Saturday, April 2, 2011

Los Angeles tour company faces ADA lawsuit for inaccessible buses


HOLLYWOOD -- The largest tour company in Los Angeles is facing a lawsuit. Starline Tours is accused of discriminating against people with disabilities.

If you've been to Hollywood, you've likely seen the double-decker buses. Starline Tours has been shuttling sightseers around for decades, but are all tourists treated equally? Not according to a new lawsuit.

It is a Hollywood experience. Hop aboard and tour TV land and movie landmarks.

Ruthee Goldkorn says she's wanted to ride the Starline tour since 2007. But she's been unable to go because she is in a wheelchair.

"Tickets were good. Prices were good. Access: none. They had no wheelchair access," said Goldkorn.

Goldkorn, who represents Ms. Wheelchair California, is named in a class action suit filed by the Disability Rights Legal Center.

Eyewitness News took their complaint to the heads of Starline, Noonoosh and Vahid Sapir.

"If you make a reservation with us, we have the buses available, we book them for you. The bus will be available," said Noonoosh Sapir.

The Sapirs say they know all the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and they say they comply. They showed four types of buses that have wheelchair lifts.

"We have eight of them that are small, and up to the large 156-seater, or one is an 80-seater," said Sapir. "We also have 48 transit buses."

Yet the Disability Rights Legal Center alleges that it has been a different story when their mobility-impaired clients call.

"Our plaintiffs' experiences show that when you call Starline, what you're told is that you can only participate in their tours if you're able to leave your wheelchair and get on the bus and leave your wheelchair behind," said attorney Shawna Parks, Disability Rights Legal Center.

"I don't know who she called, what office she called, who she talked to. I don't have the names. I really don't know," said Sapir.

Starline says the only restriction is on the double-decker buses, where passengers must be able to evacuate quickly. Their safety director says furthermore that that they are on track to making every vehicle accessible by next year as required by law.

"On a daily basis, we provide services to disabled people, whether they're in a wheelchair, or any other disability," said Sapir.

To top it off, Starline says the company was just inspected by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, and if they were in violation that they would have been cited.