News Release: Major milestone reached in making Portland’s streets and sidewalks more accessible

(June 5, 2018) The Portland Bureau of Transportation announced a major milestone in the City’s efforts to make Portland’s streets and sidewalks more accessible to people with mobility disabilities. Yesterday, United States District Court Judge Marco Hernandez issued a preliminary approval of the settlement in Hines, et al. v. City of Portland. The class action seeks to ensure that the City’s corners are ADA compliant. The City of Portland has over 38,000 corners. Approximately 11,000 corners do not have curb ramps. Many other corners have ramps that do not meet current ADA standards.  Corners that do not have ADA compliant curb ramps represent a significant barrier to safe and convenient mobility for people with mobility disabilities. This landmark settlement will take a major step forward in correcting this situation. According to the settlement’s terms, the City of Portland has agreed to construct and/or upgrade 1500 curb ramps per year for the next twelve years for a total of 18,000 ramps. The City has also agreed to survey all ramps in the next two years and establish a Transition Plan to map out how the City will ensure accessibility. “We have nearly 40,000 corners in Portland,” said Transportation Commissioner Dan Saltzman. “Each corner is an opportunity. With the correct curb ramps, each of these corners represents a chance for our city to provide safe and accessible mobility to for all Portlanders regardless of whether they are living with a disability or not. That is why I am so supportive of this settlement. Thanks to this settlement, we will double the number of ADA compliant curb ramps we build each year...

ADA Defense Abuse: A Case Study

ADA Defense Lawyers Prolong Litigation and Postpone Access:  A Case Study of Litigation Abuse  Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits disability discrimination by private businesses.  Lawyers who defend noncompliant businesses argue that their opposing counsel — lawyers who represent people with disabilities seeking to enforce their rights — engage in litigation abuse.  They are lobbying for passage of H.R. 620, a bill that would add the requirement of a specifically-worded demand letter and four-month waiting period before a disabled person could enforce their rights. This case study of ADA defense litigation abuse suggests that ADA defense counsel are already guilty of prolonging litigation, postponing access, and ultimately enriching themselves at the expense of both the businesses they represent and the people with disabilities who continue to be denied access 28 years after the ADA was passed. H.R. 620’s requirement of a demand letter will remove any incentive for voluntary compliance and will add a new round of motions for ADA defense attorneys to file — challenging the wording, content, and specificity of the demand letter — on top of the already unconscionable litigation delay that is their standard practice. To demonstrate the opportunities for delay in which ADA defense counsel typically engage, we looked at a case that a group of retail trade associations held up as a typical Title III case.  In a recent amicus brief to the Third Circuit, lawyers for the National Association of Convenience Stores, the National Grocers Association, and the Food Marketing Institute singled out the case of Heinzl v. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc., No. 14-cv-1455 (W.D. Pa....

H.R. 620 = Amnesty for Access

Congress is considering a bill  — H.R. 620 — that would absolve all businesses currently in violation of the access requirements of Title III of the ADA — in place since 1990 — and permit them to wait to receive notice from a disabled person who encounters its discrimination, and then wait another six months to perhaps get some sort of solution underway.  DREDF has some excellent resources and talking points.  I thought this infographic might help explain how this bill rewards scofflaws and stops the progress of accessibility of the built environment.  [There’s a separate image description of the infographic...

Pepsi Center to Provide Open Captioning for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Sports Fans

Pepsi Center to Provide Open Captioning for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Sports Fans Class action settlement provides for captioning on LED boards at non-concert events. DENVER January 25, 2018 – Kirstin Kurlander and Kroenke Arena Company are pleased to announce that the Pepsi Center will start providing open captioning for Deaf and Hard of Hearing sports fans beginning this fall. The Pepsi Center — a roughly 18,000-seat arena in downtown Denver — is home to the Colorado Avalanche, Denver Nuggets, and Colorado Mammoth.  Starting with the first preseason Avalanche game in October of this year, the Pepsi Center will caption all of the information spoken over the public address system on LED ribbon boards mounted on the front of the third level at the four corners of the arena. Ms. Kurlander, a deaf woman and Mammoth season-ticket holder, filed a class action lawsuit against the company that owns and operates the Pepsi Center in 2016, after informally requesting captions at the arena.  The Pepsi Center began providing captions on handheld devices — smartphones or tablets — in late 2016, and has been working with Ms. Kurlander and her attorneys at the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC) on a solution that provides open captioning that is generally visible throughout the arena.  The parties reached agreement at the end of last year and Judge Wiley Y. Daniel granted preliminary approval on January 9, 2018. “I am very pleased that the Pepsi Center will provide captioning and I look forward to attending lacrosse and other games there with full access to the information broadcast in the arena,” said Ms....

CREEC, Disabled Professional Women File Amicus Brief Supporting Title III Class Actions

When an accessibility barrier at a chain of businesses affects people with similar disabilities in the same way — narrow queue lines at a restaurant; steps at the entrance to a store; parking lots with excessive slope — the most efficient way to address these violations is through a class action under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) against the common owner or operator.  This was the conclusion reached by a federal district court in Pennsylvania in an order certifying a class of people with mobility disabilities challenging noncompliant parking lots at Steak ‘N Shake restaurants around the country. Steak ‘N Shake challenged this decision in the Third Circuit, supported by two amicus briefs on behalf of various business associations including the National Retail Federation and the Chamber of Commerce. CREEC — for itself and disability rights legends Corbett O’Toole, Julie Farrar, Carrie Ann Lucas, and Julie Reiskin — filed an amicus brief to the Third Circuit in support of the plaintiffs and the righteousness of Title III class actions.  Eve Hill, of Brown, Goldstein & Levy, and Michelle Uzeta drafted an amicus brief on behalf of Disability Rights Pennsylvania and the National Disability Rights Network, also supporting the plaintiffs, and explaining the importance of not just achieving, but maintaining access for people with disabilities. CREEC’s brief explained the many ways in which Title III cases — based on objective measurements and the DOJ’s design standards — are ideally suited for class treatment.  CREEC also took the opportunity to respond to Steak ‘N Shake’s amici — the business associations — who filed briefs full of insults and random context-free...

Seattle Commits to Ensuring an Accessible City

The official press release from the Seattle curb ramps settlement is below. A copy of the Proposed Consent Decree is also available for review. SEATTLE, WA, July 18, 2017– The City of Seattle has settled a landmark class action lawsuit by committing to installing over twenty thousand accessible curb ramps throughout Seattle over the next eighteen years. Curb ramps provide people with mobility disabilities a safe way to get on and off sidewalks as they travel through the pedestrian right of way.   People with disabilities are the largest minority group in the country; census figures estimate that 56.7 million, or 1 in 5, Americans has a disability. In Seattle alone, there are approximately 26,000 people with mobility disabilities who use wheelchairs, walkers, scooters, or other mobility devices to get around. Missing, broken, or poorly maintained curb ramps prevent people with mobility disabilities from safely using city sidewalks, crosswalks and other walkways to participate in daily activities like getting to work or going to school.   “As a lawyer with a disability practice in Seattle, I am beyond thrilled with this agreement,” said Conrad Reynoldson, one of the plaintiffs who brought the case. “This means that both my clients and I will have full, equal, and safe access to an inclusive community. It has been hard finishing up law school, setting up my practice, or even getting to court, when I have to figure out a way to get there that doesn’t involve me going blocks out of my way or traveling in the street due to a missing curb ramp.”   David Whedbee, another plaintiff, explains “beyond the thousands of new curb ramps, one of Seattle’s most promising commitments is improving how...