Delta Airlines, Wayne County Airport Authority agreed to improve accessibility at Detroit Metropolitan Airport for people with disabilities. For our readers this shows how regulatory language such as that contained in the ADA Act, the AODA Act for Ontario and the Accessible Transportation Act in the US lead to Universal Design which benefits all users of the airport NOT just the disabled.
Americas Sep 28, 2011
Detroit: Delta Airlines and the Wayne County Airport Authority have agreed to make improvements at Detroit Metropolitan Airport to bring the facility in line with federal disabilities regulations, ending a three-year federal lawsuit.
U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh signed off on an action plan last week that ended the lawsuit. The three-year plan calls for Delta and the authority to make significant changes to the airport’s McNamara Terminal, North Terminal, parking garages, Westin Hotel and shuttle buses to bring them in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act laws.
There are two years left under the plan. The lawsuit was dismissed as part of an agreement for the upgrades. The airport and airline aren’t admitting to wrongdoing or liability as part of the agreement.
Both parties and the court didn’t release the agreement until Tuesday morning. Negotiations on what would be corrected were discussed privately and records kept sealed.
“This is really going to make a difference for a lot of folks,” said attorney Richard Bernstein, who represented the plaintiffs. “The court held that the ADA applied to air carriers. This is monumental.”
Providing an accessible, safe travel experience for airport users is a top priority for Delta and the Wayne County Airport Authority, airport spokesman Michael Conway said Tuesday.
“The Airport Authority, Delta and the plaintiffs have worked together to develop an action plan that enhances airport accessibility for all of our patrons,” Conway said. “The plan includes a number of actions that the Airport Authority and Delta have voluntarily agreed to implement even though they may extend beyond legal requirements.
“We remain deeply committed to enhancing the accessibility of the airport for all users and look forward to working with everyone involved in implementing the action plan.”
Plaintiffs Deborah Thomas, James Keskeny, Jill Babcock, Martin Drouillard and Emma Daniels sued in April 2008, alleging the authority and the Northwest Airlines Co. violated federal law when the newly renovated airport did not meet federal standards for access for people with disabilities.
Babcock, 40 and of Farmington, said her wheelchairs have sustained flat tires, cuts to the seat and back or outright destruction when she has flown.
She said she has an undiagnosed case of cerebellar ataxia, which causes sudden and uncoordinated movement of the muscles because of a disease or brain injury.
“I carry tools with me when I fly,” she said of on-the-spot repairs she makes following damage to her wheelchair while flying. “You don’t want to be somewhere without your mobility.”
Babcock said her wheelchair is sometimes damaged so badly she can’t use it.
“When I buy a plane ticket, I don’t expect them to destroy my mobility,” she said.
Some of the changes laid out in the action plan already have occurred while others are under way.
Major changes include installing new curb ramps and accessible restroom stalls, cane detectors throughout the airport and altering the slope of some ramps. Under the agreement, bigger changes can be completed after the three years elapsed and the timeline is open to negotiation.
Smaller changes involve signage changes, swapping out a confusing elevator switch plate and providing staffers to help disabled flyers at airline kiosks or crossing jet bridges.
Bernstein said the improvements also will make flying easier on senior citizens because many use canes or wheelchairs to get around or may have issues hearing.
“If you make something really good for the disabled, you make it better for senior citizens,” he said. “At the end of the day, we will have the best airport in the nation. It is going to be a fantastic change for disabled people and senior citizens.”
Delta became part of the suit when it purchased Northwest Airlines.