California P&A Sues Community College Over Transportation Services
by Andy Jones
October 19, 2016
Disability Rights California filed a federal lawsuit [PDF] last month, seeking a court order for a community college to provide an accessible transportation option for people with disabilities.
“Educational institutions should be fully accessible and inclusive to all students,” DRC Attorney Autumn Elliott said in a news release. “A shuttle service isn’t merely a convenience so students with disabilities can get somewhere more quickly. It can make the difference between getting an education or not.”
The West Los Angeles College provided a campus shuttle until February 2016, allowing students with mobility disabilities to navigate the college’s hillside terrain. The Culver City-based college, which enrolls about 12,000 students, provided an option for students to request a golf cart for the next month, but then cut off that service.
In a memorandum issued by the school’s Office of General Counsel, the College advised that, "There is no court decision requiring any of you to provide ADA shuttle service on campus. Any and all ADA accommodations must be provided only on a case-by-case basis and after a one-on-one interactive with the disabled person.”
The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by state and local government entities. To meet this standard, such entities, like state community colleges, must ensure students with disabilities are provided “meaningful access” to their services.
The lawsuit, filed September 15 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, requests that the Court issue a preliminary injunction, reinstating the shuttle, while the parties litigate or settle the matter.
In doing so, DRC pointed to the irreparable harm faced by the three named plaintiffs in the lawsuit, who have been forced to forgo and withdraw from class, and in one student's case, resort to only taking online classes during the summer session.
“Fall classes have begun. Without campus transportation assistance, Plaintiffs have had to choose between putting their educational pursuits on hold and enduring a college experience fraught with limitations and safety risks,’ the lawsuit states. “With either choice, Plaintiffs face significant, irreparable harm that is unacceptable under the law.
“Each class and school activity in which Plaintiffs are unable to participate due to lack of access disrupts their educational progress in ways they can never get back. Defendants’ denial of meaningful access prevents Plaintiffs from pursuing their educational and professional goals.”
The complaint requests that the Court set a 60-day timeline for the college to create a new shuttle service, in consultation with DRC. It also asserts claims under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the state’s anti-discrimination law.
Disability Rights California and Disability Rights Washington are the designated protection and advocacy agencies in California and Washington, respectively, and are members of the National Disability Rights Network.