A lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Dayton Tuesday said the Dayton Mall is discriminating against the disabled by not allowing buses to stop at mall entrances, forcing the handicapped and others to cross a large parking lot.
The lawsuit, which does not seek monetary damages, said the mall is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by not providing easier access. It asks the court to issue an injunction requiring the mall to allow the buses to stop at mall entrances.
“It effectively makes it impossible for people with disabilities who ride the bus to get to the mall,” said attorney Ellis Jacobs, who is representing four individuals with disabilities and two organizations for people with disabilities in the lawsuit, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc., and Disability Rights Ohio.
The lawsuit names as defendants the mall’s owner, WP Glimcher Inc., Dayton Mall II, LLC., Dayton Mall Ventures, LLC and stores at the mall including Macy’s Retail Holdings, Inc.; Elder Ohio Delaware Business Trust; the Bon-Ton Department Stores Inc.; and Sears Roebuck and Co.
A representative for WP Glimcher Inc., Karen Bailey, said the company declined to comment because, “we have not yet been able to review the complaint and therefore cannot comment on the matter.”
She added: “However, throughout this process, we have worked diligently with interested parties to identify a new location designated for a bus service at Dayton Mall and have done our part in moving this process forward.”
The location of the bus stop has long been a source of complaints from some riders.
The lawsuit said the mall, the largest shopping location in the county, permitted Dayton Regional Transit Authority buses to stop at mall entrances until 2003, when the mall ordered the RTA to move the stop to the back corner of the parking lot — the distance of two football fields.
“People who are blind or have mobility impairments now must make unnecessary bus transfers and endure an exhausting and dangerous trip dodging cars through the mall parking lot just to gain access to the mall entrance,” the lawsuit said.
Greg Kramer, 54, of Kettering, appeared at a news conference held outside the Federal Court building. He’s a quadriplegic with a spinal cord injury and uses a wheelchair.
“We’re just asking for equal access,” he said. “It’s difficult for people with mobility issues.”
John Dixon, 39, of Trotwood, has cerebral palsy and uses crutches to walk. “How can anyone enjoy the mall if they have a two-hour journey and have to worry about their safety?” he asked. “Our rights are being violated.”
Mark Theobald, 56, of Kettering has difficulties walking because of a stroke. “They want to keep the ‘wrong element’ out of the mall,” he said, “but they effectively disenfranchised the disabled.”
Mark Donaghy, Executive Director of the RTA, said the public transit agency has been in discussions with mall management for a decade about better bus access. He said he hopes the lawsuit is successful.
Jacobs said the court has not yet set a schedule for further action.
In 2013, Jacobs helped lead a legal effort to allow RTA buses access to Beavercreek in Greene County in the vicinity of the Mall at Fairfield Commons. Following a Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Civil Rights probe, Beavercreek stood to lose millions of dollars in transportation funding if the city failed to act on Federal Highway Administration recommendations to revisit bus stops near the Mall at Fairfield Commons.
The Federal Highway Administration ruled that the “African Americans have faced discriminatory impact as a result of the city’s decision to deny the RTA’s application to install bus stops along Pentagon Boulevard in the City.”
The federal investigation was triggered by a 252-page complaint filed by Leaders for Equality and Action in Dayton (LEAD) in August 2011 alleging the Beavercreek council’s vote against adding the bus stops in March 2011 was discriminatory and prevented some minority workers from obtaining jobs or seeking medical treatment in those areas.
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