SAN FRANCISCO — Two people with disabilities along with advocacy groups are suing Bay Area Rapid Transit, saying the agency discriminates against those with mobility disabilities because of broken or unusable elevators, escalators and fare gates.
The lawsuit alleges that BART effectively excludes passengers with mobility issues by failing to keep clean its elevators – which are often out of service and/or soiled with human waste – as well as failing to promptly fix other non-functioning area of the system.
The class-action lawsuit was filed by the advocacy groups Senior and Disability Action and the Independent Living Resource Center of San Francisco. Two disabled passengers, Ian Smith and Pi Ra, were also named as plaintiffs in the suit.
“I encounter human waste in BART elevators several times a week – so frequently that it has become a predictable part of my commute,” said Smith in a prepared statment. “My hope is that this lawsuit will finally get BART to address the needs of the disability community.”
“When elevators are out, many people with mobility disabilities cannot use BART at all so they’re either stuck or they have to figure out some other way of getting from place to place,” read a statement from Jessie Lorenz, executive director of the Independent Living Resource Center.
The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief in the form of a plan to remove the barriers of soiled or broken facilities and no monetary damages.
“This is exactly the sort of isolation that the Americans with Disabilities Act and other access laws aim to prevent,” read a statement from Jessica Lehman, executive director of Senior and Disability Action.
BART issued a statement saying the agency is currently executing a $16.3 million escalator and elevator improvement plan, along with earmarking another $190 million in access improvements to the downtown San Francisco stations as part of the recently-passed Measure RR.
“We share the frustration of the Disability Rights Advocates legal group, but are disappointed our program of capital improvement is being met with litigation,” said BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost in the statement. “Nonetheless, we hope to again work together in the future as we value the perspective of people with disabilities both from within our own employee community and the cities we serve.”
BART also said it has a wide variety of resources available to communicate with and help people when there are system outages, and that it is working with local agencies to address the impact of the homeless crisis on its stations.