Inside: Accessibility

April 1, 2007
Student told to leave dog home; U. of Chicago promises more accessibility; ADA compliance an uphill effort; Wheelchairs in stadiums


The state of New York's Division of Human Rights is investigating a complaint against the East Meadow Union Free School District after officials refused to let a student who is deaf bring his service dog to school.

John Cave, 14, wants Simba, a Labrador retriever, to accompany him to W. Tresper Clarke High School in Westbury, N.Y.

The district's position, as spelled out by Superintendent Robert Dillon, is that the boy has “full and equal access to the district's programs and services” without the dog. Having the dog in school would be distracting, the district contends.

“Certain risks are posed by a canine participating daily in the school environment, such as allergy considerations, problems in navigating class and staff flow in the hallways and stairwells, and the significant distraction and substantial disruption to educational operations that the animal's presence poses,” says Dillon.

The Cave family asserts in a lawsuit that the district's actions violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. They say the boy and the dog need to spend the whole day together to form necessary bonds.


The University of Chicago has agreed to make its campus and services more accessible to people with disabilities.

The school promised to make the changes as part of an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department, which during a compliance review at the campus found violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The university, together with the community at large, will develop a plan for making the needed facility alterations within four years. The agreement covers such areas as classroom and administrative buildings, housing, museums and libraries, access between facilities, athletic and performance areas, signage, transportation and emergency preparedness.

Among the changes: The university will ensure that 3 percent of student housing units are accessible and dispersed among housing facilities; it will develop campus-wide evacuation, sheltering and shelter-in-place plans for people with disabilities; and it will provide assistive listening devices in lecture halls, meeting rooms, auditoriums and other assembly areas.

The agreement calls for the university to submit an accessibility plan to the Justice Department by November.


Colorado College has pledged to remove barriers to accessibility on its Colorado Springs campus.

The school settled with the U.S. Justice Department, which had found many violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act in the college's 65 buildings. Only eight of the buildings have been constructed since the ADA was enacted. The campus is in a mountainous region with elevation changes that make it difficult to create accessible routes.

The Justice Department's compliance review identified many ADA violations: doorways and routes within buildings that were too narrow, high door thresholds, and inadequate signage; insufficient maneuvering space in the stack area of the library; ramps that were too steep; abrupt level changes along routes; inaccessible student housing rooms; inaccessible dining counters and tables; and inaccessible seating in assembly spaces.


Schools and universities building new stadiums must meet the requirements of the ADA. Some key requirements with regard to wheelchairs:

  • At least 1 percent of the seating must be wheelchair seating locations.
  • A companion seat must be next to each wheelchair seating location.
  • Wheelchair seating locations must provide lines of sight comparable to those provided to other spectators.
  • Wheelchair seating locations must be on an accessible route that provides access from parking and transportation areas.
  • Accessible seating must be an integral part of the seating plan; people using wheelchairs must not be isolated from other spectators.

Source: Disability Rights Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Justice Department

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