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