Disability Rights Project

Matthew K. Handley Acting Project Director
Ada Lin Paralegal

Disabilty Rights Staff at Cosi

Since 1992, the Project has successfully prosecuted or settled scores of cases against places of public accommodations, public entities, transportation providers and health care providers on behalf of people with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act and similar laws.  

These cases have included: improving paratransit services; securing access to polling places and voting machines for blind voters and those with other disabilities; improving access to hospitals and other health care providers for deaf individuals and patients who use wheelchairs; obtaining sign language interpreters and 911 services for deaf individuals needing to communicate with the police and government services; ensuring access to national chain retail stores and restaurants for people with mobility impairments; ensuring accessible emergency evacuation procedures for people with disabilities; and securing the rights of inmates with disabilities to effective communication and institutional access.

Project Activities

The Committee’s Disability Rights Project has a very active docket of cases pending in federal courts within the District of Columbia and other jurisdictions. Current clients have a broad range of claims involving access to places of public accommodations, health care services, government services, and other issues critical to the enhancement of rights of people with disabilities.

Significant legal accomplishments include:

  • Client at Filenes BasementPublic Accommodations: The Project has won important and landmark victories ensuring access to chains of restaurants and retail stores nationwide, and established legal principles such as the right to access to retail store interactive displays, the right to access through display racks, and the right to accessible emergency evacuation procedures in retail establishments.
  • Health Care Services: The Project has established important precedent relating to deaf patients’ right to sign language interpreter services and protocol for use of new technology to deliver those services, as well as establishing the rights of patients with mobility impairments to access medical equipment, examination tables, and hospital rooms and services.
  • Government Services: The Project has also won important victories in the area of access to governmental services, including landmark cases establishing the right to access to voting equipment for voters who are blind or have manual impairments, the right to access polling places and other government services for individuals with mobility impairments, access to effective paratransit, and the right to communicate effectively with police and 911 services for deaf individuals.

The Project works closely with the non-profit Equal Rights Center (ERC) to perform surveys of places of public accommodation about which the ERC has received complaints, in order to identify barriers to accessibility.

PUBLIC SERVICES

Voting

Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington, et. al., v. The District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics, et al
Cocounsel: Hogan & Hartson LLP
Case No. 1:01-CV-1884
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Settlement August 20, 2002

Settlements to improve access for District voters with disabilities. Under the agreements, the District was required to purchase, by the 2004 Primary Election, at least one voting machine per precinct usable by persons who are blind and those with manual disabilities. The Settlement also required the District to ensure that persons with mobility impairments were able to access polling places.

Effective Communication

Equal Rights Center, et al., v. District of Columbia 
Cocounsel: Steptoe & Johnson LLP
Case No. 1:07-CV-1838
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Settlement June 7, 2011

Settlement requires the District of Columbia to make sign language interpreters and auxiliary aids and services available throughout District agencies for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. District agencies will provide on-site interpreters and Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) services, videophones at police stations, a pilot VRI program for police cruisers, and disability rights training to its employees.

Miller, et al., v. District of Columbia
Cocounsel: Yablonski Both & Edelman
Case No. 1:96-CV-2833
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Order/Settlement November 5, 1997

Order required the District to make substantial improvements to its emergency 911 telephone system, to render it accessible to deaf callers using telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDDs).

Parking

Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington, et al., v. District of Columbia, et al.
Cocounsel: Morrison & Foerster LLP
Case No. 1:04-CV-529
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Settlement July 26, 2006

Settlement required the District to install at least two accessible parking meters on each block face containing parking meters that are at an accessible height for people with disabilities. The District was also required to remove sidewalk barriers to create accessible routes to accessible parking meters, and to revise its parking placard policies.

Lottery

Equal Rights Center, et al., v. District of Columbia, et al.  
Case No. 1:10-CV-1942
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Settlement March 23, 2011

Agreement ensures that D.C. Lottery agents adhere to federal accessibility laws and guidelines. The agreement, among other things, requires Lottery Agents to remove any barriers to accessibility within 18 months, participate in accessibility and disability rights training, and obtain accessible lottery equipment, if available.

INMATES AND DETAINEES

Minnis, et al., v. Virginia Department of Corrections
Cocounsel: Winston & Strawn LLP
Case No. 1:10-CV-96
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Settlement November 17, 2010

Agreement establishes Powhatan as the first major state correctional facility in the U.S. to have a videophone, which enables the deaf inmates to communicate with their family and friends in their native language. The settlement also provides these individuals with American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters two full days a week, as well as sign language interpretation of rules and orientation, disciplinary and release proceedings, medical appointments, and educational and vocational instruction. It also makes Video Remote Interpreting available 24 hours a day for emergency communications, and provides visual notifications about meals and events.

Heyer, et al., v. United States Bureau of Prisons, et al.
Cocounsel: Arnold & Porter LLP
Case No. 5:11-CV-318
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Filed June 20, 2011

Pending lawsuit on behalf of deaf detainees who use ASL. The complaint alleges that the BOP discriminated against these two individuals by failing to provide them with ASL interpreters at various prison functions including, but not limited to, medical visits, counseling sessions, and disciplinary proceedings.

Cooke et al. v. United States Bureau of Prisons, et al.
Cocounsel: Fried Frank
Case No.5:12-ct-03020
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Filed

Pending lawsuit on behalf of detainees who use wheelchairs.  The complaint alleges a lack of accessibility at BOP facilities.


TRANSPORTATION

Paratransit Services

Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington, et al., v. Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority
Cocounsel: Wiley Rein LLP
Case No. 1:04-CV-498
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Settlement May 22, 2008

Class settlement ensured that Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) would make significant changes to MetroAccess, its paratransit service for people with disabilities. Under the agreement, WMATA increased its paratransit budget by $4 million over a three-year period and also agreed to hire expert consultants to improve its services. It also provided free rides to MetroAccess users for past and future service lapses. 


Car Rental Services

Equal Rights Center, et al., v. Zipcar
Cocounsel: Steptoe & Johnson LLP
Case No. 1:07-CV-1823
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Settlement September 16, 2008

Agreement required pilot program offering vehicle equipped with hand controls to customers in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, and to modify the number of vehicles equipped with hand controls depending on customer demand.

HEALTH CARE

Retail Healthcare

Equal Rights Center et al. v. Hour Eyes
Cocounsel: Crowell & Moring LLP
Case No. 1:10-CV-1113
District Court for the District of Columbia, Consent Decree, March 2, 2011

Consent Decree provides that the Eye Care Centers of America (ECCA) will improve accessibility in all ECCA stores across the country to people with disabilities. ECCA, one of the nation’s largest optometric retailers, has agreed to undertake unprecedented commitments to ensure accessibility across its fourteen brands of retail stores. No other eye care corporation of comparable size has ever agreed to make such far-reaching changes to its stores, examining rooms and equipment.


Equal Rights Center et al v. CVS Caremark Corporation
Case No. 8:09-CV-3275
District Court for the District of Maryland, Settlement Dec. 2, 2010

Agreement requires CVS to ensure that its stores across the country (over 7,100 locations) will be more accessible to people with disabilities and in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Among other things, the agreement requires that CVS remove barriers to accessibility at any stores it remodels or alters, remove barriers at each of its MinuteClinic retail health clinics, and install at least one wheelchair accessible front checkout and pharmacy counter in all of its stores.

Hospitals

Heisley, et al., v. Inova Health System
Cocounsel: Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP
Case No. 1:10-CV-714
District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Consent Decree, March 18, 2011

In a case in which the U.S. Department of Justice intervened, this Consent Decree requires Inova Fairfax Hospital to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services to patients, and patients’ companions, who are deaf or hard of hearing. 

Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington, et al., v. Washington Hospital Center
Cocounsel: Howrey LLP
Case No. 1:03-CV-2434
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Settlement November 2, 2005

Settlement required  remediations to hospital facilities to ensure accessible patient rooms, and access, throughout the facility. The Settlement also required staff training and purchase of accessible medical equipment.

Gillespie et al. v. Laurel Regional Hospital
Cocounsel: Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP
Case No. DKC 8-05-cv-73
U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Settlement July 13, 2006

In a case in which the U.S. Department of Justice intervened, this Settlement requires appropriate auxiliary aids and services to patients, and patients’ companions, who are deaf, and for the first time sets forth guidelines for use of Video Remote Interpreting in a hospital setting.


Equal Rights Center, et al., v. Howard University d/b/a Howard University Hospital
Cocounsel: Jenner & Block LLP
Case No. 1:09-CV-01833
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Settlement September 25, 2009

Access to medical facilities and equipment for people who use wheelchairs.

EMERGENCY EVACUATION

Savage, et al., v. Marshalls, et al.
Cocounsel: Hogan & Hartson LLP
Case No. 240306
2004 WL 3045404 (Md.Cir.Ct. 2004).
Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland, Ruling/Settlement January 28, 2005

Decision on a case of first impression, that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires places of public accommodation to consider the needs of people with disabilities in developing emergency evacuation plans.

PLACES OF PUBLIC ACCOMMODATION

Hotels

Equal Rights Center, et al., v. Hilton
Cocounsel: Gilbert LLP
Case No. 1:07-CV-1528
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Settlement July 12, 2010

Settlement ensures that three Hilton Hotels in the District of Columbia make major changes to its facilities to ensure enhanced access for people with disabilities in both their guest rooms and public areas.

Retail Stores

Equal Rights Center v. Abercrombie & Fitch Co. and Hollister
Cocounsel: Vinson & Elkins LLP
Case No. 1:09-CV-3157
U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Filed, November 24, 2009

Pending litigation against Abercrombie & Fitch alleging, among other things, that its Hollister brand stores violate federal law by building new stores with steps at their entrances.

 
Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington, et al., v. Radio Shack
Cocounsel: Hogan & Hartson LLP
Case No. 1:03-CV-2596
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Settlement June 22, 2005

Access to Radio Shack stores, merchandise aisles and interactive displays..

Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington, et al., v. Family Dollar Stores, Inc.
Cocounsel: McDermott Will & Emery
Case Not Filed
Settlement March 12, 2003

Barrier removal in over 4,000 stores, by removal of various structural barriers, removal of clutter in store aisles, and accessible fixture spacing.

Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington, et al., v. The May Department Stores Company
Cocounsel: Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP
Case No. 1:01-CV-1076
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Settlement January 24, 2005

Agreement to make May Department Stores (Hecht’s and Lord & Taylor) more accessible to people who use wheelchairs by providing, among other improvements, accessible pathways throughout the stores and to clothing racks and other displays.

Restaurants

Equal Rights Center, et al., v. Doctor’s Associates Inc., d/b/a Subway, et al.
Cocounsel: Crowell & Moring LLP
Case No. 1:06-CV-725
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Settlement December 31, 2007

Barrier removal at Subway restaurants in the District of Columbia and provision of accommodations to make the restaurants more accessible.

Equal Rights Center, et al., v. Potbelly Sandwich Works LLC
Cocounsel: Bingham McCutcheon LLP
Case No. 1:07-CV-283
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Settlement November 14, 2007

Agreement to install accessible seating in restaurants,and install accessible counters so that patrons using wheelchairs can effectively communicate with Potbelly employees when placing their orders.

Equal Rights Center, et al., v. The Johnny Rockets Group, Inc., et al.
Cocounsel: Morrison & Foerster LLP
Case No. 1:09-CV-1120
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Settlement November 9, 2009

Agreement to make Johnny Rockets restaurants more accessible to people with disabilities at their entrances and to provide accessible counters and tables.


Equal Rights Center, et al., v. Così, Inc.
Cocounsel: Foley & Lardner LLP
Case No. 1:09-CV-1122
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Settlement February 19, 2010

Agreement to survey Cosi restaurants for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and to make all restaurants fully compliant within five years of the settlement.

The Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington, et al., v. AFC Enterprises, Inc., d/b/a Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits
Cocounsel: Crowell & Moring LLP
Case Not Filed
Settlement September 20, 2001

Agreement  to make modifications to building design, provide franchise partner and employee training, and perform accessibility reviews of Popeyes restaurants.

The Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington, et al., v. Burger King Corporation., et al.
Cocounsel: Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP
Case No. 1:95-CV-1317
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Settlement June 27, 1997

Agreement to survey Burger King restaurants for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and to make the necessary changes to make the restaurants accessible.

Grocery Stores

Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington, et al., v. Shoppers Food Warehouse Corporation, et al.
Cocounsel: Covington & Burling LLP
Case No. 8:00-CV-2190
U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Settlement June 27, 2001

Agreement to retain and work with a consultant to ensure that its stores are accessible.
   
The Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington, et al., v. Giant Food, LLC
Case Not Filed
Settlement August 12, 1999

Agreement with the Giant grocery chain to modify store entrances and check out aisles.

Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington, et al., v. Safeway, Inc.
Cocounsel: Miller Cassidy
Case No. 94-0878
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

Agreement to survey stores nationally to remove barriers at entries of its stores and remove other architectural barriers. 

Banks

National Federation of the Blind, Inc., et al., v. Chevy Chase Bank, F.S.B.
Cocounsel: Brown Goldstein & Levy LLP
Case No. 1:00-CV-1167
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Settlement June 28, 2001

Agreement to equip ATM’s with voice guidance technology, which allows patrons who are blind to access their bank accounts by following audible instructions heard through headphones.

Movie Theaters

Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington, et al., v. Cineplex Odeon Corporation, et al.
Cocounsel: Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP
Case No. 1:97-CV-3023
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Settlement August 19, 1999

Agreement to make movie theaters accessible by provision of accessible seating, removable armrests, companion seating, and accessible wheelchair spaces at theaters in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. 
   
Disability Rights Council of Greater Washington, et al., v. Cineplex Odeon Corporation, et al.
Cocounsel:  Cleary Gottleib Steen & Hamilton LLP
Case No. 94-0679-SS
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Settlement March 30, 1994

Agreement to provide assistive listening devices in every local Cineplex theater; extended by an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to entire nation.

EMPLOYMENT

Hubbard, et al., v. John E. Potter, Postmaster General, United States Postal Service
Cocounsel: Covington & Burling LLP
Case No. 1:03-CV-1062
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Filed, May 14, 2003

Class action lawsuit on behalf of deaf postal workers nationwide who were not provided with interpreters at various job functions including emergency safety meetings, initiated following alleged failures of communication following the anthrax attacks of October,  2001.  A Proposed Class Action Settlement is pending approval and a fairness hearing before the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia.

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