Would Franklin D. Roosevelt be able to access his own memorial? Probably not, according to a class-action lawsuit filed last month. CNN reports that several advocacy groups are teaming up to say that the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island violates the Americans With Disabilities Act due to its inadequate wheelchair accessibility.
The park opened in 2012 to honor FDR, who used a wheelchair throughout his presidency due to complications from Polio. The lawsuit points out several features that limit accessibility for people with disabilities, CNN reports. These include the 22 stairs that lead to an FDR bust and a city view, a terrace that is only accessible by stairs, and a gift shop and restrooms that do not comply with ADA regulations. The advocacy groups involved in the lawsuit point out the irony in this oversight.
“Such blatant violation of disability law is tragically ironic in light of the fact that President Roosevelt himself used a wheelchair for mobility after becoming paralyzed from polio,” the lawsuit says.
Phil Bender, of Disability Rights Advocates, echoed this sentiment in a press release.
“I am an FDR buff,” he said. “He’s my hero. It’s patently ironic that a memorial built in honor of him is rife with barriers for wheelchair users.”
Michelle Caiola, litigation director at Disability Rights Advocates said in the statement that the state does not have an excuse for not making the memorial accessible. The ADA outlines clear regulations that buildings and public places must follow. For example, they require that wheelchair ramps be at least 36 inches in width.
“The Memorial was built very recently, decades after the ADA, and New York State should know better,” she said.
The directorial staff at Four Freedoms Park emphasized their commitment to disability rights in a statement to CNN, claiming that they were not fully familiar with the case.
“We have not had the opportunity to fully review the class-action suit,” Madeline Grimes, Director of Communications and Marketing at the Four Freedoms Park Conservancy, one of the defendants in the case, said in a statement to CNN. “Four Freedoms Park is — and always has been — committed to accessibility for people with disabilities. We take accessibility issues very seriously and strive to meet the needs of all of our visitors.”
Photo Credit: CNN