On April 17, 2007, the Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America (MPVA) filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§12131 et seq. (ADA), against the University of Michigan. The complaint alleged that the University was discriminating against disabled members of the Plaintiff group and others similarly situated by denying them equal access to seating at the University of Michigan Football Stadium. The United States of America joined the case as a Plaintiff Intervenor on November 27, 2007, bringing additional claims under Title II of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. §794.
The University of Michigan Football Stadium is the biggest football stadium in America--it has a seating capacity of over 107,000. At the time of the MPVA's initial complaint, there were fewer than 100 wheelchair accessible seats in the stadium, and these seats were consolidated in a single area. The MPVA alleged that the stadium had undergone multiple substantial renovations which the University knew or should have known would trigger compliance with the ADA, and that under the ADA guidelines the stadium must have at least 1% of its seating be accessible to wheelchair users. These seats must be distributed throughout the stadium, at various price ranges. The MPVA alleged that the wheelchair accessible section failed to provide adequate companion seating, as only one companion could accompany each wheelchair user, and these companions were forced to sit behind the wheelchair user, instead of next to him or her. It was also alleged that, among several other issues, the restrooms and the concessions were largely inaccessible and there was insufficient parking space for the disabled.
The complaint alleged that the denial of basic accessibility resulted in the isolation of the disabled and the perpetuation of social stigmas, loneliness, and social deprivation, and that therefore the University seriously injured the MPVA and its members, and others similarly situated.
The United States of America joined the case as an intervening plaintiff on November 27, 2007, represented by attorneys from the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. In its complaint, the government raised many of the same arguments as the MPVA, and made additional claims arising under Title II of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. §794. The United States and the MPVA sought to have the court enjoin the University from engaging in discriminatory policies and practices against the disabled, and order the University to bring the stadium into compliance with the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act.
On March 10, 2008, the parties entered into a consent decree, in which the University denied having violated the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act, but agreed to make substantial changes to its practices and policies, and to the stadium itself. The University agreed to add one section of additional 96 accessible seats and 96 companion seats by the start of the 2008 football season, and to add several more sections in locations around the stadium by the start of the 2010 season, as well as at least 379 additional accessible seats dispersed throughout the stadium, also by the start of the 2010 season. The parties committed to negotiate, at the end of 2010, regarding whether additional seats were necessary.
The University also committed to ensuring its ticketing and pricing policies to afford wheelchair users the opportunity to fully participate in the stadium's services, programs, and activities. The University agreed to create a separate waiting list for purchasing season tickets solely for individuals needing wheelchair-accessible seating, and to assign these purchasers the same wheelchair and companion seats throughout the season.
The University agreed to make substantial changes to increase the accessibility of the restrooms in the stadium. It agreed to add wheelchair parking spots to two parking lots, and to provide accessible transportation from these lots to the stadium and back. Beginning in March 2009, both the United States and the MPVA can initiate negotiations regarding additional parking or accessible transportation, if they have concerns about the adequacy of the parking or transportation arrangement.
The University further agreed to provide training on all components of the Consent Decree to all its employees and contractors who have contact with patrons with disabilities. The Department of Justice has the option of attending these training sessions while the Decree is in effect. The University agreed to aggressively market and publicize, during the full period of the Decree, the availability, location, and prices of the newly expanded accessible seating, as well as other accessibility-enhancing changes to the stadium.
The University agreed to report regularly to the MPVA and the Department of Justice on its progress in implementing the Consent Decree, and to submit to their monitoring of the same. The University also made several other commitments secondary to those discussed above in the Consent Decree.
The Consent Decree expired in March 2013, five years after its start date.Alex Colbert-Taylor - 05/30/2013