AND NOW, THE UPDATE
We now have 947 members representing 47 states and Puerto Rico. We are also proud to claim members in Canada, Hong Kong, Australia. Our Board of Directors stands at 31, our Executive Committee at 6, our Attorneys represent 4 law firms and our Consultants number 6. We want to acknowledge here our debt to the members of our Board of Directors and our Executive Committee for their support, their encouragement and their many kinds of contributions to our goals. Most particularly, we want to express our appreciation to our First Vice-President, Marla Dumas, for assuming that mantle of responsibility. Above all, our deepest appreciation goes to the attorneys and consultants who handle all our cases. Contrary to what is widely believed by the public, these are professionals who, although they earn their livings, in part, through these efforts, are primarily attracted to this work by their belief in and dedication to our mission!
Finally, we would be quite remiss if we failed to mention the enormous contributions of our computer consultants, Gregory Arkin and Alain Ginzberg, without whom we would not be able to function! Above all, I want to express my everlasting gratitude to our assistant extraordinaire, Thomas Miller, for undertaking the task of composing and typing the bulk of this newsletter and for so much more. Without him this publication would be impossible to achieve!
A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF OUR LITIGATION:
Since our September Newsletter, Access Now, Inc.® has made progress in settling cases in several states. We have filed a total of 977 cases since our inception. Presently, there are 149 cases with outstanding Settlement Agreements, requiring alterations or modifications which in several cases should be completed by August 15, 2010, 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 seven months, Access Now has entered into 24 additional settlements to make properties A.D.A.-compliant. They include:
Access Now® continues to assert itself nationally in scope. The 9 states in which cases have been settled in the last seven months range from the Southeast to the Pacific shore. Our headquarters state of Florida accounted for 16.7% of settlements over that time.
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:
City of Huntsville Huntsville, AL
City of Ada/Oklahoma Dept of Transportation Ada, OK
Hospitals (# of beds)
|Community Hospital (389)||New Port Richey||FL|
|Palmyra Medical Center (248)||Albany||GA|
|Spring Branch Medical Center, Inc. (106)||Houston||TX|
|Regional Medical Center of San Jose (204)||San Jose||CA|
|Trident Regional Medical Center & Summerville Medical Center (396)||Charleston||SC|
|Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center (730)||Las Vegas||NV|
|West Hills Hospital and Medical Center (236)||West Hills||CA|
|West Hills Surgery Center (0)||West Hills||CA|
|Alaska Regional Hospital (250)||Anchorage||AK|
|Dominion Hospital (100)||Falls Church||VA|
|Tulane Medical Center (235)||New Orleans||LA|
|Research Belton Hospital (71)||Belton||MO|
|Coastal Carolina Hospital (41)||Hardeeville||SC|
|Frye Regional Medical Center (355)||Hickory||NC|
|Good Samaritan Medical Center (326)||West Palm Beach||FL|
|Hahnemann University Hospital (496)||Philadelphia||PA|
|Hialeah Hospital (396)||Hialeah||FL|
|Houston Northwest Medical Center (514)||Houston||TX|
|Placentia-Linda Hospital (114)||Placentia||CA|
|Saint Francis Hospital (519)||Memphis||TN|
|St. Mary’s Medical Center (463)||West Palm Beach||FL|
|East Cooper Medical Center (140)||Mt. Pleasant||SC|
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 22 Tenet Healthcare Corporation and Children’s Health Corporation of America (CHCA) facilities listed in this newsletter brings to 187 the total adjudicated at Fair Hearings over the past two years. The 22 facilities have a total of 6,329 beds in thirteen states. As a consequence over 37,000 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.
City of Huntsville, Alabama
A $1.2 million legal settlement approved by the Huntsville City Council on May 27th will greatly improve handicapped access to the city-owned Von Braun Center. The city will create dozens of new handicapped parking spaces around the Center, lower sinks, toilets and baby changing stations in restrooms, place Braille signs on elevators, improve wheelchair seating and provide “assistive listening systems” in the arena, concert hall, playhouse and exhibit halls.
City of Ada, Oklahoma
This case also includes the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (OK DOT). OK DOT is giving the City of Ada $30,000 to provide curb ramps and curb cuts along Highway 99 in the city. The city and OK DOT will also work together to modify a major intersection along the highway. OK DOT will provide an additional $100,000 for this project to increase accessibility. Finally, the City of Ada will spend $50,000 each fiscal year for ADA accessibility construction, repairs, maintenance or improvements beginning July 1, 2010. This represents an excellent outcome extending accessibility in Ada, Oklahoma.
OTHER LEGAL MATTERS
We want to keep you informed about important recent litigation around the country, of which you might not be aware, 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!
Starbucks to Pay $80,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A Starbucks store in Russellville, Arkansas will pay $80,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
The EEOC’s suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, at Little Rock, charged that Starbucks failed to hire Chuck Hannay because of his multiple sclerosis. According to the EEOC, Hannay applied for one of six open barista positions but was never contacted for an interview. The EEOC alleged that individuals with less experience and availability were hired instead of Hannay. Such conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employment discrimination based on a person’s disability.
In addition to the monetary relief, the consent decree approved by U.S. District Judge Brian Miller enjoins Starbucks from discriminating on the bases of disability and retaliation. Further, the decree requires the company to provide training to its managers and assistant managers on disability discrimination, to submit two reports to the EEOC on the training and about any complaints, and to post a notice reinforcing the company’s policies on the ADA. Starbucks will also make a good-faith effort to hire individuals with disabilities at its Russellville location by notifying Arkansas Rehabilitation Services of all job openings.
“People with disabilities should have equal opportunities for employment,” said Regional Attorney Faye A. Williams of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arkansas, Tennessee and certain counties in Mississippi. “This case demonstrates the EEOC’s commitment to combating discrimination that prevents individuals with disabilities from taking their rightful place in the work force.”
NAD Sues Wells Fargo/Wachovia over Failure to Accept Relay Calls
By Char and Larry Sivertson, Hearing Loss Web – www.hearinglossweb.com
You’d think that by now everyone would know that accepting relay calls is not only the right thing to do, but is legally mandated throughout the US. Apparently that’s not the case, and the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) is doing something about it!
The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) has received many complaints about banks that refuse to accept telephone calls made through relay services. When advocacy efforts do not result in appropriate policy changes, sometimes the only thing left to do is to file a lawsuit in court. In the case of banks not accepting relay calls, the NAD says, “enough is enough.” The NAD and Advocacy, Inc. filed a lawsuit on behalf of Amy Baxter against Wells Fargo.
The lawsuit alleges that Wells Fargo does not accept relay calls. As a result, individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, such as Ms. Baxter, are not able to place relay calls to Wells Fargo to obtain information that is available and accessible to hearing individuals over the phone. Refusing to accept relay calls deprives deaf and hard of hearing people of their right to equal access, equal opportunity, and effective communication. Because Wells Fargo does not accept relay calls, Ms. Baxter claims that Wells Fargo is in violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The lawsuit was filed with the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, San Antonio.
“The ADA mandated nationwide telecommunications relay services so that deaf and hard of hearing people can have equal access to the telephone network,” said Michael Stein, attorney for the NAD. “The Federal Communications Commission has repeatedly explained that relay services are the functional equivalent of telephone services. If a bank accepts telephone calls, then it must also accept relay calls.”
“Deaf people, just like hearing people, need to be able to call banks and other financial institutions,” said P. Faye Kuo, an attorney with Advocacy, Inc. “We expect that banks will treat deaf people and hearing people equally in accepting all telephone calls, including relay calls.” The lawsuit asks the court to order Wells Fargo to accept relay calls from deaf and hard of hearing people, as well as people who have speech impairments.
New Rule Extends Disability Protections to Passenger Ships & Boats
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has announced the first federal rule to specifically provide Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protections to people with disabilities who travel on boats and ships. The rule applies to two categories of vessels – vessels operated by public entities, such as public ferry systems, and vessels operated by private entities that are mainly in the business of transporting people, such as cruise ships. Under the rule, vessel operators cannot charge extra for accessibility-related services to passengers, cannot require passengers to furnish their own attendants, and cannot deny access to passengers based on disability. U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) regulations will cover a third category of vessels not covered by the DOT rules – those operated by private entities not primarily engaged in the business of transporting people, such as fishing charters and dinner cruise boats. The new DOT rule will become effective 120 days after it is published. We would like to thank member Joy Tuscherer for this update. For additional information you can visit the DOT website at http://www.dot.gov/affairs/ 2010/dot11710.html