FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACTS:Alan M. Goldstein
Equip for Equality Senior Attorney
Barry C. Taylor
Equip for Equality Legal Advocacy Director
ILLINOIS SCHOOL DISTRICT INVESTS MILLIONS TO REMEDY LONGSTANDING ADA VIOLATIONS THAT PREVENTED ACCESS FOR DISABLED DAD
District 211 Implements Systemic Accessibility Changes After Equip for Equality Files Complaint with U.S. Department of Education
CHICAGO (April 16, 2009) - Illinois Township High School District 211 has signed an Agreement with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights resolving a Complaint filed by Michael Lyons, his wife Christine, their daughter Becky, and Equip for Equality for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. Before filing the Complaint, the Lyons family spent over five years pleading their case for accessibility improvements at the school district. After Equip for Equality raised concerns, District 211 began to address accessibility issues and completed most of the renovations by the time the Agreement was finalized last month. Major accessibility improvements were made, or will be made, at Conant High School, Schaumburg High School, and the District’s Administration Building.
Michael Lyons is a Vietnam War veteran who uses a motorized wheelchair due to his service-related multiple sclerosis. The Complaint alleged that he was unable to attend, or faced significant barriers in attending, his daughter Becky’s music performances, teacher meetings including special education meetings, awards ceremonies, football games, school plays, swim meets, and other events due to the inaccessibility at Becky’s school, Conant High School. There were also allegations that other students and members of the public with disabilities were similarly discriminated against by the District.
"Nearly 20 years after the ADA was passed, it took legal action to force District 211 into compliance,” said Michael Lyons. “Thanks to Equip for Equality’s advocacy, future families will be spared the humiliation and segregation my family and I endured because of my disability."
Located about 25 miles northwest of Chicago, Township High School District 211 is the largest high school district in Illinois and serves the communities of Hoffman Estates, Inverness, Palatine, and Schaumburg, and parts of Arlington Heights, Elk Grove Village, Hanover Park, Rolling Meadows, Roselle, Streamwood, and South Barrington.
According to its own figures, District 211 spent $53 million dollars over the past few years to renovate several schools and the administration building with a primary stated goal of improving accessibility for people with disabilities.
“We are very pleased that District 211 is making its buildings and services more accessible,” said Amy Peterson, Senior Attorney at Equip for Equality. “We hope this long awaited victory for the Lyons family will encourage Illinois school districts to proactively address accessibility issues. Many school districts find that seeking input from people with disabilities and their families and undergoing ADA training costs little and solves a lot of access problems.” Equip for Equality Senior Attorney Alan Goldstein also represented the Lyons family in this matter.
Under the Agreement, District 211 has made or will make the following changes:
- Relocating a Special Education Department to an accessible location;
- Making various classrooms, restrooms, entrances, parking and a gym accessible;
- Installing new elevators and adding more classrooms to the ground floor;
- Installing tactile signage and visual alarms;
- Improving accessibility of a football stadium;
- Adopting and implementing policies and procedures for accommodating people with disabilities;
- Providing auxiliary aids and services and communicating with people with disabilities in accessible formats and manners;
- Ensuring the district’s website is accessible; and
- Developing a plan for emergency evacuation of people with disabilities.
The Department of Education will monitor the District’s implementation of the Agreement.
“This agreement serves as an important reminder that schools have a legal responsibility not only to accommodate students with disabilities, but family members with disabilities as well,” said Zena Naiditch, President and CEO of Equip for Equality. “No parent should ever be prevented from participating in crucial moments in their children’s lives.”
Equip for Equality is a private, not-for-profit legal advocacy organization and is the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy System designated to safeguard the rights of people with physical and mental disabilities. Copies of the Complaint and the Agreement reached by the Dept. of Education can be found at www.equipforequality.org