AND NOW . . . THE UPDATE
We now have 938 members representing 47 states and Puerto Rico. We are also proud to claim members in Canada, Hong Kong, Australia and Pakistan.
A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF OUR LITIGATION
Since our September Newsletter, Access Now, Inc.® has made progress in settling cases. We have filed a total of 977 cases since our inception. Presently, there are 144 cases with outstanding Settlement Agreements, requiring alterations or modifications which in several cases should be completed by August 15, 2012, or later. (Cases involving hospitals and other large or complex facilities have post-settlement compliance completion dates much further in the future.)
During the past five months, Access Now has entered into 5 additional settlements to make properties A.D.A.-compliant. They include:
Access Now® continues to assert itself nationally in scope. The 5 settlements are all in the state of Colorado.
We will keep expanding our geographical presence as best we can as we continue to receive requests for information and assistance from around the country and internationally. Please notify us if you become aware of situations where access continues to be denied. We remain solidly in the forefront of the fight for accessibility.
The following is a brief listing of the cases that have been settled since our last newsletter:
Hospitals (# of beds
|Swedish Medical Center (368)||Englewood||CO|
|North Suburban Medical Center (157)||Thornton||CO|
|Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center (680)||Denver||CO|
|Rose Medical Center (422)||Denver||CO|
|Sky Ridge Medical Center (185)||Lone Tree||CO|
There are some cases that are especially important because of their value as precedents or because they remove significant numbers or types of barriers. Several of those types of cases are listed below. Please remember that most defendants in non-class action cases insist on confidentiality as a condition of signing settlement agreements. Therefore, we cannot discuss those cases by name, although they number quite a few. However, several of them are included in the cases listed above.
We continue to make significant progress in this area. The total of 5 HCA-HealthOne facilities listed in this newsletter brings to 187 the total adjudicated at Fair Hearings over the past three years. The 5 facilities have a total of 1,812 beds in Colorado. As a consequence over 39,000 beds have now been made accessible or are in the process of being made accessible because of our legal action.
We continue to be actively involved in cases involving medical institutions because of our strong belief that they constitute one of the most important ways to enhance the quality of life of the disabled community. These hospital settlements will make a great difference to members of our community. The settlements show that the ADA can work when there are dedicated advocates and attorneys using it for our benefit.
NEW HOSPITAL PROJECT
We are excited to announce a NEW accessible healthcare project on which Access Now, Inc.® is embarking together with one of the law firms with which we work , de la O, Marko, Magolnick and Leyton. THIS IS IN ADDITION TO THE HOSPITAL CASES ON WHICH WE HAVE BEEN WORKING FOR MANY LONG YEARS WITH GREAT SUCCESS, THIS PROJECT WILL ADD MANY MORE HUNDREDS OF HOSPITALS TO THOSE WHICH WE ARE TRYING SO HARD TO MAKE ADA-COMPLIANT!
We can think of no other field in which accessibility could possibly be more important than that of the healthcare field. To that end, WE NEED YOUR HELP! The lists below include the following hospital companies: (1) Health Management Associates (“HMA”), (2) Community Health Systems (“CHS”) and (3) Catholic Healthcare East (“CHE”). Unlike the other two, the HMA list includes the hospital facilities and ALL of the other medical facilities (clinics, surgery centers, etc.) that HMA owns and operates. As you will see from the list, they have an extremely heavy market presence in Florida, but are also located in 14 other states, including Pennsylvania, where their market presence rivals their Florida market presence. CHS is the company which acquired TRIAD (44 facilities) and at present, they have over 120 hospital facilities that they own and operate throughout the U.S. CHE owns and operates HOLY CROSS HOSPITAL in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and also has a very heavy market presence in the Tampa Bay area.
HERE IS HOW YOU CAN HELP: If you have used or are planning to use or if you are in the geographical area (i.e., the 911 area code) of any of the medical facilities listed below (or ANY other hospital or medical facility where you have either encountered or are aware of accessibility difficulties, whether related to physical barriers of any kind or to vision or hearing impairment problems) PLEASE LET US KNOW.
You may reach us either by phone (305-705-0059) or email (phyllis@ adaaccessnow.org) or postal mail (Access Now, Inc.®, 19333 West Country Club Drive, #1522, Aventura, Florida 33180). Your assistance in this project is vital! We are all in the disabled accessibility battle TOGETHER, and TOGETHER we can make significant strides in finally, FINALLY bringing various entities, both private and public, ESPECIALLY HOSPITALS, into compliance with the ADA, a civil rights law now in existence for almost 22 years (passed in 1990)!
Please carefully peruse the following 3 lists and join with us in this most important effort!! THANK YOU AND ALL BEST WISHES!
HEALTH MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATES
List of Facilities:
Riverview Reg’l Med. Center, Gadsden
Stringfellow Memorial Hospital, Anniston
Marvin Altman Fitness Center, Fort Smith
Sleep Disorders Center, Fort Smith
Sparks Plaza, Fort Smith
Sparks PremierCare, Fort Smith
Sparks Reg’l Med. Center, Fort Smith
Summit Med. Center, Van Buren
Bartow Reg’l Med. Center, Bartow
Brooksville Reg’l Hospital, Brooksville
Center for Wound Care & Hyperbaric Medicine, Pace
Center for Wound Healing & Hyperbaric Medicine, Zephyrhills
Charlotte Reg’l Med. Center, Punta Gorda
Chronic Pain Mgt. Center – Dr. D. Haber, Venice
dePoo Medical Building, Key West
Dunnellon Diagnostic Center, Dunnellon
Gulf Coast Med. Group – Central Billing Office, Venice
Gulf Coast Med. Group – Dr. Eric Reintsema, North Port
Gulf Coast Med. Group – Dr. Sohail Shariff, Venice
Gulf Coast Med. Group – Endocrinology, Venice
COMMUNITY HEALTH SYSTEMS
List of Facilities:
Cherokee Medical Center, Centre
Crestwood Medical. Center, Huntsville
DeKalb Reg’l Medical Center, Fort Payne
Flowers Hospital, Dothan
Gadsden Reg’l Medical Center, Gadsden
LV Stabler Memorial Hospital, Greenville
Medical Center Enterprise, Enterprise
South Baldwin Regional Medical Center, Foley
Trinity Medical Center, Birmingham
Mat-Su Regional Medical Center, Palmer
Northwest Medical Center, Tucson
Oro Valley Hospital, Oro Valley
Payson Reg’l Medical Center, Payson
Western Arizona Regional Medical Center, Bullhead City
Forrest City Medical Center, Forrest City
Harris Hospital, Newport
Helena Reg’l Medical Center, Helena
Medical Center of South Arkansas, El Dorado
Northwest Medical Center – Bentonville, Bentonville
Northwest Medical Center – Springdale, Springdale
Siloam Springs Memorial Hospital, Siloam Springs
Willow Creek Women’s Hospital, Johnson
Barstow Community Hospital, Barstow
Fallbrook Hospital, Fallbrook
Watsonville Community Hospital, Watsonville
Lake Wales Medical Center, Lake Wales
North Okaloosa Medical Center, Crestview
Fannin Regional Hospital, Blue Ridge
CATHOLIC HEALTHCARE EAST
List of Facilities:
Mercy Medical, Daphne
Mercy Community Health, Inc., West Hartford
St. Francis Healthcare Services, Wilmington
BayCare Health System, Clearwater
Includes the following:
BayCare Alliant Hospital, Dunedin;
Mease Countryside Hospital, Clearwater;
Mease Dunedin Hospital, Dunedin
Morton Plant Hospital, Clearwater
Morton Plant N. Bay Hosp., New Port Richey
St. Anthony’s Hospital, St. Petersburg
St. Joseph’s Hospital, Tampa
St. Joseph’s Hospital-North, Lutz
St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, Tampa
St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital, Tampa;
South Florida Baptist Hospital, Plant City
Holy Cross Hospital Fort Lauderdale
St. Mary’s Health Care System, Inc.®, Athens
Saint Joseph’s Health System, Atlanta
Sisters of Providence Health System, Holyoke
Mercy Health System of Maine, Portland
Lourdes Health System, Camden
Saint Michael’s Medical. Center, Newark
St. Francis Medical Center, Trenton
Catholic Health System, Buffalo
St. James Mercy Health System, Hornell
St. Peter’s Health Care Services, Albany
St. Joseph of the Pines, Southern Pines
Maxis Health System, Carbondale
Mercy Health System of S.E. PA, Conshohocken
Pittsburgh Mercy Health System, Pittsburgh
St. Mary Medical Center, Langhorne
City of St. Augustine, Florida
In April 2007 Access Now® settled a case against the City of St. Augustine, Florida. While several improvements have been made, it seems that the city may not meet the April 2012 deadline for completing the required access upgrades. The following article from Folio Weekly (“What’s Your Handicap?”) looks at the progress and travails in the case four years after settlement through the eyes of one of the individual named plaintiffs. Unfortunately, the other two individual plaintiffs in the case have died in the interim. (Also, please note that the plaintiff is listed in the article as “Access Florida”. That is incorrect. The correct plaintiff is, of course, Access Now, Inc.®
What’s Your Handicap?
A disabled advocate leads a hunt for ADA-friendly parking in St. Augustine
By Susan Cooper Eastman email@example.com
Folio Weekly ? October 25-31, 2011
Merrill Roland gives the directions. After 32 years trudging around St. Augustine’s streets — as tour guide, as street performer — he knows every nook, side street and parking lot. Today, we’re on a search for handicapped parking spaces, with a manual wheelchair stowed in the back seat of my 2004 Ford Focus. In a city designed for pedestrians in the late 16th century, disabled access is clearly an afterthought. But Merrill Roland, who is himself disabled (he wears a prosthetic leg), believes the bigger obstacle to mobility is the lack of designated parking spaces, signage and curb cuts for wheelchairs.
Roland, a well-known city gadfly with a penchant for drama, notes that there is not a single designated handicapped space around the city’s Plaza de la Constitución or along its bayfront, even though both areas have reserved spaces for taxis, tourist trolleys, delivery trucks and horse-drawn carriages. Even in the city’s public parking lots, handicapped spaces are frequently hard to find. (The blue paint marking one space near City Hall is so worn, it’s hard to tell if it predates the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, and might be swabbed with blue striping for some other reason.) “I can’t believe in this time and day . . . ,” Roland marvels.
The issue of accessibility in St. Augustine isn’t just one person’s lament. It was the subject of a three-year lawsuit brought by Access Florida (sic Access Now®) and three disabled men (including Roland) in reaction to the city’s noncompliance with federal ADA requirements. The city settled the suit in April 2007 by promising to spend $650,000 in five years upgrading access, including providing handicap-accessible curb cuts “to the maximum extent feasible.” So far, the city has spent $457,000, with one more year to reach compliance in April 2012. But one of the lawyers who represented the ADA plaintiffs says the city still has serious compliance issues. Miami attorney Charles Ferguson (representing Access Now®) says he will be sending the city of St. Augustine a notice of violation soon. He didn’t want to comment further without reviewing the procedure for notification in the settlement, but he did say that eight downtown streets lack proper curb cuts at intersections.
Back in the Ford Focus, Roland homes in on the unpaved Tolomato Lot off Orange Street, muddy from days of rain. “. There used to be a handicapped space back here,” Roland says, pointing toward the back of the lot. . There is indeed a dirt space marked with a handicapped sign, but if there’s an old concrete slab buried beneath the dirt, it would require an archeological dig to uncover. Once the car’s parked, I climb into the wheelchair and attempt to exit the lot. Moving requires the upper body strength of a gymnast. Not only that, muddy ruts in front of the space and large puddles block the way out. After sticking in and lunging forward across the mud, I reach the driveway ramp to Spanish Street. From my wheelchair perspective, it looks like something designed for a skateboard. The drop between the driveway and the street is steep and impossible to cross. Coming or going, the concrete gap between the exit and the street is enough to topple me face-first, or knock me backwards. To be fair, the Tolomato lot also features two smooth concrete pads with the handicapped wheelchair symbol prominently displayed at the entrance, but that’s a local Eagle Scout’s project, not the city’s.
Roland got along fine when he moved to here in 1987, when he was 34 years old. His own disability (a deformed leg caused by the thalidomide his mother was prescribed for morning sickness when pregnant) appears mild; he’s able to ride a motorcycle and limps now only when he’s tired. Though he’s experienced discrimination, his concerns about ADA compliance began after he met Robert Jones. A paraplegic who’d retired to St. Augustine, Jones found the crumbling city streets nearly impassible in a wheelchair. He died before the lawsuit he and another handicapped man (also deceased) filed was settled, but Roland continues the fight they began together — sometimes vocally — and never misses an opportunity to raise the issue. On Oct. 5, Roland called into the WJCT radio show “First Coast Connect” when guest St. Augustine Mayor Joe Boles was speaking about the city’s planned Civil Rights museum. Roland complimented the city on its commitment to Civil Rights, but observed it continues to violate the rights of the disabled.
Boles could hardly contain his disdain. “That’s Merrill Roland,” he told host Melissa Ross dismissively. “He’s a local guy that comes up front all the time [at City Commission meetings]. We appreciate his willingness to listen to WJCT and calling in… But let me assure you, we have everything there is, and he is the only one who complains.” Boles did not address the core of Roland’s complaint, however — that the city still has no handicapped parking around the Plaza de la Constitución or along the Bayfront; the ADA doesn’t currently require it. That may change soon, however. Public Works Director Martha Graham says pending revisions to ADA law would require that cities designate at least one handicapped space per block, or four in a square-block area. “Right now we are compliant,” says Graham, though she acknowledges, “We do have room to grow.” Roland says there are simple ways the city could make life easier for disabled visitors, such as providing a map of handicapped parking at St. Augustine Visitor’s Center — something the city was required to do within 90 days of the settlement agreement, but has yet to accomplish (4½ years later). The city also doesn’t let disabled tourists know that anyone with a handicapped card can park anywhere for free. Roland says that information could be added to the map. But Mayor Boles says improving accessibility is not a priority for him or the city. “We have [handicapped spaces] everywhere and people are pretty good about finding them,” he told Folio Weekly. “And other than Merrill, certainly no one is coming before the commission and saying they want more.”
Brookstone Properties, Inc.
This case was settled in 2006, and the implementation of the agreement has continued for the past five years. Recently, our attorney, Matthew Dietz, visited five stores in the Denver, Colorado area to check on the defendant’s progress toward removing architectural barriers. Upon initial inspection it was discovered that two of the stores were not in compliance. This indicates that although there has been substantial progress in this case, considerable work remains to be done before it is closed.
Daytona International Speedway
This case was settled in 2003, and it presents a decidedly more positive picture than the previous case. Attorney Matthew Dietz visited Speedway last October, and he found that implementation of the agreement was substantially on track. With the exception of “the failure to maintain the accessible seating in the Superstretch grandstands”, the nine categories of compliance issues specified in the settlement agreement have been satisfied. We look forward to the resolution of this case in the near future.
NON-ACCESS NOW® LEGAL MATTERS
As usual, we want to keep you informed about important recent litigation around the country as well as to update information from our previous newsletters affecting the rights of the disabled. We think it is important for our members to keep abreast of successes realized by and within the disabled community, whether accomplished by Access Now® or by other organizations. We are all in this fight together!
More on service animals! This time the U.S. Department of Justice settles with an Ohio/West Virginia restaurant, including a civil fine and damages.
Great Chinese Buffet Settles Disability-Discrimination Complaint
Great Chinese Buffet is a restaurant with locations in Cambridge, Ohio and Morgantown, West Virginia. On July 24, 2011, it settled an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) regarding the restaurant’s refusal to serve customers with service animals in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“the ADA”). Also included the investigation and covered by the settlement are Rien Lin and Tracy Lin, the owners and operators of the Great Chinese Buffet. The USDOJ investigation was commenced after a complaint by Donald Lynn. Mr. Lynn alleged that on March 27, 2011, employees of the Great Chinese Buffet made him leave the Cambridge, Ohio restaurant because he was accompanied by his service animal.
Mr. Lynn, who is blind, was in the Great Chinese Buffet lobby waiting to be seated when the hostess said “no dogs allowed.” Mr. Lynn told the hostess he was vision-impaired and that the dog was his service animal. The hostess asked for proof that the dog was a service animal, and Mr. Lynn told her to look at the tag which showed that the dog was a service animal. After conferring with a senior employee, the hostess again said the restaurant would not serve Mr. Lynn accompanied by his dog. Mr. Lynn replied that the dog was his service animal and that he was required by law to be served. Nonetheless, the hostess told Mr. Lynn he would have to leave, and she eventually escorted him from the restaurant lobby into the parking lot.
To settle the case Great Chinese Buffet agreed to adopt, maintain and enforce a policy consistent with federal law covering the treatment of customers using service animals. It was also required to post a sign (in English and in Braille) in each location stating that “The Great Chinese Buffet welcomes customers with disabilities who are accompanied by their service animals.” Finally, the restaurant paid damages of $5,000 to Mr. Lynn for violation of his civil rights and a civil fine of $2,500 to the federal government. DJ Settlement Agreement # 202-58-92 can be viewed at http://www.ada.gov/chinese_ buffet.htm#attachmentA.
NOTE: Access Now® continues to hope that the entire business community will realize the ADA is here to stay, and it is the obligation of each place of public accommodation to abide by that law’s requirements. Damages and civil penalties are a very expensive way to learn this fundamental lesson. Here’s hoping that others profit from the Great Chinese Buffet’s folly.
One of our members had a dramatic legal victory!
This is her email message.
June 5, 2011
My name is Brook-Ann Young,
I know you probably don’t remember me but my husband is disabled and wheelchair-bound. I wrote to you asking about the ADA law in reference to housing. Well I ended up going through HUD. I won my case! The apartment complex had to put a ramp to the dumpster, a ramp to the backyard, widen our kitchen entry way and give us a letter that we are not responsible for the damages incurred in the apartment as a result of the wheelchair. This is my 3rd case won against an apartment complex. Now I am helping others in my complex to do the same. One of the cases won was in regards to service animals.
I am also a degreed paralegal and am very familiar on how to navigate through the cloudy waters of the law. I am currently going to school to further my education. I am sick to death of all the abuses that go on and the discrimination of disabled persons. Many businesses obviously think that somehow the handicapped codes don’t apply to them and I am going to make it my life’s work proving them wrong!
If you need ANY help please contact me. I would love it if you would help me get my feet wet in this area. There is not too many of us that are willing to stand up any fight for this cause but I am! Also feel free to give my e-mail out to whomever you think may need it. Just please make sure to tell that person to put wording in the subject line regarding disability.