PHILADELPHIA – Yesterday marked the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Today, William M. McSwain, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, commemorated President George H.W. Bush’s historic July 26, 1990 signing of the ADA into law and announced that his Office will be hosting a virtual roundtable event with community leaders to discuss the ADA and his Office’s enforcement work under the statute.
“This landmark civil rights legislation sought to eliminate discrimination against millions of Americans with disabilities by outlawing the societal barriers that for so long excluded them from fully participating in some of the most fundamental aspects of American life, like seeking and holding a job, accessing transportation and medical care, patronizing a business, and voting,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “Although the ADA has been a transformative statute, our work is not done. Thirty years after its passage, illegal barriers still exist that prohibit people with disabilities from fully participating in our communities and deny them the ADA’s promise of equal opportunity and access. In recent years, my Office has removed many barriers to access in places of public accommodation in our District, such as hotels, restaurants, and medical facilities, and in state government services and buildings such as courthouses, schools, and polling places. We will continue to make ADA compliance a top priority.”
U.S. Attorney McSwain noted that his Office often hears from the targets of ADA investigations that they did not consider the ADA in opening their business, designing or renovating their building, or developing their program, or mistakenly believed the ADA did not apply to them. “There is no ‘grandfather’ clause to the ADA,” McSwain emphasized. “On the thirtieth anniversary of the ADA, I want the public to know that when my Office receives a complaint under the ADA, we will investigate and, where appropriate, take enforcement action.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has a proud history of prioritizing civil rights enforcement and the ADA in particular; it has continued that tradition in recent efforts. For example, in February 2020, the Office began a review of all polling places in the District to ensure compliance with the ADA in advance of the November 2020 election. In April 2019, in response to an investigation initiated by the Office, Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, Inc., executed a settlement agreement in which it agreed to address barriers to access for individuals who use wheelchairs in Jefferson’s radiology outpatient clinic. After a lengthy investigation, in March 2019, the Pennsylvania Department of Education signed a settlement agreement to address alleged discrimination against students with disabilities in its alternate education programs. In a March 2018 settlement agreement, Allergy & Asthma Specialists, P.C. agreed to fix barriers to access for deaf individuals at its Jenkintown facility. And in October 2018, after the Office initiated a review of several Philadelphia restaurants’ ADA compliance, twelve agreed to resolve a multitude of ADA access issues in their businesses.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero, the Civil Rights Coordinator for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, will be organizing the upcoming roundtable to educate local stakeholders about this important work with regard to the ADA and the Department of Justice’s jurisdiction under the statute, and to hear from disability rights advocates about recurring issues in the community.
U.S. Attorney McSwain urges people who believe they are being discriminated against in violation of the ADA to file complaints with the Department of Justice. Complaints may be filed online at https://www.ada.gov/filing_complaint.htm, by calling the Department of Justice’s toll-free information line at (800) 514-0301 or (800) 514-0383 (TDD), or via email to the following address: USAPAE-CivilRights@usdoj.gov.