A Florida interest group is suing a Forest Park shopping center over what it claims are violations of a federal law that guarantees access for people with disabilities. The federal suit was filed in late March by an organization called Access for the Disabled, and is one of a dozen such complaints pending in the U.S. District Court in Chicago.
Nationwide, the Florida non-profit has filed more than 700 lawsuits since 1980, according to federal court records maintained online.
A 33-acre shopping center at 7600 Roosevelt is targeted in the complaint. Parking spaces in the plaza designated for people with disabilities are not clearly marked, wheelchair ramps to the buildings are missing handrails, countertops throughout the stores are too high and public restrooms are not properly equipped, according to the suit.
“In order to remedy this discriminatory situation, the plaintiffs require an inspection of the defendant’s place of public accommodation in order to determine all of the areas of non-compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act,” the Florida group states in its complaint.
The alleged deficiencies at the Forest Park shopping center were encountered by Denise Payne, who is identified in the complaint as a Florida resident. Payne’s disabilities were not specified and it was not clear when she may have visited the shopping center.
Attorneys for Access for the Disabled did not return phone calls seeking comment on the suit.
The Roosevelt Road shopping plaza is a subsidiary of Living Word Christian Center, which is led by pastor and businessman Bill Winston. In addition to hosting Living Word’s worship center, the plaza boasts several retail and culinary outlets. Living Word also maintains administrative offices on Madison Street in Forest Park.
A spokeswoman for Living Word, Kim Clay, said the organization is aware of the litigation and its attorneys will respond through the legal process. Clay said she had no knowledge of consumer complaints regarding handicap accessibility at the mall.
The Progress Center for Independent Living, 7521 Madison, advocates for people with disabilities and its members were on the White House lawn when the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. The agency has worked with several Forest Park businesses to improve accessibility.
Mark Karner, the director of advocacy for Progress Center, said he is not familiar with Access for the Disabled or the lawsuit it filed against the Forest Park shopping center. Whether ADA violations exist at the plaza, Karner said his office has not received any complaints from consumers, nor has his staff attempted to work with business owners there.