CLEARWATER, Fla. — A local YMCA is slapped with a lawsuit.
A Clearwater man with disabilities is taking the fitness center to federal court, accusing the company of ignoring the law.
A 22-page federal lawsuit is slamming a Clearwater YMCA for an "astonishing" number of violations to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“Individuals with disabilities their hands are sometimes forced to take it to another course of action," said Deodat Jhoda, an advocate for those with disabilities.
"Forced" is exactly what Louis Jorgl's attorney says happened in this case. Jorgl is blind and needs a cane to get around but claims the YMCA on South Highlands Avenue ignored his concerns for a decade.
“If a certain individual raised these concerns with management and management have not taken the necessary steps to correct it, then it shows a total lack of consideration for the person with disabilities," said Jhoda.
The suit details numerous ADA problems like machines bunched too close together, making it hard for Jorgl to get access. Plus, allowing members to block pathways with bags to a point where Jorgl tripped and broke his cane.
Also, the suit alleges the fitness center did not alert Jorgl when equipment was broken.
“It will lessen their quality of life. First and foremost," said Jhoda. "It will not encourage them to fully participate in everyday activities.”
The YMCA of the Suncoast says it is aware of the lawsuit. They released the following statement:
The YMCA of the Suncoast is Committed to providing a safe, nurturing and welcoming environment for all regardless of ability and or limitations. We value and respect the diversity among our members, volunteers, staff and guests and are inclusive through our acceptance of all.
ABC Action News also reached out to Jorgl's attorney Andy Dogali, who gave us this statement:
Lou Jorgl wants nothing more than a reasonable accommodation, just what the law requires. He asks only for accommodations that are necessary in light of his disability – he does NOT ask for special favors that would give him a better experience than others. Lou did not jump to file suit as soon as he didn’t get whatever he wanted. In truth, he has been a member of the YMCA of Clearwater for more than a decade. For more than 10 years he has asked the YMCA of Clearwater to accommodate his needs. He has always done so in a friendly, cordial fashion, never being a pest, never intruding into the experiences of other guests.
Simply training the YMCA employees and volunteers regarding the needs of disabled members would have solved much of the problem. Eventually, it became clear to Lou that the YMCA of Clearwater would not voluntarily accommodate him, and would not voluntarily comply with federal law. So he took the recent step of filing suit, hoping to obtain basic fairness. The law does not require, and basic fairness does not require, Lou to use the fitness room at the risk of getting hit by other members because the machines are too close together, or of tripping over obstructions that are left in the pathways of the fitness room in violation of YMCA policies that the YMCA of Clearwater does not enforce. These are but a few examples of the risks the YMCA of Clearwater has thrust upon Lou over all these years – the number of separate violations of ADA is astonishing.