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Chicago Transit Authority settles suit over access to bus system
CHICAGO, JULY 18, 2001 -- The Chicago Transit Authority will spend $15 million over 5 years to improve access to its buses, say terms of the class action settlement in a lawsuit brought February 2000 by Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago and nine individuals with disabilities. The suit charged the Chicago Transit Authority of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. Terms of the settlement were announced July 17.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs say the CTA first tried to have the suit dismissed outright, claiming that it couldn't be sued under the ADA. When a judge denied that motion, the transit authority then claimed to the court that plaintiffs "had produced no evidence of discrimination and that CTA was not responsible for the misconduct of its employees."

The U.S. Dept. of Justice entered the case this spring, filing a friend-of-the-court brief. When the court rejected the CTA's second effort to get out of the lawsuit, a trial date was set.

The most important provision of the settlement, says attorney Barry Taylor, is the requirement for an independent monitor to oversee and document CTA compliance for five years. The lawsuit was handled by Equip for Equality , a nonprofit law center that administers the federal Protection and Advocacy System in Illinois.

The settlement will require the CTA to install audio-visual equipment on buses to announce bus stop information to riders; fix and update the elevator system and hire more staff to service elevators quickly when they break down. CTA must allocate $100,000 a year for five years to address accessibility problems. The CTA is also being required to keep "a centralized database of all ADA-related complaints," says the settlement.

CTA employees will now face disciplinary action for passing customers with disabilities and refusing to stop; failing to report broken lifts or elevators, "failing to call out stops where required"; "deploying a lift in inappropriate locations" and "insolence or disrespect to a customer by a CTA employee -- a problem faced all too often by people with disabilities," says Equip for Equality.

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