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...
Richard Bernstein is no stranger to tough situations. As someone who is visually impaired, he’s had to face numerous challenges in life–challenges that might make...
The Daily Oakland Press
By Jerry Wolffe
August 18, 2004
A lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court Tuesday against the Detroit and U.S. departments of transportation requiring that Detroit buses comply with federal law and have wheelchair lifts working on all Detroit buses.
"They (Detroit) are telling the federal government that the wheelchair lifts are working and they're not," said attorney Richard Bernstein, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of five wheelchair users.
Bernstein said attorney Gary Benjamin plans to file a similar federal lawsuit in the near future against the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation, which serves all of Macomb County and parts of Oakland and Wayne counties.
"The city of Detroit receives federal funds to operate the bus system," said Bernstein of Birmingham, who practices law in Farmington Hills. "But when Detroit receives federal funding it has to follow guidelines, and these include that all buses have working wheelchair lifts.
"We're going to show that the city of Detroit is intentionally violating federal law by operating buses that have broken wheelchair lifts."
After the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in July 1990, municipalities were required to purchase only buses that were equipped with working wheelchair lifts.
Norman White, the head of DDOT, is on record admitting that 50 percent of wheelchair lifts in the city are inoperable, Bernstein said.
In addition, he said the plaintiffs in the case will testify about waiting for hours as bus after bus passes them by with the drivers telling them the wheelchair lift is broken.
One plaintiff, Willie Cochran of Detroit, a double amputee who needs dialysis treatments, once waited for about six hours to get home. "He thought he was going to freeze to death," Bernstein said.
Being able to use the bus system is a civil right and a basic city service and Detroit is getting federal money to provide bus service for wheelchair users, but they are not doing it, Bernstein said.
"We've had it. We're done," he added. "There are certain things people have the right to have. Detroit is taking federal money, claiming they are in compliance with federal regulations and they continue to intentionally operate buses without working wheelchair lifts."
If a federal judge finds Detroit in violation of the law, federal funds will be withheld from DDOT until the wheelchair lifts "on all the buses are operable. If a lift breaks, it must be fixed within 48 hours," under the law, Bernstein said.
The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland. No hearing date was immediately set.
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