Memorial Honoring Wheelchair-Using FDR Excludes Disabled People

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    Four Freedoms Park, a New York City memorial that honors President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a president who famously used a wheelchair for many years, is being sued for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    Roughly 40% of Americans over the age of 65 have at least one disability, 15.7 million of which struggle with mobility related to waling or climbing. Yet Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island is inaccessible to wheelchair-using visitors, prompting an irony-laced and much-needed lawsuit.

    “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,” reads the federal lawsuit.

    According to The New York Times, the four-acre park on the southern tip of the island was proposed more than 40 years ago by Louis Kahn, before the Americans with Disabilities Act took effect, but construction began in 2010 and the park officially opened in 2013.

    “The combined effect of the increased distance, uneven surfaces, and vertical incline makes the monument substantially inaccessible to those with mobility disabilities,” the lawsuit states.

    There were three plaintiffs involved in filing the suit; Phil Beder, Edith Prentiss, and Milagros Franco, each of whom use wheelchairs.

    “I’m not a radical wheelchair-accessibility person,” said Mr. Beder, a retired Brooklyn teacher. “If a restaurant isn’t accessible I’ll find another one. But when it comes to something like a memorial to a wheelchair-using president, it’s just insane that it wouldn’t’ be 100% accessible.”

    FDR served as the 32nd president of the United States from 1933 until his death during his fourth term in 1945. President Roosevelt is widely considered by historians to be one of the greatest presidents of all time for his leadership during the Great Depression and World War II. He was paralyzed by polio when he was 39 years old.

    Reuters reports that the park, just off the East River, is where FDR delivered the famous “Four Freedoms” speech on January 6, 1941, which lead to the United States entering World War II.