Handicapped woman sues rodeo for better wheelchair access

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Nov. 12, 2009, 7:10am

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - An Arkansas woman confined to a wheelchair is suing a nonprofit organization over a lack of handicapped access at a rodeo.

Jonna Bloodworth, who suffers from cerebral palsy, filed a disability discrimination lawsuit against Springdale Benevolent Amusement Association on Nov. 3 in the Fayetteville Division of the Western District of Arkansas.

The defendant is a nonprofit organization that owns or leases the Rodeo of the Ozarks located in Springdale, Ark. The defendant states that it attempts to provide "quality family entertainment to Springdale and Northwest Arkansas and to maintain our link to our agricultural and rural heritage."

The plaintiff argues that the association violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by discriminating and continuing to discriminate against those with handicaps by "denying access to, and full, safe and equal enjoyment of goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages and/or accommodations at the rodeo."

Bloodworth states the rodeo does not have accessible parking or an accessible route to the ticket window and that the counters at the ticket window are too high for wheelchair use.

The lawsuit also claims that the concession stand counters are too high for wheelchair use, there are an insufficient number of accessible seats with companion seats provided and that the accessible seats provided do not have a clear line of sight and can be easily blocked by standing patrons in adjacent rows.

The plaintiff also argues that the restrooms are not wheelchair accessible due to a lack of an accessible route and lack of accessible features and fixtures.

The plaintiff is asking that the Court to declare the property in violation of the American with Disabilities Act, to enter an order directing the Association to alter its facilities and make them accessible, enter an Order directing the Association to evaluate and neutralize its policies and an award of attorneys' fees and costs.

Bloodworth is represented by Arkansas attorney Edward Zwilling and Alabama attorney Schwartz Zweben.

U.S. District Judge Jimm Larry Hendren will preside over the litigation.

Case No: 09cv5245

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