HI, AGAIN, EVERYBODY!!!!!
SINCE we founded "Access Now" in March of 1998, five of our members have passed away. Charter Board Members Shirley Zoloth and Martha Schecter and Members Mark Moyantcheff, Sandra Welner, M.D. and Florence Drosd all left us suddenly and tragically and much too early in their lives. They were all extraordinary people who left this world a much, much better place than the one which they found and we dedicate this Newsletter to their memories!
Update of our Membership - We now have 643 Members in 37 states. Our Board of Directors now stands at 41, our Executive Committee at 7, our Attorneys number 10 (representing 5 law firms) our Consultants number 9 and our Inspectors number 2. We wish to acknowledge the contributions of ALL of them! The support of our Board and our Executive Committee has meant a great deal to us. The attorneys and consultants will be individually singled out below, but at this point we would like to commend the efforts of our Pre-Litigation and Post-Completion Inspectors, Lorraine Lanes and William Bloom, without whom most of our cases could never have begun nor ended. They are responsible for ascertaining that the original complaints are valid and that the settlements ultimately arrived at in each case are actually complied with! Each of our cases has a beginning (the Complaint) a middle (the Litigation) and an end (the Settlement) followed by an Epilogue (the Final Inspection)!
We have much news to report, about some of which we are DELIGHTED and about some of which we are disappointed. Here are some of the highlights:
1. National and Regional Dept. Stores - We have succeeded in settling many, many of these cases, including two Macy's, eight Burdine's and two Bloomingdale's stores in the state of Florida. The Lord and Taylor settlement on a nationwide class basis was ultimately not approved by the Judge but we have settled our case against all the Lord and Taylor stores in the state of Florida. Victoria's Secrets and J.C. Penney have both been resolved. We have also settled with all the BrandsMart stores. Additional cases against Claire's and several other national and regional entities are very close to final settlement. In the case of Claire's, we are awaiting judicial certification of a CLASS ACTION, which will involve over 2,000 stores! We commend our various consultants for their work and our attorney, Matthew Dietz, for his marvelous work, in handling these cases.
2. Cruise Lines - We are thrilled to report that our case against Carnival Cruise Lines, which is a nationwide, class action suit, has been settled! Carnival is now beginning to bring all its 15 ships into compliance and will complete the work within two years! The first ship to be done, the Jubilee, was completed last month! This is a landmark settlement and we are very, very proud of our consultants in this case, Larry Schneider, Richard Londono and David Chapman and our attorney, Matthew Dietz, the work of all of whom was outstanding.
In addition, the work done by the Carnival legal and consulting team was extremely well handled and we congratulate the executives at the Carnival Corp. for their vision in helping "Access Now" to bring about this great step forward for the disabled community! As we continue forward with our cases against the several other cruise lines which we have sued, we truly believe that the Carnival settlement will serve as a model and will spur similar enlightenment among the others!
3. Hospitals - Our two major, nationwide, class-action suits against HCA (formerly known as Columbia ) and Tenet, which were settled quite some time ago, as we informed you in our last Newsletter, are proceeding according to plan in their phased inspections and retro-fitting. Again, we want to remind you that these are the two largest, for-profit hospital chains in the nation and together comprise over 700 acute-care, in/outpatient, rehab facilities and medical office buildings. Kudos are due again to our "gentle warriors", our outstanding team in this case, for their dedicated, brilliant and ongoing work----consultants Larry Schneider and Richard Londono and attorneys Miguel de la O, David Marko and Jennifer Schlussler!
4. Pro Player Stadium - (formerly known as Joe Robbie Stadium) - Sadly, we have lost this case. This entity had been sued twice before, by two other plaintiff groups and the Judge in our case decided that the owners had done enough to bring the stadium into compliance. We did not question that efforts had been made prior to our case in terms of bringing about accessible seating in the stadium; what we did question was the placement of those seats, especially with regard to the fact that the overwhelming majority of those seats were located in the end zones. We felt that the seats should have been more widely dispersed. The Judge did not agree with our point of view and we did not think it financially responsible to expend the additional funds which appealing this case would have required.
5. Sea World and Universal Theme Parks - Sea World has been settled and Universal is very, very close to being finalized.
6. Hotels - We have settled many, many of these, most notably two very large Marriotts, the Dadeland Marriott and the J.W. Marriott, as well as the Sheraton Bal Harbour. Consultants Fred Shotz (re: the Marriotts) and Larry Schneider (re: the Sheraton) did stellar work in these cases and attorneys Stuart Rosenfeldt and Jed Frankel are to be commended for their excellent work in the Sheraton case.
7. Various other entities - We have settled a variety of movie theaters, restaurants (most notably, many Outbacks), stores, banks and markets (Winn-Dixie has been settled and we are awaiting only signatures on the settlement with Sedano's). We applaud the work of attorneys Gregory Schwartz, Robert Switkes, Neil Levinson, Joshua Entin, Stuart Rosenfeldt and Jed Frankel and consultants Larry Schneider, Richard Londono and Fred Shotz for their successful efforts in settling and in continuing to pursue litigation in these many, varied cases. In addition, we have a number of suits pending in various stages of litigation against several airports, taxicab companies, cities and counties. Among these are the Hollywood/Ft. Lauderdale Airport and the Palm Beach Airport, Miami-Dade County and Leon County and the cities of Miami Beach, Miami, Hialeah and Tallahassee. Again, kudos to our attorneys in these cases, Miguel de la O, David Marko, Jennifer Schlussler, Stuart Rosenfeldt, Jed Frankel, Matthew Dietz and Gregory Schwartz. Attorneys Howard Behar and Steven Reininger have undertaken the mission of mounting the first lawsuit against an internet store, Barnes and Noble. We commend them for taking on this daunting task, which we believe will lead to greater Internet Accessibility for the Blind and Visually-Impaired.
8. Miami-Dade County Court House - We are so very pleased to be able to tell you that we have settled this lawsuit. The County had the funds and the expertise to have done this on its own, but sad to say, it took our lawsuit to bring it all about. Fred Shotz was our consultant on this extensive and complicated case and he did a remarkable job. This settlement will add an enormous amount of accessibility throughout the building, including restrooms, courtrooms (including witness boxes, lecterns and attorneys' tables) jury boxes, jury deliberation rooms and much, much more.
9. Fort Lauderdale Air and Sea Show - It is with great excitement that we at "Access Now" are able to announce that we have just settled our suit against this entity! Our consultant on this case was Fred Shotz and our attorney was Matthew Dietz and both of them did their usual fantastic work. This is an annual event and we have been able to arrange for accessibility as follows: special parking for the disabled on a paved lot, accessible transportation, ADA-compliant portable bathrooms, a special viewing area for wheelchair-users along the low wall fronting the beach, so that wheelchair-users' views will no longer be blocked and lowered concession stands (the latter to be completed within a limited specified period of time.) In addition, on the telephone "hotline" for information, as one follows the prompts on the phone "menu" and punches the number for disability questions, "Access Now" will be acknowledged as having been the moving force behind these accessibility arrangements! Also, the promoter of this event, in his printed literature, will acknowledge "Access Now" as his company's ADA consultant! As the attendance of wheelchair-users increases, the promoter will, as part of the settlement agreement, increase the size of the wheelchair-users' special viewing area.
The Air and Sea Show people and "Access Now" sincerely hope that many more persons with disabilities will attend this show in the future! We look forward to meeting you there!
In addition to all of the above, we are delighted to report that we have answered the pleas of so many people from all over the nation to come to their aid in a variety of ways. We have answered people's questions, we have referred them to various attorneys, consultants and organizations, we have helped them with research and all of this continues on a daily basis. Also, thanks to the exhaustive work and travel of attorney Gregory Schwartz and consultants Fred Shotz and Kirk Tcherneshoff, we have responded to various small groups in lots of small towns in Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, New Mexico and California, who have asked us to help them start "mini-chapters" of "Access Now" and we are so very, very pleased and happy with our ability to reach out to those who reach out to us!
If you encounter accessibility problems, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are here to help all of us enforce our CIVIL RIGHTS!
A VERY SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: After four years of first reasoning with some and then finally filing lawsuits against more than 600 entities, we just recently have been asked by one large national corporation to act as its ADA consultant, which means that it intends to bring about compliance in all its venues without the need for going to court! We are extremely gratified by this affirmation of our integrity, our honesty and our expertise!
All in all, despite a few setbacks, we have accomplished a great, great deal of good in the last four years and we are very, very proud of "Access Now"'s achievements, which could not have been arrived at without your continued support of our cause, our mission and our effort to grow and we thank each and every one of you! With all of you behind our efforts, we pledge to maintain our enthusiasm, our energy and our dedication!!!
WE WISH YOU ALL A GREAT NEW YEAR AHEAD!!!
Back to Newsletters