[Hpn] Group sues businesses over access to disabled

William C. Tinker wtinker@verizon.net
Mon, 30 Jul 2007 03:33:45 -0400


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http://www.elpasotimes.com/business/ci_6474239

Group sues businesses over access to disabled

By Louie Gilot / El Paso Times

07/27/2007


Disabled El Pasoans are suing an El Paso institution, Chico's Tacos, and =
other businesses to show that many establishments still don't make =
accommodations for the wheelchair-bound.=20
The lawsuits, filed Thursday morning by the Paso Del Norte Civil Rights =
Project, coincide with the 17th anniversary of the passage of the =
Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA. The law offers civil-rights =
protections to the disabled against discrimination.=20

"We'd rather celebrate the ADA by saying that everything is accessible. =
But the reality is that there are still a lot of problems with =
accessibility in West Texas," Briana Stone, director of the Paso Del =
Norte Civil Rights Project, said at a picket Tuesday at a Chico's Tacos =
restaurant.=20

The lawsuit says that Chico's Tacos is a "quintessential El Paso =
tradition" and that making changes to accommodate disabled customers =
would be easy.=20

Chico's Tacos officials said they were surprised by the picket.=20

"We have been communicating with disabled-rights representatives this =
summer on ways we can improve=20

our existing restroom facilities in older restaurants," owner William =
Mora said in a written statement. "We have an architect reviewing the =
entire matter right now, and we expect to resolve concerns by the fall =
of this year.=20
"Our newer restaurants are fully accessible and we look forward to see =
what we can do with our older ones."=20

At the Chico's Tacos at 5305 Montana, there is a ramp, but Jose Lara =
says that the door is narrow, the bathroom is inaccessible and the =
chairs are fixed to the floor, making it impossible to pull them out to =
fit a wheelchair.=20

Lara, in a wheelchair for 30 years because of polio, is a plaintiff in =
the lawsuit.=20

"Like everybody else, we like Chico's Tacos," he said. "It's very famous =
around the country. But if we want to eat here, we need to eat in the =
parking lot."=20

The ADA says that all new construction done after July 1992 must be =
fully compliant with ADA guidelines but that older facilities also have =
obligations. They must make the disabled-friendly changes that are =
"readily achievable," which is defined as "easily accomplished without =
much difficulty or expense."=20

The other businesses being sued are two Whataburger restaurants that =
have fixed chairs; Take 5 Piano Lounge, where there are no accessible =
restsrooms and no accessible seating; and Econolodge-Fort Bliss, which =
has no accommodations for guests with disabilities and where employees =
allegedly refused to make a reservation for someone in a wheelchair, =
according to the lawsuit.=20

These businesses were suggested by members of Volar Center for =
Independent Living and Desert ADAPT.=20

Luis Enrique Chew, Volar's executive director, said there may be a =
backlash in the public opinion for going after such a beloved restaurant =
as Chico's Tacos.=20

He said a backlash happened in 1999, when his group sued Cinemark =
Tinseltown for violation of the ADA.=20

"At the beginning, the community didn't like that we were complaining," =
Chew said. "But eventually, all the movie theaters were made accessible =
and everybody gets the benefit, pregnant women, families, the elderly."=20

Chew said 25 percent of El Pasoans live with a disability, although not =
all are wheelchair-bound.=20

Michael Tarango, who was eating at Chico's Tacos on Thursday, said he =
supported the effort.=20

"They are authorized to come here like any other person," he said. "When =
I get old, I'll probably need it, too. I'll probably have a walker."=20

The suit also has the support of caretakers for the disabled.=20

"They want to have a life that's as normal as possible. This is =
preventing it," said Francisca Grajeda, a coordinator with the Personal =
Attendant Coalition of Texas.=20

Stone, of the Paso Del Norte Civil Rights Project, said she was =
optimistic about the lawsuit's resolution.=20

"Almost all of our cases end up with a resolution for our clients =
because the law is very clear," Stone said. "The question is why do they =
(businesses) wait for us to sue before complying with the law?"=20

Last year, the group sued the city of El Paso and Sonic for ADA =
violations. The suit against the city was dismissed, and the suit =
against Sonic was settled, Stone said.=20

The group is suing businesses across Texas to commemorate the ADA =
anniversary.=20

Louie Gilot may be reached at  lgilot@elpasotimes.com ; 546-6131.=20













William Charles Tinker=20
New Hampshire Homeless=20
Founded 11-28-99
25 Granite Street=20
Northfield,N.H. 03276-1640 USA=20
Advocates,activists for disabled,displaced human rights.=20
1-603-286-2492=20
http://www.missingkids.com=20
http://www.nationalhomeless.org=20
http://www.newhampshirehomeless.org=20
newhampshirehomeless-subscribe@topica.com=20


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<DIV class=3DarticleTitle><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2><A=20
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times.com/business/ci_6474239</A></FONT></DIV>
<DIV class=3DarticleTitle>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV class=3DarticleTitle>Group sues businesses over access to =
disabled</DIV>
<DIV class=3DarticleTitle>&nbsp;</DIV><!--subtitle--><!--byline-->
<DIV class=3DarticleByline><A class=3DarticleByline=20
href=3D"mailto:lgilot@elpasotimes.com?subject=3DEl Paso Times: Group =
sues businesses over access to disabled">By=20
Louie Gilot / El Paso Times</A></DIV>
<DIV class=3DarticleByline><FONT face=3DArial =
size=3D2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV><!--date-->
<DIV class=3DarticleDate>07/27/2007</DIV><BR>
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Disabled El Pasoans are suing an El Paso institution, Chico's Tacos, and =
other=20
businesses to show that many establishments still don't make =
accommodations for=20
the wheelchair-bound.=20
<P>The lawsuits, filed Thursday morning by the Paso Del Norte Civil =
Rights=20
Project, coincide with the 17th anniversary of the passage of the =
Americans with=20
Disabilities Act, or ADA. The law offers civil-rights protections to the =

disabled against discrimination.=20
<P>"We'd rather celebrate the ADA by saying that everything is =
accessible. But=20
the reality is that there are still a lot of problems with accessibility =
in West=20
Texas," Briana Stone, director of the Paso Del Norte Civil Rights =
Project, said=20
at a picket Tuesday at a Chico's Tacos restaurant.=20
<P>The lawsuit says that Chico's Tacos is a "quintessential El Paso =
tradition"=20
and that making changes to accommodate disabled customers would be easy. =

<P>Chico's Tacos officials said they were surprised by the picket.=20
<P>"We have been communicating with disabled-rights representatives this =
summer=20
on ways we can improve </P>our existing restroom facilities in older=20
restaurants," owner William Mora said in a written statement. "We have =
an=20
architect reviewing the entire matter right now, and we expect to =
resolve=20
concerns by the fall of this year.=20
<P>"Our newer restaurants are fully accessible and we look forward to =
see what=20
we can do with our older ones."=20
<P>At the Chico's Tacos at 5305 Montana, there is a ramp, but Jose Lara =
says=20
that the door is narrow, the bathroom is inaccessible and the chairs are =
fixed=20
to the floor, making it impossible to pull them out to fit a wheelchair. =

<P>Lara, in a wheelchair for 30 years because of polio, is a plaintiff =
in the=20
lawsuit.=20
<P>"Like everybody else, we like Chico's Tacos," he said. "It's very =
famous=20
around the country. But if we want to eat here, we need to eat in the =
parking=20
lot."=20
<P>The ADA says that all new construction done after July 1992 must be =
fully=20
compliant with ADA guidelines but that older facilities also have =
obligations.=20
They must make the disabled-friendly changes that are "readily =
achievable,"=20
which is defined as "easily accomplished without much difficulty or =
expense."=20
<P>The other businesses being sued are two Whataburger restaurants that =
have=20
fixed chairs; Take 5 Piano Lounge, where there are no accessible =
restsrooms and=20
no accessible seating; and Econolodge-Fort Bliss, which has no =
accommodations=20
for guests with disabilities and where employees allegedly refused to =
make a=20
reservation for someone in a wheelchair, according to the lawsuit.=20
<P>These businesses were suggested by members of Volar Center for =
Independent=20
Living and Desert ADAPT.=20
<P>Luis Enrique Chew, Volar's executive director, said there may be a =
backlash=20
in the public opinion for going after such a beloved restaurant as =
Chico's=20
Tacos.=20
<P>He said a backlash happened in 1999, when his group sued Cinemark =
Tinseltown=20
for violation of the ADA.=20
<P>"At the beginning, the community didn't like that we were =
complaining," Chew=20
said. "But eventually, all the movie theaters were made accessible and =
everybody=20
gets the benefit, pregnant women, families, the elderly."=20
<P>Chew said 25 percent of El Pasoans live with a disability, although =
not all=20
are wheelchair-bound.=20
<P>Michael Tarango, who was eating at Chico's Tacos on Thursday, said he =

supported the effort.=20
<P>"They are authorized to come here like any other person," he said. =
"When I=20
get old, I'll probably need it, too. I'll probably have a walker."=20
<P>The suit also has the support of caretakers for the disabled.=20
<P>"They want to have a life that's as normal as possible. This is =
preventing=20
it," said Francisca Grajeda, a coordinator with the Personal Attendant =
Coalition=20
of Texas.=20
<P>Stone, of the Paso Del Norte Civil Rights Project, said she was =
optimistic=20
about the lawsuit's resolution.=20
<P>"Almost all of our cases end up with a resolution for our clients =
because the=20
law is very clear," Stone said. "The question is why do they =
(businesses) wait=20
for us to sue before complying with the law?"=20
<P>Last year, the group sued the city of El Paso and Sonic for ADA =
violations.=20
The suit against the city was dismissed, and the suit against Sonic was =
settled,=20
Stone said.=20
<P>The group is suing businesses across Texas to commemorate the ADA=20
anniversary.=20
<P>Louie Gilot may be reached at &nbsp;<A=20
href=3D"mailto:lgilot@elpasotimes.com">lgilot@elpasotimes.com</A> ; =
546-6131.=20
<P>&nbsp;
<P><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2></FONT>&nbsp;
<P><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2></FONT>&nbsp;
<P><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2></FONT>&nbsp;
<P>&nbsp;
<P>
<P><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2></FONT></P></DIV></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>William Charles Tinker <BR>New =
Hampshire Homeless=20
<BR>Founded 11-28-99<BR>25 Granite Street <BR>Northfield,N.H. 03276-1640 =
USA=20
<BR>Advocates,activists for disabled,displaced human rights. =
<BR>1-603-286-2492=20
<BR><A =
href=3D"http://www.missingkids.com">http://www.missingkids.com</A> =
<BR><A=20
href=3D"http://www.nationalhomeless.org">http://www.nationalhomeless.org<=
/A>=20
<BR><A=20
href=3D"http://www.newhampshirehomeless.org">http://www.newhampshirehomel=
ess.org</A>=20
<BR><A=20
href=3D"mailto:newhampshirehomeless-subscribe@topica.com">newhampshirehom=
eless-subscribe@topica.com</A>=20
</FONT></DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
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