Dramatic re-enactment of an actual phone call with a business that will remain anonymous.

Image: Sketch of a woman on the phone with a speech bubble that reads, in small type, “I just wanted to let you know about what you would need to do to you know provide interpreters because well you know how we attorneys are I don’t want to sound confrontational or anything but just to let you know that as a technical matter your office is a place of public accommodation and for that reason is required by the ADA to provide effective communication and we’d be happy to provide a list of interpreter agencies and oh thank you so much for working with us on this we really really appreciate it . . . .”  while her thought bubble reads, in large, all-caps type, “OH FOR CRYING OUT LOUD THE ADA WAS PASSED 25 YEARS AGO AND YOU CAN’T FIGURE OUT THAT YOU NEED TO HIRE INTERPRETERS?!?!”



Access success and fail in Helena, with random Helena photos

I spent part of last week in Helena, Montana on a new/old case in which CREEC is joining the ACLU National Prison Project and the ACLU of Montana as co-counsel on the case of Langford v. Bullock.  The Langford case was brought and settled in the early 1990s, but the implementation period is ongoing with respect to a claim under Title II of the ADA.  CREEC is lending its expertise in this area.

Image:  four people standing arm in arm.  From left:  a middle aged white man with red-blond hair and a gray goatee wearing a tan suit jacket and open collar shirt, an younger middle-eastern man with short hair wearing a button down shirt, a young white woman in a gray t-shirt and blue scarf, and a middle aged white woman in a yellow shirt and multi-colored scarf.

Jon Ellingson of the Montana ACLU, Ajmel Quereshi of the ACLU NPP, and CREECsters Sarah Morris and me.

Sarah and I flew into Missoula, met with Jon and Ajmel, and then all drove over to Helena.  The meeting went well, and left me a few hours of Wednesday afternoon for a leisurely stroll around Helena.  As I’ve mentioned — among other places, in my Ramps of Route 1 post — I love to observe the small ways that small town small businesses find to provide access.*

First up:  Taco del Sol on Last Chance Gulch Street.**  I love not only their tile ramp

Photo:  Sidewalk sign showing a big, wooden sun with attached smaller signs reading "Tacos Burritos Nachos Fish Tacos and more" and another reading "Beer and Wine."  Next to the sign, a door into a restaurant with a sloped tile ramp leading in.

but that, even as a small restaurant, they made Braille menus available.

Photo:  wooden box containing menus; a sign on the side reads "Braille menus are available for in-store use."

Also the carne asada burrito was fantastic!

Last Chance Gulch was a sort of pedestrian mall that did a great job ensuring the one or two steps of rise at most stores was ramped.  The giant plush bear added an extra touch at the Lasso the Moon toy store.

Photo:  front of a toy store with a large stuffed bear, accessible with a sloped entryway.

And accessible ice cream!


Helena had a couple of hilarious access fails, as well.  Flower pot access fail:

Photo of two-way ramp in front of the door to an office building with a giant flower pot at the top of the ramp.

Pink flamingo access fail:

Photo of store with level entry, which put a flower pot in the door, and in the flower pot, a large plastic pink flamingo which is pitching face first into the door width.

And major design brain fart fail:

Photo showing ramp down to lowered area of pedestrian mall; there is a single step up to the ramp, however.

The photos below were just randomness from my walk:

Photo of moorish style design in an arch at the Civic Center. Photo of detail from a painted outdoor wall showing an ashtry with a half-smoked cigarette. Photo of a brick wall and text painted on the adjacent wall reading, "Memory Wall:  The Historic Chinese Community of Helena." Photo of large red pickup truck with the license plate "BG JNSN."

And my photos could not capture the beauty of the mountains, but I tried:



*  As with the original post, I have to offer this disclaimer, because every now and again some defense-side attorney (hi, guys!) may read this:  I did not evaluate these ramps for compliance with the Standards.  I don’t know their dimensions or slope.  If you try to introduce this as evidence in one of my cases, I will file a Motion for Judicial Notice of Completely Missing the Point.

** Not kidding!

Photo:  traffic light and street sign reading "Last Chance Gulch."

The Pioneer – a restaurant/access review

A divey bar with excellent food and access to the roof deck – what could be better?!

Tim and I have been coming to The Pioneer for a couple of years now. It’s not far from our house and had a nice patio where you could chill with good drinks and snacks in Colorado’s dry summer air.

It’s a college bar – hence the name, after the University of Denver Pioneers – but if you go early enough, you won’t be overwhelmed with students and it has terrific Colo/Mex food – far better than the décor would suggest. And the margaritas are fantastic – so fantastic that I only go there on my bike.

Image: photo of purple girl's bike locked to railing around patio in previous photo.

Sometime last year, we noticed that they were adding a roof deck on top of the patio. “Oh well,” we sighed, “I’m sure it won’t be accessible, but then it’s an old building and we can still drink margaritas on the patio.”

This week we’re on staycation, chilling at home, getting various house-related things accomplished, avoiding work email, and — when the mood strikes us — wandering up to The Pioneer in the middle of the afternoon.  We settled in at a patio table and then, just for the heck of it, asked if they had an elevator.



“Yes, we do, but someone needs to find the key.”  I was so blown away by the fact that they’d installed an elevator that I did not stop to comment on the fact that it would be great if their disabled customers could use it independently.

Morgan — our extremely friendly & helpful waiter — found a key and, well, “elevator” turned out to be a mild exaggeration.  Here is the door to the “elevator” on the roof deck.

Image: photo of the door to an open-air wheelchair lift.

And the, um, view from the “elevator” at the roof deck level:

Image: View from top of open air wheelchair lift toward the houses beyond the roof deck.

Tim:  “Am I almost up?”

Me:  “Yes, if by ‘almost’ you mean ‘about halfway.'”


Once we got there, we were glad we’d asked, and so very glad The Pioneer had installed an “elevator.”

Image:  left side - a bar under an awning; right side - picnic tables with umbrellas.  A white man in a flowered shirt and using a wheelchair sits at one of the tables.

Short restaurant review:  I had the goat cheese quesadillas — they were spectacular.   Tim had the veggie burrito (shhhh don’t tell) with mushrooms, poblanos, and potatoes.  Also really really good.  And margaritas all around.  And you canNOT beat the view:

Image: view over the railing of the roof deck to a 7-Eleven store.

Seriously, as a restaurant we can walk/roll to and stumble/weave home from, with delicious food and a friendly staff, we love the Pioneer.  Slightly less sarcastic photo of the view looking south:

Image: panoramic view of roof deck.

And of course, The Pioneer himself:

Image: larger-than-life-sized figure of a "pioneer" a white guy with a beard and a DU sweatshirt, holding a stein of beer in one hand.  His arms are open to the roof deck and he is smiling.


Yes, this was a business trip.

This post is a long-overdue recognition of the amazing work Kmart has done to make its stores more accessible.  But perhaps I was just waiting for the opportunity to include the words — and a photo — “crocodile statue.”*

Once upon a time … yes I feel like the roots of this post are sufficiently deep in the past that it justifies that opening.  Once upon a time, there was a chain of department stores, many of which were pretty inaccessible.

{Image:  A woman in a wheelchair wheeling away from the camera down a store aisle, the sides of which are clutered with boxes and a hand-truck.}

We sued them.  A class was certified.  The company declared bankruptcy.  The company emerged from bankruptcy.  No one, including the judge, could figure out the status of the litigation.  Many motions with creative titles were exchanged.  The company hired new lawyers, then more new lawyers.  And then, finally, in 2006, the case settled.

In the settlement, Kmart undertook to survey all of its then-1,500 stores over eight years and bring them largely into compliance with the DOJ Standards.  They also committed to make rack spacing more accessible and — this  was crucial — to maintain the stores so that people who use wheelchairs could get around them.

Kmart and its team threw themselves into the project with skill and enthusiasm.  It has been a privilege to work with Lori Miller, from the general counsel’s office, and Mark Conway, from the construction side.  Although we spent days during the settlement negotiation laboring over a dispute resolution process, there has not be a single dispute that required access to that process.

OK, I’m rambling without getting to the crocodile part of the blog.

As part of the settlement process, several times each year, Mark and Tim and I travel to a city and survey three or four Kmart stores, both for the accuracy of the physical fixes and the maintenance of the fixes and the accessibility of the stores in general.  We’ve traveled to such glamor spots as Riverside, CA, and Schaumberg, IL.  This time we tossed out the idea of surveying stores in the Florida Keys and, well, here we are!

We surveyed three stores, all remodeled pretty early in the process, and found them to be very accessible.  There were, as always, a couple of notes, but we were very impressed both by the number of fixes that were being maintained and the general accessibility of the stores.  That latter feature has been a consistent source of delight when we do these surveys and when I simply enter a Kmart store:  they have taken seriously the commitment to making the store more navigable in a wheelchair, one of the primary complaints motivating the litigation.  When we started the litigation, there were many aisles in many stores that looked like the one at the top of this post.  Now that scene is very rare.

But what made these surveys especially fun was the added Florida Keys flavoring.

{Image:  orange and blue plastic kayaks displayed in front of a Kmart store.}


{Image:  Coral Cactus, that is, a cactus plant that is wavy and looks like coral.}

I think I’m going to order the Crocodile Statue from  Hope it’s still on sale!

{Image: : Cardboard packing box with the words "crocodile statue" on the outside.}


{Image:  A garden-sized statue of a crocodile.}

Most Kmart stores have a Garden Center; the one in Marathon — uniquely — had a Fishing Center

{Image:  Exterior of a large brick building with red letters that read "Fishing Center."}

What would be the entire garden center area of an ordinary Kmart was given over to fishing gear and — given our lead plaintiff’s love for fishing — Carrie should be happy to know it was very accessible.

{Image:  on the right side of the photo, the display racks on one side of an aisle of a Kmart store, all showing fishing gear of various types.  The left side of the photo showing a clear path down the aisle.}


But my favorite feature of this store was the giant ocean mural on the front.



{Image:  close up of part of the mural showing a single teal-colored fish.}

{Image:  close up of part of the mural showing a five small teal-colored fish.}

This led to my unsolicited but genius design idea:  paint the floor of the main drive loop aisle around the store like a lazy river pool full of tropical fish!  Wouldn’t that make shopping more fun?  I did originally suggest sharks — hey, I’m a lawyer, what did you expect? — but the store manager pointed out that that might scare the kids.  Good point.  But what kid wouldn’t love to go shopping when they could walk on a stream full of tropical fish?  Imagine the fun this could be around the country:  ski slopes in Colorado; beaches in California; forest scenes in New England.  Maybe I have a future in store design!



* Edited to correct typos.  I originally had “crocodile statute.”  Once a law nerd; always a law nerd!  (Thanks, Terri!)

Litigation triumph (with photographic incompetence).

As we announced earlier on CREEC’s website, we finally settled the almost 12-year-old Taco Bell case.  Although the settlement requires notice and court approval, we decided to indulge in a bit of BBQ-based celebration on Thursday evening at T-Rex in Berkeley with most but not all of our wonderful team.   Unfortunately, my stubborn insistence on never using the pop-up flash on my camera resulted in some pretty blurry and/or grainy photos.  Blerg.  I’m now looking for an external flash for an Olympus XZ-2 that can tilt but that does not turn the whole thing into a giant, lumbering, unwieldy piece of photographic equipment.

On to our team!  Here is the core litigation team — sans Tony Lawson, who was in LA, and Brad Seligman, who is now The Hon. and had pre-existing obligations relating to his talented musical daughters. It also doesn’t include the wonderful Dan Goldstein, who joined the team last fall to assist with settlement and who deserves huge heaping helpings of praise (and, later, scotch) for his successful efforts.

Below:  lawyers Tim Fox, me, Mari Mayeda, and Jocelyn Larkin and Named Plaintiff (and disability rights goddess) Corbett.


Bill Lee, who through his own work and that of his firm, was incredibly helpful to and supportive of our case.


Co-counsel Robert Schug and Jocelyn Larkin of the Impact Fund and mentor Lainey Feingold.  (I really do need to investigate the flash situation….)


Future civil rights rock stars Sarah Morris (CREEC) and Meredith Johnson* (Impact Fund) plotting world domination.


Tim’s assistant Dustin McNa enjoys some of T-Rex’s famed health food.


And finally, the highlight of the evening:  obscure whiskey tasting!  The bartender told us this was a bottle from the latch batch ever of this whiskey.  “Like drinking a dodo bird,” explained Dustin.


This post doesn’t even begin to recognize all of the people who helped us out over the past 12 years.  We’ll have a more complete, better-photographed version after (God willing) final approval.


* It turns out Meredith and Tim both went to St. Olaf College in The Middle of Somewhere Very Cold, Minnesota.  We were treated to a brief but inspiring rendition of their college fight song, “Um Yah Yah” (which I think translates as “What Were We Thinking???”).   If you think I’m making that up — at least the song title part — check the school’s website!


There is finally a stock photography site full of real, active, did I mention real? people with has apparently been up and running for a couple of years; I just discovered it because its founder, Deborah Davis, was featured as New Mobility’s Person of the Year.

We first used stock photography in a monumentally misguided* attempt to settle a case by presenting the defendant with examples of how people with disabilities could be part of its advertising and outreach.  Seeking stock photographs, we ran searches like “wheelchair,” “disabled” and of course “handicapped” in the various mainstream stock photography sites.  What we found were (1) hospital and medical images; and (2) essentially fake images in which obviously non-disabled people had seated themselves in crappy gray-vinyl hospital wheelchairs to undertake random daily tasks.

When we finally found a couple of images that seemed genuine, we bought them, and then discovered such images were so rare, we saw the same folks all over the damn place.  I’m guessing, for example, if you read any sort of disability-oriented publication, you’ve encountered these photogenic folks:

{Image: Photo of boy and man. Both are African-American. The man is on the right, sitting in a manual wheelchair, spinning a basketball on his finger. The boy stands to his side, watching the basketball and holding up one finger as if to imitate the man.}

{Image: a woman and girl, both white, both blond. The girl is in a manual wheelchair. The woman hugs her from behind.}

We had such little luck finding real images that we solicited some from photogenic friends doing photogenic things with photogenic kids, and then took one or two ourselves.  This, for example, is our friend Julie, her two older daughters, and our dog in our backyard.  Think PhotoAbility would be interested?

{Image:  A blond woman (sitting in a manual wheelchair) and two blond girls playing with a golden retriever dog under a tree in a fenced yard.  One girl, perhaps two years old, sits in her mother's lap.  The other girl, perhaps 6 years old, holds a toy out to the dog.}

We continue to use stock images on our website and in educational materials, so I’m very excited to learn about stock photography with gen-u-ine pwds doing genuinely cool stuff.  Also that PhotoAbility is part of a network of great sites at about inclusive travel, lifestyle, design, etc.  Check them out!


* Part of a hilariously grandiose settlement attempt suggested by new and (as it turned out) temporary co-counsel.  We appeared at a meeting with the defendant’s general counsel and her posse with a bunch of spiral-bound glossy brochures featuring our purchased and home-made stock images and a bunch of powerpoint verbiage about how wonderful and inclusive access was and how it would enhance their image, etc. etc., and of course they could not possibly have cared less.  They wanted to know what it would cost, thanks for making the trip, goodbye.  Luckily, since it was early in our practice, our dear, wonderful copy people “forgot” to charge us for the glossy brochures and spiral binding.  The case finally settled — three general counsels and two outside counsels later.  So it goes.

Christmas Display

I saw the most wonderful display in front of a church as I drove down University Blvd today.  Not a creche, no lights, no crosses, no Santas or reindeer.  Just:

{Image:  photo of a church buliding with -- in front of the church -- a long concrete and brick ramp under construction.}

a ramp under construction.   St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church is building a beautiful ramp in front of their church building.  No back entrances here; nothing ad hoc or flimsy.  They’ve given over the front lawn of the church to a cut-back concrete ramp, lined with brick to match the building.

{Image:  more distant photo in which the entire church building is visible within the frame, as is the ramp extending the width of the building.  Construction equipment is visible in the lower right of the photo.}

I was very moved by the message of inclusion that this collection of concrete and bricks and construction equipment sent especially at the time of year when there is generally so much hand-wringing about Christmas displays.*  Sometimes the simplest things speak the most eloquently.   It’s is even more moving, I think, because the ADA does not require churches to be accessible, so this likely reflects a simple decision that everyone should feel and be invited to worship.

Because ramps are fun to do in panorama:

{Image: a panoramic view in which the entire ramp is visible close up, with construction equipment to the right.}


* You know, the creche; the creche + menorah to show that we’re ecumenical; the creche + menorah-even-when-Chanukah-was-over-two-weeks-ago to show that we’re ecumenical but sort of clueless; the creche + menorah + Santa Claus to show that we’re not really religious, just seasonal; and of course the creche + menorah + flying spaghetti monster just because we can.