LINCOLN — The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is being sued for closing off handicapped parking stalls so they can be used by tailgaters during football games.
Richard Norton, Jr., who has birth defects that make it difficult to walk, filed a lawsuit Thursday that claims the university not only violated the Americans With Disabilities Act, but reneged on its own pledge to rectify the problem by this year's football season.
Norton's attorney, Kathleen Neary of Lincoln, said her client tried to bring two children to Morrill Hall on a game day in October 2010 so they could do research for a school project. He was barred from parking at two marked handicapped parking stalls outside the museum.
A UNL employee told him the stalls had been rented by “donors” for tailgating.
Norton's lawsuit said he was harassed and ridiculed by the employee and directed to park at another parking lot some distance away.
At that lot, Norton was told he needed to pay $15 for a designated handicapped spot. Norton, the lawsuit said, informed the parking attendant that charging for such parking violated the ADA, which prompted the attendant to allow him to park there only on the condition that he could stay only two hours, and would be towed if “even one minute late.”
Neary said it was “shocking” to her that UNL had favored tailgaters over the handicapped, not only in denying them parking stalls, but then charging for an inconvenient alternative.
“It was the university trying to make a few bucks off of disabled citizens,” she said.
University of Nebraska spokeswoman Melissa Lee said the university, as a rule, does not comment on pending litigation. The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Lancaster County District Court.
The lawsuit states that Norton filed a complaint about the parking situation last year with the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education. In April, UNL, in a letter to that office, acknowledged the violation and promised to fix it by Sept. 1.
Neary said the lawsuit was filed after UNL failed to remedy the situation.
The lawsuit alleges that her client “experienced extreme pain in lower limbs and feet and was required to leave the museum and immediately seek medical attention” after being required to walk a “substantially greater distance.”
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