The ACLU of Southern California today won a significant victory in its federal lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) on behalf of disabled bus riders in Los Angeles County. Judge Consuelo Marshall granted plaintiffs' motion to certify the lawsuit as a class action, thus the litigation will now represent disabled riders throughout Los Angeles County.

Speaking following the ruling, ACLU attorney Dan Tokaji said, "People who use wheelchairs have the same right as anyone else to use MTA buses. But throughout the Los Angeles area, mobility-impaired riders have repeatedly had the doors to MTA buses slammed in their faces. The court's ruling today is an important first step toward bringing the MTA into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. By certifying this case as a class action, the court's ruling will ensure that any orders issued in this case will protect the rights of all mobility-impaired riders in the MTA system."

The lawsuit Beauchamp et al. v. Los Angeles County MTA 98-0402-CBM (BQRx), was filed in January to force the MTA to meet the basic transportation needs of mobility-impaired bus riders. The suit charges that the MTA is failing miserably in its obligation to provide "full and equal access" to disabled bus riders. Last June, the ACLU sought a preliminary injunction to force defendants to move on their promises to correct the problems before a trial. That motion is still pending. If granted, the MTA and its subcontractors would be required to keep its wheelchair lifts and safety equipment safe and operable, to promptly repair any broken equipment, and provide alternative transportation for mobility-impaired passengers who are not able to board.

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. Repeatedly, mobility-impaired riders have been passed by completely, often without any explanation at all. The MTA has also endangered riders in wheelchairs, by failing to keep its safety equipment in working order 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. Mobility- impaired riders have repeatedly complained about the failure to accommodate their disabilities, to no avail.