Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Pierce College in LA sued over accessibility

According to PRNewswire on May 12, the legal firm of Goodman & Metz filed a motion for permanent injunction in federal court to force Pierce College, which is part of Los Angeles Community College system, to comply with The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) to make the campus "accessible to and usable by" persons with disabilities.

"More than a year ago federal judge Margaret Morrow ruled in a summary judgment that Pierce College was discriminating against disabled students because it had failed to comply with the ADA and by failing to remove access barriers so that students with disabilities would be able to fully engage their education," said Jordon Metz, co-council on the case. "Marvin (Huezo) not only suffered a double leg amputation as a result of a car accident, but he and other disabled students are still being discriminated against because of the refusal of Pierce College to stop their discriminatory practices. Even something as easy as installing accessible desks in classrooms has not been done."

The lawsuit was brought by Marvin Huezo, 24, who uses a wheelchair due to the amputation of both his legs. After the accident in which he lost his legs, Huezo decided to continue pursuing his education at Pierce College, but as a wheelchair user found the campus frustratingly inaccessible.

"I never imagined that something like this would happen to me but thought that I would at least feel supported by the college that I had been attending before my accident," said Huezo, an architecture student at Pierce. "But that was not the case. After more than a year of trying to get help from the school, I had to hire an attorney to help me. Even after the Court's ruling that Pierce was discriminating against me, Pierce still refuses to make even the small changes that could help all of us on campus who are disabled. It is still up to each student to try and get access, instead of Pierce making the campus accessible."

Patricia Barbosa, lead counsel on the case, said that "the challenges that Mr. Huezo and other students face are wide-ranging due to Pierce's failure to change discriminatory policies and proactively remove barriers. Disabled students face inaccessible paths of travel throughout the campus, gym facilities without lockers, benches or equipment, inaccessible desks in classrooms, and inaccessible parking. In spite of all of this, Mr. Huezo has turned his disability into an opportunity to serve others who are disabled on campus, helping them to demand that the college remove barriers that discriminate against disabled students."

She added that "the eight other campuses in the Los Angeles Community College system also appear to be in violation of the ADA as well."