Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Myrtle Beach Accessibility Suit

See this article, which begins:

Two disabled visitors have sued Myrtle Beach because they say the city's beach accesses are inaccessible to people in wheelchairs.

In the suit filed Aug. 29, Linda Vandeusen, a resident of Columbia, and Edward Law, a resident of Orlando, Fla., ask for undisclosed monetary damages; attorney's fees; the cost of the lawsuit; and an injunction forcing the city to alter beach access, parking and bathroom facilities to comply with federal and state laws.

The lawsuit accuses the city of constructing a walkway with steps to the beach when it was previously a flat access route but does not specify the location. Other complaints include that the city's portable bathrooms lack bars for the disabled and that the city's handicapped parking is flawed because of drains, steep slopes and incorrectly drawn spaces.

U.S. Magistrate Thomas E. Rogers III's scheduling order requires mediation by Aug. 11 and sets the trial day as Nov. 1.

Both plaintiffs use wheelchairs and visited Myrtle Beach during the past couple of years. Vandeusen is disabled as defined under the Americans With Disabilities Act as a result of dystonia, a neurological movement disorder characterized by involuntary muscle contractions. Law is a quadriplegic as a result of a diving accident in 1987.

City spokesman Mark Kruea said many but not all of the city's beach accesses are handicapped-accessible. The city also offers free beach-going wheelchairs and employs a person to make sure the city is ADA compliant, he said.

Kruea said city policy prevents him from commenting on pending legislation but said, "The city facilities are accessible to people with disabilities."

Vandeusen is a member of Advocates for Disabled Americans and recently has filed suits against numerous municipalities and businesses, including Lexington County; Richland County; a Charleston-area hotel, gas station and International House of Pancakes; a Lexington Applebee's; a Hilton Head Island Comfort Inn; and a mall in Greenville.

"I'm trying to have accessibility to things that we people with disabilities should have access to," she said by phone.

Law, also an AFDA member, filed suit this year against the Breakers Resort and Carrabba's Italian Grill, both in Myrtle Beach.

He could not be reached for comment.

Vandeusen declined to talk about her experience in Myrtle Beach or to say which beach accesses were inaccessible.

"The ones they say are accessible aren't," she said.

Vandeusen referred other questions to her and Law's New Jersey-based attorney, Anthony Brady.

Brady said Myrtle Beach needs pathways onto the beaches that normal wheelchairs can access. The city's beach wheelchairs are too heavy for a disabled person to operate without assistance, he said.

Brady said all the city's beach accesses were inaccessible to the disabled and that Hilton Head Island's beach accesses are a model for Myrtle Beach to follow.


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