September 14, 2011
Contact: James Fox Esq. 603-228-0432 ext. 20
The Disabilities Rights Center, Inc. has filed an action against the owner of Phenix Hall (the Ralph Ciborowski Trust) and two of its tenants (the Works Bakery Café and the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen) in Federal District Court in Concord today. (A copy of the federal complaint is attached.) The action was filed on behalf of three Greater Concord residents who use wheelchairs and are unable to access Phenix Hall’s first floor and the tenants retail establishments due to violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a 20 year-old federal civil rights law. The Disabilities Rights Center is New Hampshire’s Protection and Advocacy agency and is charged by Congress with protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities.
A primary goal of the ADA is to integrate individuals with disabilities into everyday life and as President George H. Bush proclaimed to literally “[l]et the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.” The law requires that when owners alter buildings they do so in a manner that ensures that the altered portion of the building is accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities unless it is virtually impossible to do so.
There are a number of feasible options that would provide access to Phenix Hall and would allow the plaintiffs and other citizens with mobility impairments access to the Phenix Hall’s retail tenants. They are options that would not require any substantial encroachment into retail space and are routinely used to overcome barriers to access. These options have been suggested by DRC and their expert and an architect retained by Phenix Hall, yet the defendants have failed to comply with the ADA.
According to James Fox, the DRC attorney filing the case, the decision to file an action was taken “as a last resort” after numerous attempts by the DRC to resolve the matter cooperatively before the renovations to Phenix Hall began, during and after they were completed. As Fox added, “The suit was filed after DRC examined issues raised by the Ralph Ciborwoski Trust. DRC found that neither the historical significance argument nor the technical feasibility were valid in this matter or excuses the Trust from its obligation to make the necessary accommodations. It is the same obligation that has prompted countless numbers of businesses to accommodate citizens with disabilities when altering historic and non-historic buildings in New Hampshire and across the country.”