A proposed class action claims Little Rock, Arkansas has neglected to make the city more accessible for the disabled community for almost 30 years.
The 11-page case alleges Little Rock has violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act by failing to provide citizens with disabilities equal access to the city. The lawsuit says that although Little Rock, as a recipient of federal funds, was required by law to evaluate its facilities, services, policies and practices to identify architectural and non-architectural accessibility barriers and complete changes to eliminate any structural barriers by January 26, 1995, the city has not yet developed a transition plan to carry out these accessibility projects.
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According to the case, recipients of federal funds must provide an opportunity for “interested persons,” including individuals with disabilities or organizations representing individuals with disabilities, to help identify problem areas in their facilities, services, policies, and practices. Fund recipients must then take steps to remediate these problem areas, the suit explains.
The case argues that current compliance issues within the city, which continue to discriminate against and endanger citizens with disabilities, indicate that Little Rock did not properly conduct a self-evaluation as required by federal law. For example, inaccessible curbs force residents with disabilities to jaywalk or enter oncoming traffic, and some residents have been hit by vehicles as a result, the complaint contends.
Per the suit, Little Rock has not developed a transition plan that details the steps necessary to make accessibility improvements and a timeline for the project, even though it was due in 1992.
Moreover, Little Rock has allegedly failed to develop a schedule for providing curb ramps at intersections, and existing curb ramps are either not in compliance with ADA requirements and are therefore “virtually useless,” or not properly maintained by the city, according to the case. Further, although many sidewalks within Little Rock do not comply with the ADA’s slope requirements, the city has allegedly not developed a schedule to remediate this issue, nor has it provided designated on-street parking for the disabled or accessible parking meters, the suit adds.
The case contends that other ADA violations include Little Rock’s failure to install at its facilities accessible interior door hardware, full-length mirrors and insulated plumbing; relocate water fountains or provide a water cup dispenser; purchase compliant tables and provide signage directing users to accessible entrances.
Although these changes may be minor, the case argues that they have a significant impact on individuals with disabilities:
“Small acts of discrimination, however, add up to an egregious violation of the ADA; deny a qualified individual with a disability the opportunity to participate in or benefit from the aid, benefit, or service; and do not afford a qualified individual with a disability an opportunity to participate in or benefit from the aid, benefit, or service that is equal to that afforded others in violation of [federal law].”
The complaint further charges that Little Rock has failed to establish a grievance procedure and instead relies on individual complaints, “which are handled in an informal, dilatory, arbitrary and possibly capricious manner.”
Per the suit, the Little Rock employee responsible for ADA compliance “is not responsive” and is not “adequately trained in this area of the law,” and as a result, citizens with disabilities must bear the burden of the city’s negligence, the filing stresses.
The suit shares that this isn’t Little Rocks’ first time facing litigation over ADA violations, as the city has yet to comply with a class action settlement reached in April 1999 ordering it to complete a transition and curb ramp reconstruction plan.
“Given the fact that the Defendants are years late in even developing a proper transition plan much less complying with one, further given that the Defendants may have failed in the past to respond timely and favorably to many citizens’ complaints, it is unlikely the Defendants will comply with the ADA unless this lawsuit is brought,” the case asserts.
The lawsuit looks to represent all individuals with disabilities who require the use of a wheelchair.
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