The D.C. Attorney General's office has reached a settlement agreement with a group of local residents with disabilities who sued the city over the lack of accessibility to stores that sell D.C. Lottery tickets.
A joint motion to dismiss the suit was filed today in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The motion, which cited the settlement agreement as the cause, was promptly granted by Judge Gladys Kessler.
The plaintiffs in the case include the Equal Rights Center, a Washington-based national nonprofit civil rights organization. Although a copy of the settlement agreement has not been released, the Equal Rights Center put out a press release this afternoon detailing some of the terms, which include a requirement that barriers to accessibility be removed within 18 months and that any prospective D.C. Lottery agents must remove all accessibility barriers before receiving a license.
“It’s not just for purposes of buying a lottery ticket,” said E. Elaine Gardner, director of the Disability Rights Project at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, in a phone interview today. “In many neighborhoods, these are the grocery stores, these are the places where people go to run errands.”
Gardner and attorneys working pro bono from Washington’s McDermott, Will & Emery represented the Equal Rights Center and the two other plaintiffs, both D.C. residents with disabilities. McDermott partner Eugene Goldman said they agreed to the settlement terms with the attorney general’s office last week. The case was scheduled to go to trial this week.
“The presence of the new attorney general, Irvin Nathan, was a positive force in the discussion between the parties,” Goldman said. Nathan took over as the city’s acting attorney general in January; his confirmation hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.
The Equal Rights Center and other plaintiffs first filed suit in 2006, accusing the city of failing to enforce accessibility requirements for public facilities as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act and the D.C. Human Rights Act. The complaint cited more than 200 addresses where there were barriers to accessibility. The D.C. Lottery is a city program run through private businesses.
Gardner said barriers to accessibility can range from a lack of accessible parking and ramps to doors that are too narrow to fit a wheelchair.
Don Kahl, executive director of the Equal Rights Center, said he is pleased with the settlement, but added that his group will continue to carefully monitor locations to make sure the city follows through on the settlement.
“Compliance with that agreement is very important, not just to the Equal Rights Center, but to the disability community here in D.C. that uses these locations,” he said in a phone interview today.
Ariel Waldman, senior counsel to the attorney general, said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon that the attorney general's office is "pleased that the matter is settled."
Updated at 6:30 p.m. to include a quote from the attorney general's office.