Calling the ruling a major victory for disabled and elderly bus riders who rely on lifts and equipment to let them travel on MTA buses, the ACLU of Southern California hailed the ruling received today from U.S. District Court Judge Consuelo Marshall granting a preliminary injunction in Beauchamp vs Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority [98-0402 CBM (BQRx)].
In her September 22 ruling Judge Marshall said plaintiffs demonstrated a high likelihood of prevailing on their claims of discrimination by the MTA and its subcontractors. The judge also ordered the MTA to maintain the accessibility equipment, safety equipment, and radios on all its buses in proper working order and to promptly repair any such equipment that is out of order. Additionally, the judge ordered that buses with equipment designed for disabled bus riders must stop and board these passengers and that if a bus is not able to board a passenger because of broken equipment, the driver must stop and inform the disabled rider and report the problem immediately by radio.
Hailing the ruling ACLU attorney Peter Eliasberg said, "This injunction is a great victory for all disabled bus riders in Los Angeles County. For too long, the MTA has treated riders in wheelchairs like second-class citizens. These riders are regularly denied access to the buses because the wheelchair lifts are constantly broken, or drivers do not even bother to stop to pick them up. Even when they do get on the buses, the safety equipment meant to hold them place does not work, or drivers refuse to use it, thus endangering them and other passengers on the bus. This injunction sends a clear message that its high time for the MTA to obey the law and provide equal access to riders who use wheelchairs."
Cooperating attorney Stanley Fleishman said of the ruling, "This is a major victory for all people with disabilities and the elderly. Transportation is key to the enjoyment of life including the right to work, socialize and take part in their community. This represents a major step towards equal opportunity for the disabled and the elderly."
This ruling affects all disabled bus riders in Los Angeles County following Judge Marshall's August 25 ruling granting plaintiffs' motion to certify the lawsuit as a class action.
The lawsuit 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. In June, the ACLU sought the preliminary injunction to force the MTA to make good its promise to correct the problems before a trial.
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 waited for buses only to have the drivers pass by the stop without picking them up. Worse still, drivers will pick up passengers who can walk on to the buses only to shut the door in the face of disabled riders. 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 had repeatedly complained about the failure to accommodate their disabilities, to no avail.