Suits filed against Austin businesses 25 years after ADA
It's the silver anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, signed in 1990 by Bush 41.
On Monday morning, a celebration of the progress made in 25 years.
Cassie Fisher with the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services says the act has helped a great deal.
"We have more individuals who are able to have employment, live independently in the community," Fisher said.
But Fisher says there's always room for improvement. Something an entirely different group, ADAPT of Texas, believes wholeheartedly.
"Fix your access. Invite us in. We'll spend our money," said David Wittie, a member of ADAPT of Texas. This year the group put the spotlight on Rainey Street.
Joe Berra is an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project. He works with ADAPT every year around the ADA anniversary.
"Every year they have places and businesses that they have encountered that are inaccessible still even 25 years after," Berra said.
This year, ADAPT along with the Civil Rights Project has filed a total of 32 lawsuits across Texas. 21 are in the Austin area against businesses they believe convey the message that only able-bodied customers are allowed.
"When a place is inaccessible because of a physical barrier, you're telling someone they're not welcome and that they can't come," Berra said.
Albert Metz or "Sparky" as his friends call him has Cerebral Palsy. He uses a device to speak.
He and his friend David Wittie say they were with a group of friends on Rainey Street recently. After having some trouble finding the accessibility ramp to get inside Icenhauer's, Metz says he was ultimately refused service. He believes it was due to his disability.
"I felt disrespected, insulted, dismissed and quite frankly...pissed off," Metz said through his device.
So they didn't stick around.
"I was simply looking forward to having a beer with my friends on a warm Texas summer evening," Metz said.
"So after that we went and had a beer somewhere else. Spent our money somewhere else...but we shouldn't have to do that," Wittie said.
We spoke with Icenhauer's attorney and part owner by phone, Robert Icenhauer. He says the property is ADA compliant.
"Our policy is that everybody is treated equally. And if anybody was denied service on any basis because of a disability, that's something that violates our policy...and something that we will remedy immediately," Icenhauer said.
Icenhauer says the group recently reached out to him in a letter. He says he did respond and said he would love to meet with them and talk about the issue. But Icenhauer says the group never responded.
Icenhauer's is just one of several Rainey Street businesses being sued and there are even more across Austin and Central Texas.
The following is a list of the lawsuits listed in a press release from the Texas Civil Rights Project:
TCRP Austin Office
Metz v. Icenhauer's – A popular Rainey Street business, refused to serve Mr. Metz due to his disability.
Salovitz v. The Blackheart LLC – Another Rainey Street business whose main entrance prevented wheelchair users from entering its bar, and the only accessible stall in their men's restroom lacks a door.
Boyte v. Fremont Holdings LLC – Defendants denied wheelchair users the opportunity to dine at Rainey Street’s popular food trucks.
Lopez v. LAZ Parking - Defendant’s parking lot on the north end of Austin’s popular and trendy bar district, Rainey Street, does not have accessible parking spaces.
Salovitz v. MOQUI, LLC - Popular food truck, East Side King, which is owned by season 9 Top Chef winner Paul Qui, has fenced off its order window and takes food orders from atop concrete steps that are not accessible to people with mobility disabilities.
Salovitz v. RGD Property Holdings Ltd. - Accessible entrance to Whisler's bar forces wheelchair users to navigate through an unsafe alleyway, and the outdoor dining area is floored with loose gravel, which causes wheelchairs to get stuck.
Salovitz v. La Corsha Hospitality Partners, LTD - Defendant denies wheelchair users the opportunity to dine at Austin’s iconic food trucks at Waller and 6th Street food truck court.
Wittie et al v. DCI Biologicals Austin, LLC and BPL Plasma, Inc – For-profit plasma donation center refused to allow plaintiffs Wittie and Collins to donate blood due to fact that they are wheelchair users.
Watkins v. U.S. Coachways, Inc. - National charter bus corporation fails to accommodate reasonable requests for wheelchair accessible vehicles.
McPhail v. Austin Overtures Corporation – Popular sightseeing tour company denies service to patrons who use wheelchairs and refuses to purchase or lease accessible vehicles.
Lopez v. Las Curras Inc. d/b/a Curras' Grill – A popular restaurant refuses to allow wheelchair users to park or use their restrooms.
Steele v. Dan's Hamburgers Inc. – Defendant’s business lacks a permanent ramp, accessible parking spots, and restrooms, resulting in preventing and excluding people with disabilities from patronizing their business.
Salovitz v. All Saints Tattoo – Tattoo parlor’s inaccessible entrance prevents wheelchairs users from entering their business and getting tattoos.
Salovitz v. Collective Status LLC - Collective Status boutique denied entrance to individuals who use wheelchairs by refusing to provide a ramp.
Watkins v. Becker Farms Inc. – Defendant, which owns Becker Vineyards and Becker Farms Winery, does not provide accessible restrooms, which poses significant challenges to people with mobility disabilities.
Watkins v. FBG Historic Properties LLC. - Fredericksburg's Lone Star Candy Bar’s entrance prevents wheelchair users from entering and patronizing historic candy store.
Watkins v. Wellivers, LLC d/b/a Buffalo Nickel Bar and Grill – Defendant’s entrance is inaccessible to wheelchairs users and prevents and excludes them from patronizing their business.
Watkins v. Dilley, Texas - City fails to provide accessible public restrooms in its city park.
Watkins v. Dilley Family Center, Inc. - Restroom at convenience store located off Interstate Highway 35 is inaccessible to patrons who use wheelchairs.
Petties v. Woodbine Development, Inc. – Defendant prevented wheelchair users from using their restroom at Dallas Union Station.
West v. Toy Chest Property, LLC; Salyas, II. Inc. d/b/a Park Hill Café - TCU-area strip mall and restaurant refuses to provide ramps, preventing and excluding wheelchair users from patronizing their businesses.