Virginia University Named in Lawsuit Alleging Poor Access for Disabled

ROANOKE Va. –  An advocacy group claims in a series of lawsuits that Radford University, a half-dozen Roanoke area shopping malls and two hotels fail to provide adequate facilities for disabled people.

The lawsuits were filed over the last two weeks in U.S. District Court in Roanoke by the Florida-based National Alliance for Accessibility and Denise Payne, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair.

The Roanoke Times reports that the lawsuits are among nearly 200 brought nationwide by the plaintiffs.

The complaints allege numerous violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, including sloped parking spaces, a lack of handrails on ramps and improperly placed toilet paper dispensers.

Radford University was named because Payne attends Southeast Unitarian Universalist Summer Institute there. That lawsuit, filed Friday, lists problems the plaintiffs found in 14 buildings and offices.

The deficiencies Payne found at Radford and elsewhere amount to discrimination, safety hazards and deprivation of disabled people’s access to public places, the lawsuits claim.

Radford spokesman Jeffrey S. Douglas told The Associated Press on Monday that he could not comment because university officials had not yet seen the lawsuit.

Brian Blair, an Orlando, Fla., attorney who has defended many of the ADA cases elsewhere, told the Roanoke newspaper that when alleging a slope is too steep or a doorway too narrow, “it can be an inch, a half-inch or sixteenths of an inch. It’s not like they’re saying, `The courthouse had no steps and I had to drag myself up.'”

Most of the lawsuits filed by the National Alliance for Accessibility are still working their way through courts, according to records. A few have been settled, with the terms undisclosed.