Lottery customers are known for playing their favorite numbers and some even have preferred spots to buy tickets.
Two regular D.C. Lottery ticket buyers, Robert Coward and Lewis Starks, who are disabled and use wheelchairs, sued the District of Columbia in 2006 on the ground they were being denied the same opportunity to play as other non-disabled users. The Washington-based Equal Rights Center, a civil rights advocacy group, is also a plaintiff.
Coward and Starks, represented by McDermott, Will & Emery, said their use of motorized wheelchairs make it difficult for them to play at their preferred locations, according to the suit. Starks alleges that only two of the 20 Lottery sites closest to his home in Northwest Washington has an accessible entrance, the suit said, and both fail to provide "internal access" to lottery sales. The suit alleges that not one of the 17 Lottery locations within a mile and a half of Coward's home in Northeast Washington is accessible under the American with Disabilities Act.
A federal judge today refused to dismiss the suit and also denied the plaintiffs’ request for summary judgment. A ruling in favor of the plaintiffs, Kessler said, would force the District to increase the accessibility of the D.C. Lottery. The question in the case is whether the low number of licensed D.C. Lottery locations that are accessible to disabled players means those players are being discriminated against or excluded from participating in the Lottery.
The D.C. Office of the Attorney General maintains Coward and Starks have not been excluded from playing the Lottery. A bench trial is scheduled for November.
Coward and Starks want, among other things, an injunction preventing the District from issuing new Lottery licenses or renewing licenses for businesses that disabled people cannot access. They also want unspecified money damages. In a 32-page ruling, Senior Judge Gladys Kessler (at left) said the suit against the District can move forward. Click here for the opinion.
The plaintiffs, Kessler wrote, “adequately alleged that they have suffered injury due to increased risk relating to personal safety resulting from having to wait outside for assistance from a clerk and due to humiliation caused by relying on the help of others in order to play the Lottery.”
A lawyer for Coward and Starks, McDermott partner Joshua Rogaczewski in Washington, was not immediately reached for comment. The Washington Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs also represents the plaintiffs.