PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES SUE CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY TO GAIN EQUAL ACCESS TO PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION
Legal Team Seeks System-Wide Changes to Remedy ADA Violations
CHICAGO (Feb. 8, 2000) - Today, suit was filed in U.S. District Court on behalf of Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago and nine individual plaintiffs with disabilities against the Chicago Transit Authority ("CTA"). The legal action seeks injunctive relief, declaratory relief and damages for the system's failure to provide equal access to public buses and trains for people with disabilities as required under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
The legal team representing plaintiffs includes Barry C. Taylor and Karen I. Ward from Equip for Equality, lead attorney Lou Aurichio from Butler, Rubin, Saltarelli & Boyd; Laura Miller from Access Living, and private attorney Kathleen C. Yannias.
"We are filing this lawsuit against the CTA to ensure that people with disabilities, including senior citizens, have equal access to public transportation in Chicago as mandated by the ADA," said Zena Naiditch, president and CEO of Equip for Equality. "Without this access, all aspects of a person's life are affected including employment. More than 70 percent of people with disabilities are unemployed. This will not change until the CTA changes." Equip for Equality, 11 E. Adams, is the private, nonprofit statewide legal advocacy organization that operates the federally-mandated protection and advocacy system for people with disabilities in Illinois.
Over the past two years, Equip for Equality and Access Living have received more than 350 complaints from people with disabilities who have been denied equal access to the CTA. A system-wide review of CTA public documents confirmed the violation of federal law. Progress Center for Independent Living in suburban Cook County assisted with the investigation of the accessibility of the CTA for people with disabilities.
"It is inexcusable and reprehensible that the disability community is still fighting to gain access to public transportation despite the fact that the ADA was passed nearly a decade ago," said Karen Tamley, program director for Access Living. "People with disabilities are not able to lead full and productive lives when buses and trains are inaccessible because of equipment and facility neglect or disregard by CTA personnel." Access Living, 310 S. Peoria, is a cross-disability, not-for-profit corporation whose mission is to work toward the full equality, inclusion and empowerment of all people with disabilities. It is governed and staffed by a majority of people with disabilities.
Individual plaintiffs named in the suit are Sheila Akhtar, Larry Biondi, W. Carol Cleigh, Mary Delgado, James A. Ferneborg, Sharon Lamp, Rene David Luna, Fred Stark and Jennifer Hart, all Chicago and suburban residents. Seven of the plaintiffs have mobility impairments, one is deaf and one is blind. "We are tired of handing over our money to CTA only to be abandoned on CTA trains or to be stranded at bus stops because the driver doesn't want to deploy the lift," said plaintiff Sharon Lamp.
"Each of these plaintiffs has encountered significant and recurring problems when attempting to access the CTA's buses and trains," said Aurichio. "Our intention is to obtain an order from the court compelling the CTA to provide equal access for people with disabilities and comply with the non-discrimination requirements of federal law."
Among the specific examples cited in the lawsuit of CTA violations on its fixed route system that hinder passengers with disabilities on its buses are: the frequent malfunctioning or nonfunctioning of the mechanical lifts and doors for boarding and disembarking, inadequate training of CTA bus drivers in the operation of mechanical lifts, the frequent failure of CTA bus drivers to pick-up passengers with disabilities at bus stops, and the routine failure of CTA bus drivers to make next-stop announcements.
Examples of the CTA's repeated failure to provide equal access to plaintiffs on its trains are: failure to implement a safe system for mobility-impaired riders to embark and disembark, inadequate training of CTA station agents in the use of the gap-filler that acts as a bridge between the train platform and the train car, elevators that are consistently broken or turned off, thereby stranding disable riders on the streets or platforms, and the unsanitary condition of CTA elevators.
For further information, contact Barry C. Taylor, Equip for Equality, at 312/341-0022, 800/537-2632 or TTY 800/610-2779.