This week federal courts made two big court rulings affecting the rights of American's with Disabilities. The first decision came out of a federal district court in Pennsylvania. The judge ruled against the Franklin Institute in a matter concerning personal care assistants for patrons with disabilities. According to the ADA a public accommodation must make reasonable modifications to accommodate access for individuals with a disability. The court ruled a personal care assistant should be given a free ticket for admission when accompanying an individual with a disability. In this situation the theater placed a folding chair next to the wheelchair access to view a film screening at the museum. Since these were not seats normally sold by the theater the judged ruled they were not losing money and the request for free admission for the personal care assistant should be made. The Franklin Institute tried to argue the case stating free admission would result in dramatic economic consequences to the museum, including deficits, ineligibility for grants, elimination of services, budget cuts and ultimately layoffs. The judged poetically claimed their arguments were "worthy of the antagonist in a Dickens novel."
The second court case involved The Omaha Performing Arts Center. The claims brought against The Orpheum Theater involved a lack of readily accessible seating as well as failure to provide reasonable modifications to their ticketing policy. Under the agreement the theater must provide 20 wheelchair seats adjacent to a companion seat, 20 aisle seats, and a permanent lift from the orchestra floor to the stage. The performing arts center is also required to update its ticketing policy to provide individuals with disabilities equal opportunity to purchase accessible seats.
These two ruling further indicate the need for compliance with the American’s with Disabilities Act. The 25-year-old law is still not upheld by many businesses across the United States. However, the Justice Department is actively trying cases and upholding the ADA. In California, ADA lawsuits continue to rise despite laws offering more protection for businesses being enacted.
If you are a California business owner, now is the time to make sure your building is readily accessible for individuals with disabilities. Contact LRS…Architecture today to schedule your site inspection and CASp report to gain the maximum protection for ADA claims.