Settlement Will Add Parking for Students with Disabilities
Jim Hayes didn’t want to sue his school.
He’s always dreamed of being a Husky, and has nothing but praise for his teachers at the University of Washington Tacoma.
But Hayes, a 53-year-old wheelchair user, had one big complaint after beginning his studies in the summer of 2005: The campus didn’t have adequate parking for students with disabilities. The designated spaces were far away from school buildings, were improperly marked, and required a permit to use them, Hayes said.
He took his complaints to school officials more than once, telling them they weren’t following the law. But he said he kept hearing the same reply: “We’ve checked, and we’re in compliance.”
“They pretty much brushed me aside, so I had no other recourse to get their attention,” Hayes said. “And I did get their attention. This is going to be a great change not only for me but for everybody.”
In May, Hayes filed suit in federal district court in Tacoma. The case was reassigned to the Central District of California after the judges at the Tacoma courthouse – which happens to be across the street from UWT – decided that it would look better to remove it from their purvey. The parties reached a settlement agreement this month.
In exchange for Hayes dropping his lawsuit, UWT agreed to create new handicapped parking, mark them with the universal symbol for handicapped parking, and undertake a review of campus accessibility, including curbs, sidewalks, parking signs and access routes.
In addition, the school plans to review its process for handling requests for accommodation. And Hayes will receive $42,000, a payout that will largely go toward attorney fees. UWT will pay $39,000 and the City of Tacoma, also named as a defendant, will pay $3,000. The city also agreed to widen and restripe two parking spaces on Jefferson Avenue.