LOS ANGELES – LawFuel.com – Law Newswire – Starline Tours of Hollywood, Inc., the oldest and largest sightseeing tour company in Los Angeles, has agreed to reform its policies and practices to settle allegations that it was violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to provide wheelchair-accessible vehicles used for its sightseeing tours.
A consent decree filed this afternoon in conjunction with a federal complaint requires Starline to ensure that any new vehicles purchased or leased for use in its sightseeing tours will be accessible to individuals who use wheelchairs. Starline has also agreed to maintain a sufficient number of wheelchair-accessible vehicles to ensure a level of service for individuals who use wheelchairs that is equivalent to the level of service provided to individuals without disabilities. As part of this case, Starline has implemented a policy requiring all of its employees to receive mandatory training on their obligations under the ADA.
The consent decree is subject to court approval.
“As described in the federal lawsuit and consent decree filed today, Starline Tours carries more than 1 million passengers a year,” said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. “This settlement will ensure that Starline’s disabled customers will be able to enjoy all of the company’s tours – just like every other local resident or tourist who chooses to visit and tour the City of Los Angeles.”
According to the complaint, this matter was initiated by Amy Champlin, a wheelchair user who suffers from Friedreich’s Ataxia. In March 2011, Ms. Champlin and several companions travelled to Los Angeles to attend the annual meeting of the National Ataxia Foundation. In preparation for their trip, Ms. Champlin contacted Starline, but was initially told that Starline’s tours were not accessible to disabled individuals unless they were able to walk onto a bus and stow their wheelchairs. Ms. Champlin persisted and ultimately was able to reserve a wheelchair-accessible tour for herself and five of her companions, three of whom are mobility impaired. Despite Ms. Champlin having made this reservation more than two months in advance, a non-accessible vehicle was sent on the morning of the tour, and the accessible vehicle that was eventually sent was not operational. Due to their travel schedule, Ms. Champlin and her companions were unable to take the tour, which they had anticipated to be a highlight of their visit to Los Angeles.
In addition to making changes in order to provide equivalent services to patrons with disabilities, Starline Tours has agreed to pay a $5,000 civil penalty and $15,000 in damages to Ms. Champlin and her companions.
“Starline does not admit liability or any violation of the ADA or any other law,” according to the consent decree filed today. “Rather, this consent decree is voluntarily entered into by the parties for the purpose of resolving disputed issues and improving Starline’s best practices and customer service.”
CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney Robyn-Marie Lyon Monteleone
Civil Rights Unit Chief, Civil Division