Gustafson v. U.C. BerkeleyLandmark Settlement of Class Action Lawsuit to Improve Disability Access at University of California, Berkeley
DRA reached a class action settlement with the University of California, Berkeley that is resulting in comprehensive access improvements to this leading national University. The Plaintiffs are a class of all students with mobility and/or vision disabilities at U.C. Berkeley. Under the settlement, U.C. Berkeley has been removing thousands of access barriers throughout its facilities.
DRA co-counseled this case with Schneider Wallace Cottrell Brayton Konecky LLP and the Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center.
The lawsuit, Gustafson v. Regents of the University of California, was originally filed in federal court in 1997. To settle the case, the parties selected a panel of joint experts. These experts oversaw a comprehensive survey of the campus facilities, reviewed policies and practices that impact access, and interviewed students with disabilities to identify barriers to access. The joint experts then issued a detailed set of recommendations for physical barrier removal, changes in policies, and other access improvements. The parties then negotiated a comprehensive settlement agreement to implement these recommendations.
Named plaintiff Kaaryn Gustafson was a doctoral and law student at U.C. Berkeley when this case was filed. “As a person with a mobility disability, being unable to independently navigate the campus needlessly compounded the stress of being a student,” she recalls. “I am very happy that, as a result of this case, other students will now have comprehensive resources available through the University to address and remedy access issues. Students with disabilities will be able to focus on being students without the frustration and aggravation of unnecessary barriers to participation.”
“With this settlement, U.C. Berkeley is on its way to becoming one of the most accessible campuses for students with disabilities in the country,” said Laurence Paradis, Executive Director of Disability Rights Advocates and lead counsel for the plaintiffs. “We are very pleased that the University has embraced its obligation to ensure that students with disabilities are fully included in its programs and activities. U.C. Berkeley has always been a leader on the cutting edge of academia and education, and the University upholds that tradition today in signing this agreement.”
The settlement agreement includes provisions for periodic monitoring by the outside joint experts and by plaintiffs’ attorneys. The federal court will maintain its jurisdiction to enforce the settlement.
The agreement received final approval from the court at a hearing on March 23, 2005.