Huntsville settles lawsuit to make VBC more handicap accessible

By Trang Do - Bio | Email

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - A settlement has been reached in the case involving the Von Braun Center. This means the VBC will vastly improve the facility's handicap accessibility.

The city council approved the settlement Thursday to the tune of $1.2 million.

The money will be used to make the necessary upgrades to the entire facility, not just the area being renovated now.

Berdonna Johnson and her family were at the VBC Friday to see a family friend graduate from Butler High School.

For the Johnsons, it's especially difficult to find good seats whenever they come to the arena.

"Usually we have to sit on the bottom level, but carry her if we go to the top layers," she said. "But she's heavy."

Johnson's 8-year-old daughter Josanna uses a wheelchair which limits the family's options when it comes to seating.

"The family can't sit together," Johnson said. "Half of my family will sit upstairs and we'll sit on the bottom."

Soon change that will change.

The city just settled a federal lawsuit filed by Willard Brooks, Sr. of Huntsville and Florida-based Access Now, a non-profit advocacy group that works to make sure public buildings comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

These changes will include more handicap parking spaces, additional and improved seating for special needs patrons and modifications to restrooms that will make them easier to use for people in wheelchairs.

Johnson told WAFF 48 News what she'd like to see.

"Each level should have some ramps and special needs people an area where they can sit and their families can sit with them," she said.

City Attorney Peter Joffrion said the design process will begin immediately.

Ed Zwilling, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said his clients are very pleased with the outcome.

Joffrion said the city has until December 31, 2011 to make the VBC fully ADA compliant, but he said the upgrades should be complete well before then.

As a part of the settlement, the plaintiffs did not receive any money, but the city must pay their court costs of $80,000.

©2010 WAFF. All rights reserved.