TYLER (KYTX) - Lawyers with the Texas Civil Rights Project have filed 30 lawsuits throughout the state, calling out companies and organizations they believe are violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, of ADA. Four of those alleged offenders are in Tyler.
Texas Civil Rights Project Attorney Joe Berra is representing two Tyler sisters, Marilyn and Carolyne Rhodes. Both are disabled and in wheelchairs. Together the sisters are suing four entities.
Carolyne Rhodes is first suing Tyler ISD. She says the Hogg Middle School's second floor is inaccessible. She says she has not been able to go to multiple functions for her four grandchildren who live with her, and go to school there.
"Parent's Night is the most specific but the other events that they hold in the second floor auditorium, she's tried and basically been discouraged because it's inaccessible," Berra says.
TISD representatives say, "The district has not been officially informed of this lawsuit at this time. Once notification is received the district will respond as needed to this issue."
Carolyne Rhodes is also suing Smith County, for the inaccessibility of several courtrooms in the courthouse. She has been called for jury duty twice, and says she cannot fit her wheelchair past the courtroom benches. She says she was excused because of this reason.
"If she's willing and able, the fact that she has a disability should not exclude her from jury panel," Berra says.
County representatives have responded by saying "The Smith County courthouse is ADA compliant and we have not had any complaints filed concerning wheelchair accessibility."
Marilyn Rhodes' first lawsuit is against the owners of the Southwest Pines apartments in Tyler, where she's lived since 2007. She says an elevated gate track prevents her wheelchair from accessing the office and other common areas.
"She did put them specifically on notice and did not receive a satisfactory response," Berra says.
Her second lawsuit is against UT Health Northeast, where she has regular urinalysis appointments. Marilyn says doctors refused to allow her personal care attendant to help her collect urine samples. She says her physical disabilities make it hard for her to do it herself.
"[The doctor] said no we don't have to do that, just let the staff people there do it and help you. But the staff people refused to help," Berra says.
In response to the lawsuit, UT Health representatives say "UT Health Northeast is fully committed to the Americans with Disabilities Act and the protections it provides."
So what now? Once those lawsuits are served to these four Tyler companies and organizations, Berra says he hopes for quick settlements and changes to these buildings and policies in the future.
Many of the other 26 ADA lawsuits filed Thursday throughout the state were in Austin. Several targeted transportation agencies like Yellow Cab and Uber.