Westchester Independent Living Center, et al. v. SUNY Purchase, et al.
DRA filed this class action lawsuit against the State University of New York at Purchase College, located in Westchester County, alleging that it violates federal and state disability law by not providing students and visitors with mobility disabilities equal access to its educational and cultural programs. Specifically, the suit says that those who use wheelchairs or have mobility disabilities encounter widespread physical access barriers along the campus’ paths of travel that can prevent students and visitors from getting to classes and cultural attractions. For example, SUNY Purchase does not provide adequate ways—like functioning elevators—to navigate up the stairs and hills that lead to the most important part of the campus. Other hazards and hurdles include uneven and crumbling pavement, missing curb cuts, dangerously steep slopes, and woefully insufficient signage to routes intended for people with disabilities.
The lawsuit is brought by the Westchester Independent Living Center (WILC), a nonprofit advocacy center that works on behalf of people with disabilities, and two individuals with mobility disabilities who have encountered the access barriers first-hand.
Kayle Hill, a currently enrolled student, explained, “It is difficult to get around for students like me who have a disability. Instead of being able to just focus on being a student, I always have to think about how to get to class and other activities on time in spite of obstacles like steep hills, broken elevators, and confrontations with staff about my accessible parking pass.”
WILC Community Advocate and wheelchair user Michael Hellmann said, “Members of our community want to go to SUNY Purchase to see performances, art exhibitions, or to audit classes. Unfortunately, the college has failed to consider our safety and convenience and we then have to think twice about whether attending an event or class at SUNY Purchase is worth the extra struggle.”
Christina Brandt-Young, Senior Staff Attorney at DRA, explained, “We can only imagine how many would-be students and visitors are discouraged from attending this college because of these ongoing barriers to accessible paths of travel.” She continued, “The law in this area has been clear for decades and a state-funded institution has no excuse for non-compliance.”
The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York and seeks remediation of all campus physical access barriers.