locations equal to one percent of total seating in altered grandstand areas.

Cock and Bull Restaurant, Lahaska, Pennsylvania -- An individual with multiple sclerosis who uses a service animal for balance and mobility assistance complained that the Cock and Bull Restaurant required her to leave the restaurant because of her service animal. The restaurant agreed to adopt a policy allowing customers to be accompanied by service animals. It also agreed to post the new policy in a conspicuous place in the restaurant, provide annual ADA training to its employees, and update its employee handbook to include a section on service animals. In addition the restaurant agreed to pay the complainant $2,500 in damages.

Tracy’s Hair and Sun Stop, Lewisburg, Tennessee -- The Department entered into a settlement agreement with Tracy’s Hair and Sun Stop, a newly constructed and altered beauty shop and tanning salon, to correct violations of the ADA’s Standards for Accessible Design. The settlement requires the salon to provide a van-accessible parking space close to the entrance, install a ramp and modify the doorway to make the entrance accessible, and provide an accessible unisex toilet room.

Hughes Research Laboratories, Malibu, California -- The Department entered into a settlement agreement with the Hughes Research Laboratories in order to ensure compliance with the alterations and new construction requirements of the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. Hughes agreed to modify two newly constructed facilities to make certain exterior elements accessible, including parking, curb ramps, ramps, and platform lifts. Hughes will also modify interior elements to be accessible, including signage at permanent rooms, visual and audible alarms, toilet rooms, toilet stalls, dispensers, hand rails, public telephones, drinking fountains, door hardware, doorway clear opening width, and maneuvering space at doorways.


C. Other Settlements

     The Department resolves numerous cases without litigation or a formal settlement agreement. In some instances, the public accommodation, commercial facility, or State or local government promptly agrees to take the necessary actions to achieve compliance. In others, extensive negotiations are required. Following are some examples of what has been accomplished through informal settlements.

Title II

Title III


II. Mediation

     Under a contract with the Department of Justice, The Key Bridge Foundation receives referrals of complaints under titles II and III for mediation by professional mediators who have been trained in the legal requirements of the ADA. An increasing number of people with disabilities and disability rights organizations are specifically requesting the Department to refer their complaints to mediation. More than 450 professional mediators are available nationwide to mediate ADA cases. Over 75 percent of the cases in which mediation has been completed have been successfully resolved. Following are recent examples of results reached through mediation.


III. Technical Assistance

     The ADA requires the Department of Justice to provide technical assistance to businesses, State and local governments, and individuals with rights or responsibilities under the law. The Department provides education and technical assistance through a variety of means to encourage voluntary compliance. Our activities include providing direct technical assistance and guidance to the public through our ADA Information Line, ADA Home Page, and Fax on Demand, developing and disseminating technical assistance materials to the public, undertaking outreach initiatives, and coordinating ADA technical assistance governmentwide.

ADA Home Page -- ada.gov

The ADA Home Page is operated by the Department on the Internet’s World Wide Web at www.ada.gov. The home page provides information about --

The home page also provides direct access to --

ADA Information Line

The Department of Justice operates a toll-free ADA Information Line to provide information and publications to the public about the requirements of the ADA. Automated service, which allows callers to listen to recorded information and to order publications for delivery by mail or fax, is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. ADA specialists are available on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. and on Thursday from 12:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. (Eastern Time) to answer questions about the ADA’s requirements and how they apply to specific situations. Spanish language service is also available.

To obtain general ADA information, get answers to technical questions, order free ADA materials, or ask about filing a complaint, please call:

800-514-0301 (voice)
800-514-0383 (TTY)

ADA Fax On Demand

The ADA Information Line Fax Delivery Service allows the public to obtain free ADA information by fax 24 hours a day, seven days a week. By calling the number above and following the directions, callers can select from among 34 different ADA technical assistance publications and receive the information, usually within minutes, directly on their fax machines or computer fax/modems. A list of available documents and their code numbers may also be ordered through the ADA Information Line.

Publications and Documents

Copies of the Department’s ADA regulations and publications, including the Technical Assistance Manuals for titles II and III, can be obtained by calling the ADA Information Line, visiting the ADA Home Page, or writing to the address listed below. All materials are available in standard print as well as large print, Braille, audiotape, or computer disk for persons with disabilities.

U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Disability Rights Section - NYAV
Washington, D.C. 20530

Some publications are available in foreign languages. For further information please call the ADA Information Line.

Copies of the legal documents and settlement agreements mentioned in this publication can be obtained by writing to --

U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
FOIA Branch, NALC Room 311
Washington, D.C. 20530

Fax: 202-514-6195

Currently, the FOI/PA Branch maintains approximately 10,000 pages of ADA material. The records are available at a cost of $0.10 per page (first 100 pages free). Please make your requests as specific as possible in order to minimize your costs.

The FOI/PA Branch also provides access to ADA materials on the World Wide Web (www.usdoj.gov/crt/foia/records.htm). A link to search or visit this website is provided from the ADA Home Page.


IV. Other Sources of ADA Information

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission offers technical assistance to the public concerning the employment provisions of title I of the ADA.

ADA publications
800-669-3362 (voice)
800-800-3302 (TTY)

ADA questions
800-669-4000 (voice)
800-669-6820 (TTY)

www.eeoc.gov

The Federal Communications Commission offers technical assistance to the public concerning the communication provisions of title IV of the ADA.

ADA publications and questions
888-225-5322 (voice)
888-835-5322 (TTY)

www.fcc.gov/cgb/dro

U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration

ADA Assistance Line for regulations
and complaints
888-446-4511 (voice/relay)

www.fta.dot.gov/ada

The U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, or Access Board, offers technical assistance to the public on the ADA Accessibility Guidelines.

ADA publications and questions
800-872-2253 (voice)
800-993-2822 (TTY)

www.access-board.gov

The Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers are funded by the U.S. Department of Education through the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) in ten regions of the country to provide resources and technical assistance on the ADA.

ADA technical assistance
800-949-4232 (voice & TTY)

www.adata.org

Project ACTION is funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation to provide ADA information and publications on making transportation accessible.

Information on accessible transportation
800-659-6428 (voice/relay)
202-347-3066 (voice)
202-347-7385 (TTY)

www.projectaction.org

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is a free telephone consulting service funded by the U.S. Department of Labor. It provides information and advice to employers and people with disabilities on reasonable accommodation in the workplace.

Information on workplace accommodation
800-526-7234 (voice & TTY)

www.jan.wvu.edu


V. How to File Complaints

Title I

     Complaints about violations of title I (employment) by units of State and local government or by private employers should be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Call 800-669-4000 (voice) or 800-669-6820 (TTY) to reach the field office in your area.

Titles II and III

Complaints about violations of title II by units of State and local government or violations of title III by public accommodations and commercial facilities should be filed with --

U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Disability Rights Section - NYAV
Washington, D.C. 20530

If you wish your complaint to be considered for referral to the Department’s ADA Mediation Program, please mark “Attention: Mediation” on the outside of the envelope.



The Attorney General has determined that publication of this periodical is necessary in the transaction of the public business required by law of the Department of Justice.



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December 29, 2005