Sacramento airport lawsuit: Don’t leave disabled behind in emergency evacuation

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Sacramento International Airport brings $4 billion annually into the region. Here's what to know about it.
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Sacramento International Airport brings $4 billion annually into the region. Here's what to know about it.

In what disabled rights advocates call a “groundbreaking” deal, Sacramento International Airport officials have agreed to make changes to Terminal B to accommodate disabled people – including rewriting the airport’s emergency evacuations plan so that disabled people are not left behind if disaster strikes.

Airport officials also have agreed to conduct training of airport employees on how to identity and assist disabled people in cases of emergency, including terminal evacuations.

The agreement ends a 6-year-old lawsuit brought by the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers and Ruthee Goldkorn, an airport user. Disability Rights Advocates represented the plaintiffs.

In a press statement, DRA attorney Sean Betouliere said the agreed-upon emergency plan is a “model of effective planning for airports everywhere.”

The lawsuit agreement includes a requirement that the airport and concessionaires provide lower counters or tables that are accessible to people in wheelchairs, and changes in some doors to make them easier for disabled people to use. The airport also will alter seating in gate waiting areas to allow sufficient space for disabled people to pass through.

The agreement included an undisclosed damages payment to plaintiff Goldkorn. A DRA representative said the damages amount - which was redacted in the public court document - is confidential. Airport officials did not immediately respond to requests for costs involved in the settlement.

Airport spokeswoman Samantha Mott, in an email, said the county “is committed to complying with Federal and State ADA requirements, and is pleased that it was successful in resolving a long-standing dispute with Disability Rights Advocates.”

“The County Department of Airports remains committed to encouraging designs and making modifications that meet all requirements of what can be a challenging and ever-changing maze of regulations enacted to ensure reasonable access for all.”

Goldkorn called the settlement a success for disabled people who use the airport.

“Because of this agreement, people with mobility disabilities will finally be able to travel through Terminal B with the same ease and peace of mind as everyone else, and to know that, if there is ever an emergency, we won’t be left behind,” she said in a press statement.

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