Lack of ramp to Clerk of the Court’s Office Prompts Action by Civil Liberties Group

Westmoreland County - The ACLU of Virginia has informed Westmoreland County officials of plans to file a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act, unless the county provides access to the offices of the Circuit Court Clerk.
The Clerk’s office is located in the building -- referred to as the “old courthouse” -- that formerly housed the county courtrooms. The courtrooms are now in a newer building -- the “new courthouse” -- located nearby.
Westmoreland officials were criticized recently after the Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star reported last week that the county is spending $140,000 for new judge’s chambers in the old courthouse, but is not adding ramps to make the building accessible to disabled persons. The Free Lance-Star also notes that only three steps at one door and four at another block access to the building.
“This is almost hard to believe,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. “It’s bad enough to flaunt the law by ignoring the rights of disabled persons, but it is an outright affront to human decency to spend more than $100,000 to renovate a building without adding something as simple and inexpensive as ramps that rise three feet.”
“The Americans with Disabilities Act is 16 years old now, and we’re still fighting for basic compliance,” added Willis. “This is no ordinary building and this is not a symbolic act on our part. This is about access to the clerk of the court, a person who is visited by thousands of people each year who need to conduct business in Westmoreland County.”
In a letter to Westmoreland County Director of Planning and Community Development Gary Ziegler, ACLU of Virginia legal director Rebecca Glenberg also points out that nearly three years after the county agreed to correct architectural deficiencies at the new courthouse, including problems with curb cuts, bathroom accessibility and signage, these deficiencies still remain.
According to Glenberg, Westmoreland County is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as the First, Sixth and Fourteenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
In her letter, Glenberg asks Zeigler to respond in writing within one week with a plan to remedy the violations, or face legal action. A copy of Glenberg’s letter is available at http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/20060322-Westmoreland-Courthouse.pdf.

Contact: Kent Willis, Office: 804/644-8022

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