Seth D. DuCharme, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, this week marked the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Since President George H.W. Bush signed the Act into law on July 26, 1990, the ADA has transformed society—by replacing exclusion with access, segregation with integration, and limitations with self-determination.
The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, activities and facilities of state and local governments and places of public accommodation, including all hotels, restaurants, retail stores, theaters, health care facilities, convention centers, parks and places of recreation. Its promise is to work to eliminate disability discrimination across the range of services, programs and activities that most Americans take for granted, but were largely inaccessible to individuals with disabilities prior to the law’s enactment. The ADA seeks to allow individuals with disabilities to live more independently.
The ADA empowers the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate, litigate and resolve complaints of discrimination and to conduct compliance reviews to ensure covered entities comply with the Act’s requirements.
“On this anniversary of the enactment of the ADA, we are reminded of the harm caused by discrimination on the basis of disability,” stated Acting United States Attorney DuCharme. “The ADA recognizes that we all benefit when persons with disabilities have the same opportunities and access to services and facilities as people without disabilities. This Office, which serves the people of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and Nassau and Suffolk Counties, remains committed to protecting the rights of the disabled and taking legal action when necessary to right wrongs.”
Since the passage of the ADA in 1990, this Office has fulfilled the mission of the ADA in a wide range of enforcement actions, including:
- Protecting the Rights of New York City Firefighters with Disabilities. In response to a complaint by an FDNY captain whose lungs were damaged while serving as a 9/11 first responder, the United States Attorney’s Office successfully obtained a court-ordered Stipulation of Settlement compelling the FDNY to develop and implement a policy providing reasonable accommodation to firefighters with disabilities who are otherwise able to perform work within the department.
- Ensuring Accessibility at Citi Field and Barclays Center. Pursuant to its authority to conduct compliance reviews under the ADA, the Office worked to ensure that individuals with mobility impairments are able to access Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, and the Brooklyn Nets’ Barclays Center.
- Protecting the Rights of Individuals with Serious Mental Illness. The Office has obtained an ongoing Consent Decree with the State of New York to transition into the community individuals with mental illness who reside in adult homes – substandard privately owned facilities licensed by the State. Almost 1,000 former adult home residents covered by the Decree now live successfully in community placements.
- Protecting the Rights of Individuals Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing in the New York City Homeless Family System Programs. The Office entered into a Consent Decree and Judgment with the City of New York homeless family shelter system to ensure that it provides sign language interpretation and other auxiliary aids and services to clients who are deaf or hard of hearing.
- Obtaining relief for individuals with disabilities who were subject to discrimination
- Compelling a regional shoe store chain to educate its managers regarding the rights of individuals with disabilities after a store manager in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn forced a customer in a wheelchair to leave the store because her wheels were “dirtying the carpets.” The Settlement Agreement also required the chain to pay the individual $10,000 for emotional injury.
- Obtaining damages on behalf of an HIV+ patient whose surgeon refused to operate on him.
- Obtaining relief for a child with diabetes who was turned away from a children’s summer camp.
For more information about the 30th Anniversary of the ADA, please visit www.ada.gov. To file a complaint with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office at USANYE-CivilRights@usa.doj.gov or visit the Civil Rights Division’s portal at https://civilrights.justice.gov/report/
For more information about the ADA, call the Department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TTY).