SACRAMENTO AIRPORT ‘S NEW DESIGN BIASED AGAINST DISABLED, SUIT CLAIMS
Berkeley, CA – December 20, 2012 – Sacramento International Airport (“SMF”) serves approximately 7.9 million passengers per year, yet has failed to make its facilities and services accessible to travelers with disabilities. A class action lawsuit filed today in the United States District Court alleges that the County of Sacramento discriminates against people with mobility disabilities in its operation of the newly constructed Airport Terminal B, a building that violates disability compliance laws and prevents people who use wheelchairs and scooters from fully accessing airport services.
This civil rights lawsuit is brought on behalf of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (“CFILC”), a statewide non-profit organization composed of 25 independent living centers, dedicated to removing barriers and promoting equal opportunities for people with disabilities and individual plaintiff Ruthee Goldkorn, a wheelchair user. The lawsuit seeks to remove access barriers at Terminal B to ensure that travelers with mobility disabilities can use the airport’s facilities and services. Disability Rights Advocates (“DRA”), a non-profit disability rights legal center, which specializes in civil rights cases on behalf of persons with disabilities, represents the Plaintiffs in this lawsuit.
Sacramento Airport recently spent $1 billion dollars to construct a new Terminal B building. It is now three times the previous terminal’s size and includes, among many new amenities, a multi-million dollar art collection, sophisticated restaurants, and an automated PeopleMover. However, the terminal fails to meet new construction standards mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and other civil rights statutes, which results in severe difficulties and dangerous conditions for travelers with mobility disabilities.
The pervasive access barriers at Terminal B include ticket and gate counters that are too high, interfering with the ability of travelers who use wheelchairs and scooters from readily utilizing basic travel services, such as ticketing, requesting flight assistance, and changing seat assignments. There is also a lack of wheelchair accessible seating throughout the terminal and extremely heavy bathroom doors that require great difficulty to open or the assistance from others.
Other barriers create unsafe and dangerous conditions such as the lack of curb cuts at the unloading passenger zone, which force wheelchair and scooter users to travel in the path of vehicular traffic, and inadequate emergency evacuation procedures for travelers with disabilities.
Airport officials immediately disputed those assertions in a brief email to The Bee.
“The design of new Terminal B complies with all applicable State Building Codes and Americans with Disabilities Act provisions,” spokeswoman Linda Cutler wrote.
Teresa Favuzzi, Executive Director of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers, commented: “Access barriers at Sacramento International Airport are an all too familiar reality for individuals with mobility disabilities. Airport travel should be a safe and equally accessible experience for everyone.”
Plaintiff Ruthee Goldkorn, a wheelchair user and frequent traveler at Sacramento International Airport, commented: “As a traveler with a mobility disability, I simply want to use basic travel services like every other traveler can.”
Shawna Parks, Plaintiff’s attorney of Disability Rights Advocates, commented: “It is unfortunate that such a large public construction project was not completed in a way that makes it accessible to people with disabilities, particularly when the law is so clear. This kind of failure could have been prevented, and must now be corrected.”
Shawna Parks, Disability Rights Advocates, 510-665-8644
Stuart Seaborn, Disability Rights Advocates, 510-665-8644
Teresa Favuzzi, California Foundation for Independent Living Centers, 916-325-1690
EARLY DEATH REPLACED BY DISABILITY AS MOST SIGNIFICANT HEALTH RISK
“The health of most of the planet’s population is rapidly coming to resemble that of the United States, where death in childhood is rare, too much food is a bigger problem than too little, and life is long and often darkened by disability.
“High blood pressure is now the leading ‘risk factor’ for disease around the world. Alcohol use is third. Low-back pain now causes more disability than childbirth complications or anemia.
“We are in transition to a world where disability is the dominant concern as opposed to premature death, said Christopher Murray, who headed the Global Burden of Disease Study, published on [December 13, 2012].
“The pace of change is such that we are ill prepared to deal with what the burden of disease is now in most places.
“The risk of dying prematurely from many ‘adult diseases’ (such as heart attacks and cancer) has also fallen because of better treatment and prevention. As a result, the average age of the world’s population is getting older. Soon after 2015, for the first time in history, there will be more people older than 65 than younger than 5. That has had two consequences.
“More people are surviving to die of diseases that occur only in old age. . . . At the same time, people are living with conditions that don’t kill them, but that do affect their health.
” . . . the study should prompt us to think hard about what are the major causes of disability today, and what are the possible solutions that can accelerate progress against them.”
The independent living movement will be challenged to modify our advocacy to account for these changes. During the first half of the 20th Century, polio was one of the most dreaded childhood diseases. A handful of polio survivors were among the first leaders of our movement. As polio and other infectious diseases are reduced or eliminated, new mostly chronic diseases occupy our attention and healthcare resources. Going forward, we will be required to expand our scope of practice to include advocacy for the full range of disabled citizens. In order to maintain our effectiveness, it seems to be incumbent upon us that we play a partnership role in reducing the incidence and severity of these mostly preventable diseases.
RESTORE HEALTH FUNDS, ADVOCATES URGE LEADERS
A f ree dental clinic offered this summer at the Cal Expo grounds in Sacramento may serve as the perfect illustration of how great is the need for restoring many, if not all, of the medical and dental services which have been cut from the Medi-Cal program over the last several years of deep budget deficits and its attendant cuts.
“Three years ago, the state eliminated most adult dental services to help balance the budget.
“As California recovers from a deep recession and expects several billion dollars worth of new voter-approved taxes, Democrats and low-income advocates are clamoring to restore health and social service programs such as adult Denti-Cal.
“Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, specifically mentions the dental program as a priority and sees ‘pent-up demand’ to undo the most severe budget cuts, though he isn’t sure if that can happen immediately.”
Readers may recall that inability to access even basic dental care through a managed care program in Sacramento County reached scandalous levels earlier this year and cast serious doubts about the value of the managed care model in all areas of healthcare. With the state Department of Health Care Services poised to launch managed care model health care reform throughout California’s 58 counties by 2014, it should be clear by now that such reform will absolutely depend on having a revenue stream that is reliable and sufficiently robust to reimburse providers at an adequate level, as well as having strong protections for patients against systemic abuses.
Although the new revenue has nearly closed the budget gap, an estimated $1.9 Billion deficit is predicted for 2013, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO). Governor Jerry Brown has signaled that he may be less willing to restore the requested lost funding until the economy exhibits a more robust recovery