FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 29, 2007
CONTACT: Whitney Potter (505) 266 5915 ext. 1003 Cell (505) 507 9898 or Joleen Youngers (505) 541-8000
Las Cruces, NM—A man with a disability is suing the corporation that manages Mesilla Valley Mall in Las Cruces and its local manager for prohibiting him from entering the mall on his Segway, a self-balancing, two-wheeled transportation machine. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico claims that Jones Lang Lasalle, Inc. is violating John R. Funk’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Funk, who suffers from severe scoliosis and spinal stenosis, uses the Segway as an alternative to a wheelchair as his principal assistive transportation device.
“Mr. Funk prefers to use a Segway over a wheelchair because it allows him to stay at eye level with other people,” said ACLU executive director Peter Simonson. “The mall is penalizing him for trying to overcome the effects of his disability in this way. Too often, people with disabilities are treated as second class citizens, shunned and segregated by physical barriers and social stereotypes.”
The local mall’s manager has refused to reasonably accommodate Mr. Funk’s disability and allow him access to the mall. Funk has enlisted Las Cruces attorney Joleen K. Youngers and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico to sue the mall’s management. Ms. Youngers and the ACLU have requested a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction so that Funk may be allowed back into the mall while the case is pending.
Segways have become popular among come veteran groups because of the advantages that they present over wheelchairs for severely injured servicemen and women. In September 2005, a group called Disability Rights Advocates for Technology (DRAFT) launched a nation-wide campaign (Segs4Vets) to provide Segways to every U.S. soldier who has been disabled by an injury while serving our country.
As part of the lawsuit, Funk seeks an order compelling the mall to modify its policy to allow Funk and other people with disabilities to use assistive mobility devices such as the Segway, and not only traditional, and less agile, devices such as wheelchairs.
ACLU of New Mexico cooperating attorney Joleen K. Youngers of Almanzar & Youngers, P.A. and ACLU of New Mexico staff attorney George Bach filed the lawsuit yesterday in the Third District Court in Las Cruces. The case has been assigned to the Honorable Robert E. Robles.