A car accident can be a traumatic experience, no matter how serious. Even experienced, cautious drivers can be involved in accidents due to the negligent...
Thank you to the Cleveland Jewish News for this wonderful story as I get ready to travel to Ohio this weekend to work with Cleveland...
A special thanks to Paula Tutman and WDIV Local 4 for their interest in the work of Achilles International as they begin working with the...
Detroit Free Press
Report on Accessibility Puts Funding at Risk
By Robin Erb, Free Press Education Writer
October 30, 2007
The University of Michigan's football stadium is violating federal law requiring accessibility for those with disabilities despite the university's insistence otherwise, according to a U.S. Department of Education report sent to the school Friday.
The university risks losing federal funding until it brings the stadium into compliance, according to the Department of Education. The report likely will also come into play in a lawsuit filed over seating on behalf of a disabled veterans group.
U-M has until early next week to formally respond to the 37-page report, but spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham said Monday that officials were "surprised and disappointed" with it. She added that the university had granted full access to inspectors and turned over requested documents.
A $226-million renovation of the stadium will continue as planned, and those plans will add handicap-accessible seats, she said. Work is to be completed by the 2010 football season, and the university board of regents has already authorized putting work out to bid.
"The expansion project is completely unrelated" to allegations in the letter, she said.
But Richard Bernstein, an attorney who filed the case in U.S. District Court in Detroit on behalf of the Michigan Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, said Monday that the letter means the university should immediately halt plans to begin the renovations.
He called the letter "a scathing indictment" against the university and its president, Mary Sue Coleman.
Based on the letter, he plans to file a motion asking for summary disposition in the case -- which is essentially where the judge decides on it with no further arguments.
The study was triggered more than eight years ago when a stadium visitor complained that accessibility was so limited, his father -- who used a wheelchair -- soiled himself before he could find a restroom.
The university vowed to make changes after that complaint and at least two others were filed, and U-M offered annual monitoring reports through 2003 to the civil rights office, Harry Orris, director of the Midwestern Division of the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights wrote.
But during a tour of the facility in 2004, civil rights staff grew concerned about several projects. Shortly after that, they informed the university that the office was reopening its investigation.
"While the university expressed an interest in continuing to discuss the compliance issues ... discussions that would lead to a settlement of the seating and routes issues have not been successful because of fundamental differences in the parties' views of the facts, conclusions, and appropriate remedial standards," wrote Orris.
Irwin Goldstein is a longtime professor and season ticket-holder who presented more than 600 signatures to U-M's faculty senate last week critical of the stadium's planned renovations. He and others have criticized the renovations, saying they were approved with little public input, ignored accessibility issues, and changed the egalitarian feel of the stadium by dividing it into regular seats and luxury boxes.
The letter not only could mean a delay, he said, "it could mean that the architects have to go back to the table and bring this in compliance."
Visually Impaired Athlete Sues USA Triathlon
Richard Bernstein Challenges ABA for Discrimination Against Blind Law Students
Michigan Sports Hall of Fame Honors Richard Bernstein with Courage Award
Attorney Richard Bernstein Named Leader in the Law by Michigan Lawyers Weekly
Victory! Disabled Win Access to U-M Stadium