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45 Years of Impact Spotlight

Fighting Against Discrimination by Public Accommodations

Title III of the ADA prohibits disability-based discrimination and guarantees individuals with disabilities the right to equal opportunities and access in public accommodations. In addition, Section 504 of the RA prohibits disability-based discrimination by recipients of federal financial assistance.

In 2013, in C.M. v. Arcadia University, DRP’s predecessor filed an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights on behalf of a student with autism. The complaint challenged discriminatory actions by a private university in violation of the ADA and RA. The university had previously agreed to accommodate our client, who could not take a full course load due to his disability, by allowing him to live on campus and seeking a waiver of NCAA rules to allow him to participate in athletics. The university subsequently banned him from living on campus and attending classes unless an attendant accompanied him at all times. The university’s actions were based on stereotypes arising from his disability-related behaviors. The university agreed to enter into a resolution agreement with OCR. Under the agreement, the university must (at the student’s choice) either reimburse his tuition for the past semester or give him free tuition for the next semester. The agreement also required the university to develop, and have OCR approve, disability and due process policies and to train all faculty and staff on those policies as well as disability awareness.

In 2016, DRP filed Schelling v. Reading Metro Taxi Cab, Inc., et al., on behalf of a Berks County resident who uses a wheelchair due to mobility disabilities. The lawsuit alleged that three taxi companies violated the ADA by charging the resident higher fees for use of their wheelchair accessible vehicles than those charges to other passengers for the use of non-accessible taxicabs. A federal judge approved a settlement agreement, in which the companies agreed to stop charging higher fees for accessible vehicles and agreed to install taximeters that calculate fares according to the same system utilized in other taxis in two of their wheelchair accessible vehicles.

In 2019, DRP filed E.H., by her parents, M.R. and P.H. v. Saddlebrook Equestrian Facility, Inc., alleging defendant violated Title III of the ADA by unlawfully refusing to allow a 13-year-old girl to take horseback riding lessons on the basis of her disabilities. The case settled, and plaintiff was permitted to take horseback riding lessons at the facility.