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Lottery is obligated to provide access for disabled, court rules

The Supreme Court of Virginia today hands a partial win to four wheelchair-bound Virginians who sued to gain access to Virginia Lottery retailers under federal and state laws designed to provide access to the disabled.

Reversing Circuit Judge Margaret Spencer, the high court held that the Lottery is subject to both the Virginians with Disabilities Act and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.  Accordingly, the court held the Lottery is responsible for its own violations in failing to provide disabled persons access to the Lottery’s programs.

Colleen Miller, executive director of the Virginia Office of Protection and Advocacy, welcomed the ruling.  “It’s been a long, hard-fought struggle with the Lottery,” she said.  “We’re happy their duty has finally been set forth.”

The court declined to rule on whether there had been any violations of that duty.  “While the Virginia Lottery does have an obligation to ensure that its activities and programs are accessible to the Petitioners, there is no legal requirement regarding how this must be accomplished,” wrote Justice S. Bernard Goodwyn for the court.  The case is remanded for further proceedings.

Miller hopes that the two sides can avoid the need for such further proceedings.  “I am hopeful we’re going to work this out with the Lottery,” she said.

UPDATE:  Paula Otto, Lottery executive director, pledged support to the rights of those with disabilities.

“We are pleased that the Supreme Court agrees that it is not within the Lottery’s authority to require a private business to be ADA- and VDA-compliant,” Otto said.  “Now that the Court has remanded the case to the trial court, the question will be whether the Lottery is ensuring that lottery play is available to all Virginians.”

Otto expressed confidence that the trial court will find in the affirmative.

By Peter Vieth

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