The Kosciusko County Community Fair Inc., has found itself in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Indiana South Bend Division, as a defendant in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The two parties involved have been in settlement discussions since Oct. 22, 2014. On or before May 21, either dismissal papers must be filed or the fair has to file an answer to the complaint.
“We are engaged in discussions with the fair board about a reasonable time frame for implementation,” stated Kelly Eskew, attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, who filed the complaint for Kathleen Meeker, Warsaw, “Certainly there are some things that Mrs. Meeker would like to see completed before the July fair. Thus far, we have talked without the involvement of the court.”
Attempts to contact Scott Reust, counsel for the fair, were unanswered.
Meeker filed a complaint on Sept. 23, 2014, through the ACLU of Indiana, against the Kosciusko County Community Fair, Inc. What Meeker is asking is the district court accept jurisdiction of the cause, enter a declaratory judgment finding the actions and inactions of the defendant violate Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act and its implementing regulations for the reasons, enter a preliminary injunction, later to be made permanent, requiring the defendant to make reasonable modifications to ensure the Kosciusko County Community Fair fairgrounds is readily accessible to and usable by Meeker as required by law. She is also asking for her costs and attorney’s fees.
In the factual background information of the complaint it states the fairground is a place of public accommodation, defined in Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It further details the issues:
“The disabled parking area is in the upper part of the fairgrounds on grass and dirt, difficult to travel when the ground is wet, contains no lines or other markers to ensure adequate space for a disabled person to transfer from a vehicle to a wheelchair.
“The parking area by the animal barns is on a sloped, grassy area and parking regulations are not enforced in this area.
“The paved road leading from the upper area of the fairgrounds to the animal barn is steep and hazardous for a disabled person in a wheelchair.
“Many paved paths on the grounds have rough, uneven pavement. The paths by the animal barns are rutted, in some places covered with thick gravel or grassy and rutted, creating barriers.
“The front door of the Home & Family Arts building is too narrow to enter in a wheelchair.
“Entrances to many other buildings lack ramps and have curbs so high it is not safe to enter in a wheelchair.”
The complaint notes Meeker uses a manual wheelchair and an electric wheelchair for mobility, participates in 4-H activities throughout the year at the fairgrounds and attends various public events at the fairgrounds.
The complaint states, “Because of the failure of KCCF to make reasonable alterations to the fairgrounds she must attend events without any access to a restroom that affords the basic privacy of closing the door. During the fair, when a portable toilet was provided it lacked grab bars and space for maneuvering an electric wheelchair. It also states she cannot enter all the buildings due to the lack of ramps, and her access to participate in activities and exhibitions is limited. She also continues to be denied the opportunity to participate in the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantage or accommodations of the fairgrounds in violation of federal code and that she wishes to attend these events and participate in 4-H activities in the future.