Victory for access

A U.S. Court of Appeals panel rejected SEPTA’s claim that it wasn’t required by the Americans With Disabilities Act to install elevators at two Center City stations during a 1999 renovation project.

The ruling states the transit agency must make those stations accessible with elevators on the northwest corner of 15th and Market and in the southwest corner of City Hall’s courtyard. SEPTA could request a rehearing or petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, but SEPTA needs some time, a spokesman said.

“It’ll take a little while for the lawyers to review the decision and for SEPTA management to decide the next step,” spokesman Richard Maloney said Thursday.

Rocco Iacullo, a Disabled Rights Network attorney who uses a wheelchair, termed the decision “a key victory [which] reaffirms the spirit of the ADA … so that people with disabilities have equal access to opportunities in their community.” Disabled in Action of Pennsylvania initially sued in 2003, claiming that not making replacement escalators and stairways with disabled-friendly alterations was a violation.

“After eight years, it’s a little anti-climatic,” said Steve Gold, an attorney known as the Godfather of the ADA. “They wasted millions of dollars paying lawyers. It would have been much cheaper to install the elevators back then. I hope that, finally, their culture will change.”

History repeating

Attorney Stephen Gold said the case mirrored 1988, when the U.S. Supreme Court supported a Court of Appeals ruling that the city had to make the subway stop at Columbia Avenue accessible.

An adjunct professor at Temple University then, he said the wheelchair-basketball team said they had to “do wheelies down the stairs” in order to take the train to see a Sixers game. “You’d think they’d have known that they had to” install elevators, he said.

More from our Sister Sites