July 24, 2001 --
Thursday, July 26 marks the 11th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Around the country, groups of disability advocates plan to celebrate with rallies, picnics and speeches. Other advocates are celebrating the settlement of major lawsuits.
The past year has seen an increase in lawsuits to enforce the 11-year-old law, many of them class-action suits against companies and services that were supposed to have stopped discriminating against disabled people a decade ago.
Last week (July 17), The Associated Press's Catherine Wilson reported on a settlement in which The May Department Store Co.'s 430 stores agreed make their aisles, fitting rooms and restrooms accessible (story online at http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20010717/bs/may_ada_2.html ) The suit had been brought by Access Now Inc., a disability-rights group from Florida. (Other disability groups charged the settlement does not go far enough; the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Chern Yeh Kwok reported in a June 19 story, available through the Post-Dispatch archives at http://home.post-dispatch.com/channel/pdweb.nsf/pages/SimpleSearchPage )
The same day, lawyers for Access Living, Chicago's Independent Living Center, announced a settlement with the Chicago Transit Authority, which the group had sued for failing to comply with the ADA's requirements to make its bus service accessible. Broken elevators, broken lifts, buses that did not stop were among the problems CTA will now have to rectify. (Story available at http://www.raggededgemagazine.com/drn/drnctasetlement071701.htm )
In a June 14 decision, a federal judge ordered Macy's West to establish 32-inch minimum pathways between clothing racks in its flagship San Francisco store so that disabled shoppers could navigate; the suit had been brought by Disability Rights Advocates (http://www.dralegal.org/) of Oakland.
Two months earlier, Disability Rights Advocates had settled another major class-action suit, this one against HMO giant Kaiser Permanente, which had been sued for discriminating against disabled patients (story from the New York Times (registration required) at http://www.nytimes.com/2001/04/13/national/13DISA.html?ei=1&en=f018e58b7c4b2343&ex=988171706&pagewanted=print).
A good place to watch for stories of such lawsuit filings -- and settlements -- is the Yahoo news page on "Disabilities and The Disabled" at http://fullcoverage.yahoo.com/fc/WORLD/Disabilities_and_the_Disabled