Port Authority Intentionally Discriminated Against Rider, Jury
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 27, 2004
PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA--The Port Authority of Allegheny County deliberately discriminated against a man who uses a wheelchair by failing to provide him with accessible bus service.
That was the decision handed down Wednesday by a local jury, which granted Melvin Kramer a $10,000 award, the Post-Gazette reported.
Kramer, who has been paraplegic since a 1998 traffic accident, kept a logbook in which he detailed at least 160 times when subway elevators malfunctioned or buses refused to pick him up because their wheelchair ramps and lifts were broken. Kramer's attorney, Noah Fardo, estimated that Kramer had been passed by 300 times during the past five years.
Fardo accused the Port Authority of intentionally allowing buses with broken lifts to leave the garages to travel routes even though buses with functioning equipment were available.
Port Authority attorney Nicholas Evashavik argued Tuesday that wheelchair equipment frequently breaks down.
"If the lift breaks every day, that is not illegal," Evashavik said, adding that Kramer failed to prove the Port Authority did not fix the lifts, inspect buses or respond to riders' complaints.
The $10,000 was the same amount an arbitration board had granted Kramer in 2002. The Port Authority appealed the decision to the Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, which voted 10-2 in Kramer's favor.
In January of this year, Donald Stancile made national headlines when he was arrested for taking hostage a Port Authority bus. The 53-year-old had parked his motorized wheelchair in front of the bus and refused to move after the bus driver refused to manually operate a hydraulic lift that would not open automatically. Stancile spent a night in jail for his act of civil disobedience.
A magistrate later dropped the disorderly conduct charge against Stancile and reduced a misdemeanor obstructing traffic charge to a summary offense, the least serious infraction.