Thursday, December 31, 2009

University of Tennessee sued over arena, stadium access

From the Knoxville News Sentinel:

A Tennessee man and a South Florida advocacy group for people with disabilities are suing the University of Tennessee in federal court over what they say is a lack of equal access for disabled people to events held at Thompson-Boling Arena and Neyland Stadium.

Michael McGrath, identified as having muscular dystrophy with limited use of his upper and lower extremities, requires a wheelchair for mobility.

The lawsuit was filed Dec. 21 by McGrath, whose hometown is not specified, and Access Now Inc. in U.S. District Court in Knoxville by Birmingham, Ala., attorney Edward Zwilling.

"The main thrust of the complaints regarding these two venues has to do with sight lines - there simply is not enough wheelchair accessible seating and that provided does not provide sight lines of the same quality afforded to able-bodied patrons," Zwilling wrote in an e-mail. "Further, the accessible seating provided in these venues are not adequately dispersed to afford the same options for tickets for wheelchair users and their companions."

UT officials in Knoxville could not be reached because the campus is closed this week for the holidays.

The lawsuit also alleges wheelchair accessibility is lacking for toilet rooms, parking and concessions as well as sidewalks and curb ramps at intersections throughout campus.

The suit states that McGrath would like to use UT programs and services and visit UT facilities, but he "continues to be denied full, safe and equal access due to violations of the (Americans with Disabilities Act) and Rehabilitation Act that continue to exist and due to his disability."

Zwilling said McGrath is a member of Access Now Inc., and "in order that issues affecting other members of Access Now can be adequately addressed, Access Now joined the case with Mr. McGrath."

The suit seeks to have UT review access to its facilities. It also seeks attorneys fees but no damages.

"(McGrath) is only interested in obtaining equal access to and enjoyment of the arena and the stadium (including the routes necessary to get there) for himself and others similarly situated," Zwilling wrote.