Farmington Woman's Lawsuit Chronicles ADA Violations at State-Leased Building
Jill Babcock's suit aims to force the state and the owner of Cadillac Place to comply with standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Farmington resident Jill Babcock's lawsuit over handicapped access issues at a state-leased building in Detroit alleges a list of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) violations that her attorney calls "remarkable"
Cadillac Place, leased by the State of Michigan and renovated in 2002, houses Babcock's employer, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC), the Michigan Court of Appeals, the Governor's office and a number of state commissions, including Disability Concerns.
Farmington Hills attorney Richard Bernstein, a noted disability rights advocate who represents her in the lawsuit, said the barriers faced by his client and others include:
- The 15-story building's front entrance consists of three revolving doors, which make it difficult for people in wheelchairs or with other disabilities to enter.
- A ramp designated for handicapped access is set up at a grade much higher than the 2-3 percent required by ADA standards, making it dangerous for a person in a wheelchair to use.
- A large bank of elevators tied to one call button makes them difficult to access for people who cannot quickly move to an open car.
- Restrooms do not meet some ADA requirements, although buttons have been installed to open entrance doors.
- Some parts of the building are only accessible through stairways.
- The number of handicapped parking spaces is inadequate, based on ADA standards.
- Illegally parked, state-owned vehicles often block curb ramps, with no prevention or enforcement.
- Courtrooms and corridors do not meet ADA standards for accessibility.
Even given all that, Babcock said she was willing to work with her employer to get things addressed. She felt they were making progress, until an email arrived about a month ago, sent to all MEDC employees in the Lansing office.
In short, it said that if employees found parking spaces they had paid to occupy had been taken by someone else, they should use handicapped parking spaces until their parking spaces were freed up. Babcock called the email "the last straw".
Bernstein said he hopes to get access to the building so an engineer can go through the building to assess ADA compliance. From there, Bernstein hopes to negotiate a timetable for compliance. The engineer and the Bernstein law firm are doing the work pro bono.
The state has 21 days from when the complaint was filed to respond to the charges, Bernstein said, and "for the life of me, I cannot imagine what their response will be."