HELLO, AGAIN, EVERYBODY!!!!!
SINCE our last update of January, 2002, we have a great deal of news to report. Sadly, we must tell you of the passing away of Bernard Michelson, an extremely close, long-time friend of the Resnicks, and one of the Charter members of our Board of Directors. Bernard was the husband of Estelle Michelson, of our Executive Committee. Bernie was a quiet, guiding force and calming voice, who, though he did not possess a vote, often attended our Executive Committee meetings, ostensibly only for the purpose of accompanying Estelle, but he was also intensely interested in all our work. He will be sorely missed and we dedicate this Newsletter to his memory!
WE WOULD also like to acknowledge here the passing of the extraordinary civil rights activist, Justin Dart. Justin was known, among other wonderful things, as the “Father of the A.D.A.”! He was and remains an inspiration to all those who strive to achieve the realization of civil rights in general and the rights of the disabled in particular and his legacy will remain a beacon of light and justice! We would suggest that you log on to www.adawatch.org for the completely amazing biography of this remarkable man and for his eloquent, moving, compelling final words!
Update of Our Membership - We now have over 700 members in 39 states (soon to be 50, we hope!) plus Australia, Hong Kong and Puerto Rico. Our Board of Directors now stands at 40, our Executive Committee stands at 7, our Attorneys number 14, representing 9 law firms, our Consultants number 6, representing 5 firms and we have one Inspector. (We want to acknowledge here our debt to our Board of Directors and our Executive Committee for their support, their encouragement and their many kinds of contributions to our effort!)
Continuing Large Cases - Our nation-wide, class-action lawsuits against approximately 700 hospitals and related medical entities owned and/or operated by the four largest, for-profit hospital chains are proceeding very well. Also, our lawsuits against most of the largest cruise ship lines are moving along well and we are hopeful of being able to report to you in the not-too-distant future that those cases are settled!
PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT MOST OF THE DEFENDANTS, IN NON-CLASS ACTION SUITS, INSIST ON CONFIDENTIALITY AS PART OF THE TERMS OF THE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENTS WHICH WE REACH WITH THEM. Here are some of the highlights which we CAN give you of our accomplishments since the last Newsletter:
1. Claire’s Stores - This is a chain of stores numbering some 2,200 locations nationwide. They are mostly situated in the nation’s largest and best-known shopping malls. They are, for the most part, frequented by pre-teen and teenage girls and carry mainly jewelry, accessories, novelties, etc. This case has been certified as a Class-Action and the process of bringing the stores into ADA compliance is underway. We are extremely pleased about this accomplishment, as it touches on the lives of so many disabled young girls (or their accompanying disabled parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, etc.)!
2. Brookstone’s Stores - This, too is a large, nationwide chain of stores located in most major malls. There is a Motion pending before the Court for Class-Action Certification and we are looking forward to that being granted.
3. AAA (American Automobile Association) - Having received numerous complaints from “Access Now” members about the lack of accessible transportation for disabled persons in cases of road emergencies (and the Resnicks themselves having personally experienced five such situations) we are in the process of starting litigation against AAA, the purpose of which is to achieve the provision of accessible transportation for disabled persons who are stranded during highway emergencies. We believe this to be an extremely worthy goal and look forward to the accomplishment of a great deal of good in this regard!
4. 7-11 Stores - We are embarking on litigation against a large number of these stores in the state of Florida and have numerous “Access Now” members who have expressed their interest in being plaintiffs in this suit.
5. Ft. Lauderdale Airport - This suit is presently in litigation.
6. Palm Beach Airport - We are happy to be able to tell you that this lawsuit is on the verge of being settled as we write this!
7. City of Hollywood, Florida - This suit involved the City Hall and the various parks and recreation areas of the City. This has been a particularly lengthy and hard-fought piece of litigation, involving several months of negotiation, followed by many weeks of mediation (comprising in excess of 7 full days of mediation conferences) and we are extremely pleased to be able to state that, at its meeting of July 17, 2002 the Hollywood City Commission officially approved the Settlement Agreement which has been reached and we await only signatures!
8. Barnes and Noble - INTERNET SITE - We are very excited by this piece of litigation! It is the first of its kind, involving as it does the internet site of a “bricks and mortar” store. This lawsuit has resulted in Barnes and Noble embarking on bringing their website into compliance under the ADA, which means that blind persons will be able to shop on this website by means of a SCREEN READER. This suit has been settled and we couldn’t be more pleased or gratified!
Pursuant to the terms of the settlement, “Access Now” and barnes and noble.com have reached a resolution of all issues related to the barnesandnoble.com Website. “Access Now” and barnesandnoble.com are pleased that they were able to work together to reach an agreement that will help provide individuals with visual impairments improved access to the Website to purchase merchandise and services. By agreeing to resolve this dispute, barnesandnoble.com has not admitted any liability.”
KUDOS to our attorneys on this case, Steven Reininger and Howard Behar, of the firm of Rasco, Reininger, Perez and Esquinazi of Coral Gables, Florida, for their outstanding work in this case! Steve and Howard retained the services of a highly acknowledged consultant in internet technology for the blind and the result has been spectacular!
(There are additional suits of this type pending and we look forward to being able to inform you of the positive outcomes of those suits as well!)
9. Dodgertown - This facility is the spring training headquarters of the Los Angeles Dodgers Baseball Team and is located in Vero Beach, Florida. In addition to the training facilities, there are stadia, meeting rooms, bars, restaurant and hotel rooms, all of which are open to the public and at which persons who love baseball may meet, mingle with and play with and opposite the “old-timers” of baseball during special “camps” which are run for this purpose. We are very happy to report that this suit, which calls for accessibility to all the premises for those persons who are disabled and who wish to be spectators or who otherwise wish to avail themselves of the various components at this facility (such as the rental of the meeting and dining rooms, for example), is well on its way towards being settled and we couldn’t be much happier!
10. Cities and Counties - (As related to curb cuts, crosswalks, sidewalks and roadways): Regarding these issues, we have litigation pending against the cities of Miami and of Stuart (FL). With regard to these same issues, we are delighted to be able to report that our lawsuit against the city of Tallahassee, AS WELL AS THE COUNTY OF LEON, has been settled!!!
BEYOND ALL OF THE ABOVE, we are delighted to report that we continue to receive inquiries and pleas for assistance from disabled persons throughout the nation and that we have responded as best we possibly can in rendering the needed services to those persons. We receive membership forms virtually daily and so we continue to grow!
ADDITIONALLY, one of our consultants, one of our attorneys and one of our most active members, who is a former Miss Wheelchair Alabama, have together received an invitation to make a verbal and visual presentation (slide show, etc. of “before and after” pictures of barriers and violations of the A.D.A., etc.) to the Miss Wheelchair U.S.A. Pageant! This was, of course, a totally unexpected occurrence and we look forward to our colleagues’ report about this event, which is due to take place sometime very soon this summer!
WE WOULD ALSO LIKE TO REPORT that the small groups around the country which have, in effect, formed “mini-chapters” of “Access Now” (in California, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas and Maryland) are proceeding ahead with working to bring their communities into better compliance with the A.D.A. and we are highly gratified by their involvement and their accomplishments!
ONE OF THE EVER-GROWING AREAS of accessibility violations is with regard to the proliferation of service animals and we have been contacted by many, many people about the ignorance of, or refusal to abide by, the A.D.A. laws as related to service animals, on the part of various business establishments. We are responding to these complaints, too, as best we possibly can, in assisting these persons to fight for and to achieve their CIVIL RIGHT to be accompanied to places of public accommodations by their service animals!
Remember, if you encounter accessibility problems, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are here to help all of us enforce our CIVIL RIGHTS!
FINALLY, WE WANT TO INFORM YOU THAT “ACCESS NOW” HAS REACHED A MILESTONE! We have several suits which have been settled and in which “time up” has been reached by the Defendants in those suits, in terms of the remediation required under the various Settlement Agreements! Therefore, we are now at the point where Post-Completion Inspections are due to begin. The arrival at this point is a matter of great gratification and we hope to be able to begin reporting to you in our next Newsletter that those inspections are yielding positive and fruitful results!
WE WISH TO TAKE THIS OPPORTUNITY to acknowledge our appreciation to our attorneys and consultants for their brilliant, dynamic, dedicated work in helping all of us to achieve our goal of bringing as much accessibility as possible to as many disabled persons as possible! We are ALL truly indebted to them!
ALSO, a word of gratitude and indebtedness to our Computer “Guru”, Gregory Arkin, (who is also a charter member of our Board of Directors) without whose tireless devotion ABSOLUTELY NONE OF WHAT WE DO WOULD BE POSSIBLE IN THE LEAST!
AS ALWAYS, we want to express to all our members, and most especially to those of you who are our “activists”, our gratitude for your support and your encouragement of our cause, our mission and our effort to grow! Without that, the strides we have made could not have been achieved. With all of you behind our efforts, we pledge to maintain our enthusiasm, our energy and our dedication!!!
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