Public Access Civil Rights
Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program

"The Synergy of Conservation and Civil Rights: No Community Left Behind."

Recent Civil Rights Cases and Activities:

1. Calling all cabs! New York City has a cab accessibility issue, and the DOJ is on the case. Persons with mobility disabilities are especially impacted. Try getting into one of these traditional cabs if you are wheelchair user! So the cab companies in New York are working on a corrective action initiative, to open up this industry more for accessibility. This may be a systemic problem impacting other jurisdictions as well. Acessible vans for transportation are quite common now.

2. The DOI Office of Civil Rights sponsored a special forum re: a vendor and accessibility evaluation system that Dana and Angela have been using successfully in Regions 1 and 8. Dana, Angela and the vendor worked with the Department ot set up this forum. This forum included bureau public civil rights officers, bureau accessibility managers, and Civil Rights Director Sharon Eller. The presentation was well received. Both the Department and FWS are exploring potential possibilities to use this system.

3. There is a big EPA case with Environmental Justice implications, impacting minority and low income communities, espcially in Alabama and Indiana. A manufacturer has been cited for violations of the Claen Air Act. Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) have been identified from leaking equipment near some of these people of color communities. The company has already agreed to install equipment and embark on a leak monitoring program. $1.3 million has been earmarked for HAP emissions control. The company agreed to a $1 million civil penalty.

4. In a major Title VI court case involving the Justice Department, The City of New Orleans just signed a consent decree inpacting their police department. There were several allegations of mistreatment of people in the minority communities. There were illegal practices cited with regard to search, stops, arrests, etc. The terms of the decree include: sensitivity training of officers; revision of policies on the use of force; racial profiling prohibitions; revised standards for arrest and searches; close supervision of officers; and reform of investigative techniques. The decree also includes more active community contacts for more community involvement in policing practices.

5. There was a resolution of a service animal case. A law office allegedly would not allow a client to bring a service animal on the premises. The excuse that the law office used was that one of the lawyers had a dog phobia and had a dog allergy. The law firm apologized once to the client, but then allegedly barred the client again. The consent decree calls for the following terms of injunctive relief: A sign saying all service animals are welcome; training of employees of the law firm, including attorneys, on service animal requirements; and publicizing service animal policy. The firm agreed to provide $20,000 in monetary damages to the complainant, and also had to pay a $5000 civil penalty.

6. Anyone going to the Lincoln Center in New York City anytime soon for one of their entertainment spectacles? The Avery Fisher Hall was cited for numerous accessibility barriers. But the case summary states that the Lincoln Center was cooperative in addressing the accessibility issues. The consent decree was very comprehensive, so if you go, some day you will see an extreme--well not extreme--but significant makeover. That, according to plan, is to include: 6 additional dispersed wheelchair seating locations; comparable lines of sight for the wheelchair users; comparable ticket prices for wheelchair users and non wheelchair users; a companion seat next to each wheelchair seat; and 5% of aisle seats to be designated as aisle transfer seats. There are also planned renovations for restrooms, doors, drinking fountains; telephones, signage, elevators and parking signage. The target time frame for completion is within 18 months. Good and positive things happening in civil rights and accessibility!