Arguments heard in accessibility fight

The seven-year battle between SEPTA and the Disabled Rights Network of Pennsylvania over subway-stop access at City Hall and 15th and Market streets returned to U.S. District Court yesterday as the sides argued before a three-judge panel.

In 2003, a DRN suit claimed SEPTA violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by not making replacement escalators and stairways with disabled-friendly alterations. Those claims were dismissed in 2006, but that decision was reversed two years later. SEPTA then appealed, which led to yesterday’s oral arguments at Sixth and Market streets. An estimated 50 people attended, many of whom were wheelchair-bound.

Stephen Gold, a local attorney known as the “Godfather of the ADA” who worked on the case, said sides are generally given 15 minutes to present their cases to the panel, but that “they gave us as much time as we needed, a half-hour each side. [Those on the three-judge panel] often sit back and listen, but we couldn’t get three sentences in before they started asking questions.”

“Now, we just wait,” said Gold.

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