The ACLU of Southern California today filed for a preliminary injunction in federal court to force the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) to meet the basic transportation needs of mobility-impaired bus riders. The order sought would require the MTA to keep its wheelchair lifts and safety equipment in proper working order, promptly repair broken equipment, and provide alternative transportation for mobility-impaired passengers who are not able to board. The ACLU is also calling on the MTA to voluntarily make improvements in its service for disabled riders so that a court order will not be necessary.

Mobility-impaired riders have repeatedly complained about the failure to accommodate their disabilities, to no avail. More than five months after the lawsuit was brought, the MTA has still not agreed to make improvements in its service to mobility-impaired riders.

The ACLU's federal class action suit, filed on behalf of mobility-impaired bus riders in Los Angeles County [Beauchamp et al. v. Los Angeles County MTA, et al., C.D. Cal. Case No. 98-0402-CBM (BQRx)], charges that the MTA is failing miserably in its obligation to provide "full and equal access" to disabled bus riders. This lawsuit, filed January 16, was amended, June 2, into a class action. Plaintiffs charge that the MTA is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA") and other disability access laws. The ADA was enacted to dismantle barriers that prevent disabled individuals from obtaining equal opportunities, independence and economic self-sufficiency.

Plaintiffs charge that the MTA is breaking the law by failing to keep its wheelchair lifts in proper working order and that, on some lines, the lifts are broken more than 60% of the time. Frequently, mobility-impaired riders have been passed by completely, often without any explanation. The MTA has also endangered riders in wheelchairs by failing to keep its safety equipment operational or to use this equipment properly. The deplorable conditions on MTA buses have resulted in physical injuries, humiliation, emotional distress, and loss of wages to plaintiffs.

Plaintiffs are informed that the MTA Board will consider making voluntary improvements to its service for disabled riders, including wheelchair lifts and safety equipment, at its June 26 meeting. If the MTA Board refuses to make the necessary improvements, then a hearing will occur on July 20 at which plaintiffs will ask the federal district court for an order that would force the MTA to comply with the ADA and other disability access laws.

The ACLU is calling on the MTA Board to voluntarily agree to improvements in service to mobility-impaired riders, so that a court-ordered preliminary injunction will not be necessary.

ACLU staff attorney Dan Tokaji commented: "While the MTA has squandered billions of dollars on failed projects, the basic needs of disabled bus riders have gone unmet. The MTA has spent extravagant sums on plush new offices, but has failed to keep its wheelchair lifts in proper working order. As a result, mobility-impaired riders continue to suffer every day. Time and time again, disabled riders are left out in the cold or sweltering heat, while bus after bus passes them by. It is high time for the MTA to do right by disabled riders. If they won't make things better on their own, the MTA will face a court order forcing them to stop treating disabled people like second-class citizens."

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