On the eve of a trial scheduled for this Friday in federal court in Oakland, the parties to a disability access class action lawsuit brought against Taco Bell in California have announced a settlement of the long-running case.   The action, originally filed in 2002, was brought on behalf of customers who use wheelchairs and scooters; the suit claimed that Taco Bell restaurants did not provide accessible facilities as required by law.   The settlement will ensure that Taco Bell restaurants are maintained in compliance with all legal requirements for accessibility.

The lawsuit challenged a variety of access barriers, including queue lines too narrow for wheelchairs, inadequate parking spaces, and doors too heavy to be opened by persons with limited mobility.   After the lawsuit was filed, Taco Bell engaged in significant efforts to improve access at its California restaurants.   The agreement ensures that access will be maintained by requiring daily surveys by managers, surveys every six months by compliance monitors, and training of Taco Bell managers and employees.   It also ensures that restaurants that are subsequently acquired by Taco Bell are accessible.

One of the original four plaintiffs, Katherine Corbett, had encountered many of these barriers when she and her daughter would eat at Taco Bell restaurants near her home in Richmond.   Ms. Corbett, who uses a wheelchair, remarked about the settlement:   “I love the food at Taco Bell and I am delighted that I will be able to enjoy it without any barriers.”   Tim Fox, Executive Director of the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center and one of the attorneys for class, expressed his appreciation for Taco Bell’s cooperation in resolving the matter.   “We commend Taco Bell for the work it has performed   to improve the accessibility of its restaurants to people who use wheelchairs and scooters, and to make sure that that access is maintained in the future.”

In addition to changes in Taco Bell’s practices, the settlement provides compensation for the four plaintiffs as well as attorneys’ fees for the lawyers representing the class.   The settlement must still be approved by Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton.