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Detroit Free Press
By Ben Schmitt, Free Press Staff Writer
August 18, 2004
A group of wheelchair users sued the City of Detroit on Tuesday, claiming half of the city's buses lack working wheelchair lifts as required by federal law.
"They should be able to ride a bus like everybody else," said Farmington Hills attorney Richard Bernstein, who filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Detroit. "There is no negotiation; the law says it."
Bernstein said federal law requires that all buses with broken wheelchair lifts be repaired or pulled from the streets within 48 hours. The City of Detroit consistently ignores that law, he said. "This is so insane that the city is unable to manage a basic service like this," Bernstein said. "This is the kind of case that makes you become a lawyer."
The suit claims the city is in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. It also names the U.S. Department of Transportation.
One of the plaintiffs, Willie Cochran of Detroit, said he was waiting for a bus to take him to a dialysis clinic and several buses passed him by, telling him their lifts were broken. Another plaintiff, Caroline Reed of Detroit, said she lost her last job because of inaccessible DDOT buses. Reed has used a wheelchair since 1990.
Bernstein, who is blind, said he is not in search of money, but wants the buses fixed soon, and he wants them inspected regularly.
"The city is working to improve services to all riders, including riders who use wheelchairs for mobility," said Ruth Carter, an attorney for the city. "... We look forward to working with the plaintiffs to resolve the litigation to the mutual satisfaction of both the riders and the city."
Copyright (c) 2004 Detroit Free Press
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