Schneiderman announces victories for disability rights on 23rd anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Actby jmaloni
Schneiderman's office is committed to fighting for equal access for New Yorkers with disabilities
As the nation commemorates the 23rd anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced three new agreements and recent accomplishments in fighting for equal access for persons with disabilities across New York. In the spirit of the ADA and its enforcement, the attorney general has secured agreements that address barriers faced by persons with disabilities in theaters, retail sites and the ballot box.
"My office is deeply committed to ensuring equal access for New Yorkers with disabilities across the state. Persons with disabilities should have the same opportunities as their peers, regardless of disability status," Schneiderman said. "For more than two decades, the ADA has encouraged independent living and equal opportunity for persons with disabilities, and this office will continue to make that goal a reality in New York."
Christina Curry, executive director of the Harlem Independent Living Center, said, "The ADA's promise is one of an independent and equal life for people with disabilities in all areas: from employment to recreation to civic participation. We appreciate the attorney general's dedication to the fight to secure this promise in New York."
Chris Hilderbrant, chief operating officer of the Center for Disability Rights, said, "Over the past 23 years, the ADA has done much to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities. The attorney general's continued efforts to enforce this law and realize its goals demonstrate a deep commitment to furthering those rights."
Sue Dishart, the vice president for marketing and development of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, an internationally accredited nonprofit guide dog school, said, "Service animals are not pets; they provide necessary services to many New Yorkers living with disabilities and, by law, those individuals may not be denied entrance pursuant to restrictive store policies. This agreement between Dean & Deluca and the attorney general sets a standard for all retail establishments seeking to follow the law and provide accommodation to persons with disabilities."
The ADA was signed into law July 26, 1990, providing important protections for individuals with disabilities from discrimination by employers, public entities, places of public accommodation, and telecommunications providers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 2 million New Yorkers have a disability and are protected by the ADA.
The attorney general's office recently secured agreements with New York Theatre Workshop and the Labyrinth Theater Company to ensure that accessible seating is sold during the same hours and in the same manner as general seating.
During its investigation, the attorney general's office found that accessible seating was not made available in the same manner and through the same purchasing methods as other seating, thereby limiting the time and opportunities for persons with disabilities to purchase and secure accessible seating. Under the ADA, individuals with disabilities should have the same access to purchase theater tickets as other members of the general public, whether those sales are conducted online or by third parties.
The agreements with the New York Theatre Workshop and the Labyrinth Theater Company ensure that, at all productions going forward at both theaters, accessible seating will be sold online, over the telephone, and through third-party vendors in all of the same manners as general seating. Additionally, the theaters have agreed for a number of performances over the course of the next two years that they will make available a pair of tickets, including one wheelchair-accessible seat and one companion seat, to nonprofit organizations that provide services to disabled New Yorkers. The seats will be distributed through a list of approved facilities.
The AG's office has also secured an agreement with Dean & Deluca, a gourmet food retailer with five locations in New York City and 11 stores throughout the country, to ensure that patrons who rely on service animals are able to access the stores without facing unnecessary hurdles or harassment. Pursuant to the agreement, the store has developed a new policy that ensures access for all patrons with service animals that are individually trained to assist them with any physical, mental or neurological disabilities; training for store employees; and signage that will alert the public that service animals are welcome in its stores. Examples of tasks performed by service animals include assisting the blind with navigation, alerting the deaf to the presence of people or sounds, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving medicine and providing physical support to assist with balance and stability.
Polling Place Accessibility
The AG's office continues to work with the Allegany County Board of Elections to ensure full implementation of an agreement that will ensure equal access to the ballot box for voters with disabilities. Pursuant to the agreement, the Board of Elections has undertaken steps pursuant to New York State Election Law and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which require election officials to provide individuals with disabilities meaningful access to poll sites on Election Day. In the past several months, the board has made significant efforts to address architectural barriers that are inconsistent with accessibility guidelines, and has worked cooperatively with local officials to identify and designate new polling sites where necessary.
Promoting ADA Compliance Through Public Education
In coordination with the Alliance of Resident Theatres and other theater industry groups, in late August, the OAG will lead an industry-focused seminar on ADA issues of significance to the theater community. Topics to be addressed include ticket sales, hearing accessibility, and service animal matters. This seminar complements the OAG's enforcement efforts and work to achieve full compliance with the ADA's requirements.
The bureau's ADA enforcement work is being handled by assistant attorneys general Monica Iyer, Sandra Pullman, Anjana Samant and Ajay Saini, under the supervision of Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke, Executive Deputy Attorney General Alvin Bragg and First Deputy of Affirmative Litigation Janet Sabel.
The civil rights bureau of the attorney general's office is committed to protecting the disability rights of all New Yorkers. If you believe that you have experienced disability discrimination, contact the attorney general's office at 212-416-8250, [email protected] or visit www.ag.ny.gov.