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45 Years of Impact Spotlight

Fighting for Accessible Public Accommodations: One-Step Cases

Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) in order “to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.” 42 U.S.C. § 12101(b)(1). The ADA prohibits disability-based discrimination and guarantees individuals with disabilities the right to equal opportunities and access in various areas, including but not limited to employment (Title I), state and local governments (Title II), and public accommodations (Title III).

Throughout its history, DRP has worked to enforce the ADA’s protections and to increase accessibility in public accommodations by advocating for installation of ramps and removal of architectural barriers under Title III of the ADA.

For instance, in 1999 and 2000, DRP filed multiple lawsuits against establishments in Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, respectively, based on the failure to install ramps to allow entrance by wheelchair users. Many of the businesses agreed to settle and make accessibility modifications.

Further, as part of the Pittsburgh campaign, DRP reached out to numerous businesses in the South Side, and many made necessary changes to remove barriers. At the request of the City of Pittsburgh Department of City Planning, DRP and representatives of the disability community met with representatives of the Planning Department, the Historic Review Commission, the South Side Local Development Corporation, and others to discuss access solutions for the South Side and similar Pittsburgh business districts.

In 2015, in honor of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the ADA, DRP brought two one-step cases, Farria v. Smak Parlour, Inc., et al., and Harper, et al. v. 118-122 Market Street, LLC, et al., challenging inaccessible entrances to public accommodations:

  • In Farria, DRP filed suit under the ADA on behalf of a Philadelphia resident who uses a wheelchair and was unable to enter a boutique due to a four-inch step at the boutique’s entrance. After DRP filed the lawsuit, the building’s owner agreed to construct ramps at boutique and a dry-cleaning business in the same building.
  • In Harper, DRP alleged that a restaurant owner violated the ADA by failing to remove architectural barriers that prevented plaintiffs, Philadelphia residents who use wheelchairs for mobility, from having equal access to the restaurant. The case settled, and the restaurant owner agreed to make modifications to the premises by installing an ADA-compliant ramp and widening the front entrance doorway.

In 2017, DRP filed Leahy v. Garces Restaurant Group, et al., on behalf of a Philadelphia resident who uses a wheelchair. She visited a Philadelphia restaurant and was unable to enter through its newly constructed front entrance since it was built with two steps and no ramp. Many barriers, including a backdoor ramp in disrepair, made the rear entrance inaccessible as well. The restaurant owner agreed to settle and to make accessibility modifications in compliance with the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design, codified at 28 C.F.R. § 36 Appx. A.

Plaintiffs and others with mobility disabilities now have full and equal access to these public accommodations.