City is sued over disabled access

  • April 17, 2009
  • Bruce Bromley

A Florida activist group claims that the Von Braun Center is not user friendly for citizens with disabilities and is suing the City of Huntsville on behalf of a disabled city man.

The Von Braun Center’s executive director, however, said any problems with handicapped access will be fixed as part of renovations under way this spring and summer.

The nonprofit group Access Now filed the lawsuit in federal court last week on behalf of Willard Brooks of Huntsville, who is a member of Access Now and requires a wheelchair to move around. The lawsuit cites the federal Americans With Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.

The lawsuit cites problems in most of the older part of the center’s areas of service including the North Hall, ticket box office, arena, the theater, concert hall/administration center and parking areas.

Problems the lawsuit cites range from poor curb access for handicapped-equipped vans in parking areas, ticket counters that are too high, water fountains and sinks in restrooms that are too low, and a lack of powered/automatic entry doors.

The lawsuit asks that the court order the city to make the requested improvements and supervise the facility until the improvements are complete. The lawsuit also asks the court to order the city to pay the fees and expenses of Brooks’ lawyers.

Steve Maples, VBC executive director, said Monday improvements are already under way that will bring the center into compliance with federal laws. A $5 million renovation of the VBC Concert Hall started this month, and a $16 million renovation of the arena and concourse is expected to get under way this summer.

“Any VBC renovations currently in progress, such as (in) the concert hall, will address all ADA requirements within that portion of the facility,” he said.