Restaurants. Antique stores. Consignment shops. Bars. Hardware stores. Can a wheelchair get in? Bookstores. Hair salons. Banks. Bakeries. Do you have access? To coffee shops? Law offices?
SWEEP members file four lawsuits against Louisville businesses
Nov. 12, 2002 -- Four lawsuits claiming discrimination are being filed today in Jefferson County Circuit Court by the Metro Disability Coalition, Access to the Arts, Inc. and a number of persons using wheelchairs. The suits are against Louisville Academy of Music, 2740 Frankfort Ave.; Jerry Heston Hair Salon, 2710 Frankfort Ave.; Bazo's Baja Grill, 919 Baxter Ave. and Omar's Gyro, 969-1/2 Baxter Ave.
The plaintiffs, including the Metro Disability Coalition and Access to the Arts, are being represented by Kentucky's Protection and Advocacy office. The lawsuits claim that the businesses lack entrances accessible to people using wheelchairs. They are being filed pursuant to the Kentucky Civil Rights Act, which incorporates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is a federal law enacted in 1990 giving individuals with disabilities protection from discrimination in the areas of employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications, and activities of state and local government.
The Kentucky Civil Rights Act, Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) 344, incorporates the ADA. KRS 344.120 states that " . . .it is an unlawful practice for a person to deny an individual the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of a place of public accommodation" on the ground of "disability . . ."
Members of the Metro Disability Coalition and Access to the Arts have tried unsuccessfully to enter the businesses being sued. Several members of the Metro Disability Coalition and Access to the Arts use wheelchairs for mobility due to their disability. The defendant businesses lack entrances accessible to persons using wheelchairs.
The Louisville Metro Sweep is a group of individuals with and without disabilities, which formed early this year over concerns about lack of access to neighborhood retail establishments.
Mary Johnson email@example.com
Access to the Arts, Inc.: Cass Irvin (after 2 p.m.): 367-9569 firstname.lastname@example.org
Attorney Laura Early can be reached at (502) 564-2967.
Statement of the Metro Disability Coalition
Contact: Mary Johnson
Nov. 12, 2002 -- The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed by Congress, by overwhelming margins, in 1990, and signed by Pres. George Bush. The law requires businesses open to the public and places of public accommodation to be accessible to persons with disabilities, including people who use wheelchairs. This is not an optional requirement for businesses; it is a federal mandate.
Twelve years have now passed since access has become the law of the land. Yet members of the Coalition repeatedly tell us they cannot get into businesses that should have been accessible for over a decade.
We initiated investigations of these businesses. In each instance, entrance for people in wheelchairs is barred by the presence of a small step at the entrance, easily corrected with a small ramp. This modification will not impose undue financial hardship.
The named businesses on Baxter Ave. received an initial letter from us in January, 2002; the ones on Frankfort heard from us in May, 2002. We enclosed material from the U.S. Department of Justice and Small Business Administration clearly explaining their legal obligations (reporters may view this document online in text at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/smbustxt.htm or in PDF format at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/smbusgd.pdf). We also informed them of tax credits that are available to businesses for barrier removal.
We have had repeated contact by mail (and phone, in some cases) with the businesses. None of them have agreed to comply with the law.
As the law was written by Congress, enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act is up to individual disabled people and organizations representing them; the law calls for private lawsuits. But filing lawsuits has been, for us, a last resort. Kentucky has incorporated the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act into its Civil Rights Act, and it is under that Kentucky Statute that we are suing these establishments.
Statement of Access to the Arts, Inc.
Contact Cass Irvin, 367-9569
Access to the Arts, Inc. is an all-volunteer arts and disability advocacy organization; our board and volunteers include artists, persons with disabilities, and community volunteers. Our mission. is to assist people with disabilities to fully participate in artistic experiences. We began as a program funded by the Kentucky Arts Council, and incorporated in 1991 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.
A2A has worked with local arts groups for over ten years to make art accessible. That includes working with disabled artists and providing them with information on professional development.
Artists with disabilities are under-represented in our local arts community. A major obstacle has been the inaccessibility to art schools, universities, galleries, auditoriums -- places where one can both learn the art, and places to perform. If we can't get into the building, how can we take classes there? How can we perform there? Inaccessibility has "handicapped" our talent.
We wanted to list the Louisville Academy of Music as a resource for disabled artists, but found the building was inaccessible. That means artists with disabilities cannot participate in their programs, cannot take classes there, cannot attend recitals there, cannot use their music library. The Americans with Disabilities Act, signed overwhelmingly by Congress in 1990, gives us the right to access to such programs. The guarantees of that law have also been incorporated into Kentucky's Civil Rights law. Access to the Arts, Inc. is filing suit against the Louisville Academy of Music on behalf of disabled artists and members of our organization who are unable to get into its facility on Frankfort Ave.