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Advocates Sue Over Lack Of Accessible Golf Carts
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 13, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA--Two Bay-area legal firms are suing the world's largest golf resort management company claiming it discriminates against golfers with disabilities in violation of federal and state laws.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of two avid golfers who use wheelchairs, alleges that Marriott Internationals' failure to provide accessible golf carts amounts to a violation of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and California anti-discrimination laws. This failure amounts to excluding golfers that have disabilities from the pleasure of the game, along with the economic and social values of golf, considering that many business connections and deals are made on the golf course.

The suit, which was filed on October 4, could apply to about 80 golf courses owned, operated or contracts with Marriott. It seeks to force the company to provide specially designed carts that allow golfers to use hand controls to drive and steer -- similar to controls used on most motorized wheelchairs. These carts also have seats that rotate and sometimes tilt to allow golfers to swing and strike a ball from the tee, the fairway and on the green without having to get out of the cart and walk.

Chavez and Gertler LLP, in Mill Valley, and Disability Rights Advocates, from Oakland, filed the suit on behalf of plaintiffs Richard Thesing and Laurence Celano each of whom have a disability that requires them to use a wheelchair. Thesing, whose spinal cord was injured in a driving accident at age 18, was appointed by President Clinton to a four-year term on the U.S. Access Board in 2000. Celano is a decorated veteran who is paraplegic as a result of a gunshot wounds experienced in combat.

"I put my life on the line for my county and now I can't even play golf here. It's not right," Celano said in a DRA press release. "I know there are a lot of amputees coming back from Iraq. Golf courses should be accessible so these disabled veterans can have the chance to play golf with their friends and not be stuck at home with nothing to do."

DRA attorney Kevin Knestrick said: "This outright refusal makes no sense given the fact that the text of the ADA specifically lists golf courses as a 'public accommodation' that must provide 'full and equal access' to its 'privileges, services and facilities'."

A Marriott spokesperson told the San Francisco Chronicle that the company had no immediate comment, but that Marriott strives to comply with all laws and regulations regarding accessibility to public accommodations.

Related:
"Thesing v. Marriott Disabled Golfers Claim Marriott Must Provide Accessible Golf Carts" (Disability Rights Advocates)

http://www.dralegal.org/cases/private_business/celano_v_marriott.php

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