Sacramento County and Disability Advocates Reach Landmark Settlement on Accessibility of Sacramento International Airport

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Sacramento Airport - Terminal B
An overhead view of Sacramento Airport – Terminal B, Picture by John Pastor

Access Barriers Will Be Removed, Comprehensive Emergency Plan Implemented

March 18, 2019 – Sacramento, CA – Disability advocates and the County of Sacramento have reached a groundbreaking settlement agreement following years of litigation that will result in significant changes to the emergency preparedness plan at Sacramento International Airport (SMF), all of which will help ensure that people with disabilities are not left behind when disaster strikes. The settlement also requires the County to fix a variety of architectural barriers in the Airport’s Terminal B, so that people with mobility disabilities will be able to make full use of the buildings’ many amenities.

Sacramento International Airport serves an estimated 10.9 million passengers every year, many of whom have disabilities. The settlement agreement will make the airport’s emergency plans among the best in the nation for persons with mobility disabilities.  Under the agreement, new announcements and signage will ensure that people with mobility disabilities will know what to do if disaster strikes, and every member of the Airport’s Operations staff will be trained to evacuate them (including training in how to use evacuation chairs). The County has also agreed to purchase additional evacuation chairs, and to make many other changes to its plans and protocols in an effort to ensure that people with mobility disabilities will be able to evacuate safely.

Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) brought this case on behalf of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers and individual plaintiff Ruthee Goldkorn back in 2012.

According to DRA Staff Attorney Sean Betouliere, these negotiated changes will make Sacramento International Airport’s emergency plans a “model of effective planning for airports everywhere.” Mr. Betouliere also notes that before this case settled, Plaintiffs established important legal precedent: namely, the first federal court decision in the country to affirm that airports have an obligation, independent of the municipality in which they sit, to plan for the emergency needs of people with disabilities.

In addition to their emergency plan changes, the County will fix access barriers throughout the Airport’s $1 billion Terminal B building, which was built brand new in 2011. When these changes are complete, people with mobility disabilities will be able to take advantage of the full scope of Terminal B’s amenities, with the same level of access and dignity that the Airport’s nondisabled travelers enjoy.

Plaintiff Ruthee Goldkorn– who travels in and out of the Sacramento International Airport several times a year – is looking forward all of these needed fixes: “Because of this agreement, people with mobility disabilities will finally be able to travel through Terminal B with the same ease and peace of mind as everyone else, and to know that, if there is ever an emergency, we won’t be left behind.”

Please visit DRA’s website or see the attached Settlement Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding for more information.

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About California Foundation for Independent Living Centers

The California Foundation for Independent Living Centers – the organizational plaintiff in this case – is a statewide non-profit organization composed of 25 independent living centers, dedicated to removing barriers and promoting equal opportunities for people with disabilities. www.cflic.org

About Disability Rights Advocates

Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), founded in 1993, is the leading national nonprofit disability rights legal center.  Its mission is to advance equal rights and opportunity for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. DRA represents people with the full spectrum of disabilities in complex, system-changing, class action cases.  Thanks to DRA’s precedent-setting work, people with disabilities across the country have dramatically-improved access to health care, employment, transportation, education, disaster preparedness planning, voting, housing, and more. dralegal.org

Contacts

Stuart Seaborn: (510) 665-8644, sseaborn@dralegal.org

Sean Betouliere: (510) 665-8644, sbetouliere@dralegal.org