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Old 12-15-2006, 02:03 PM
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Default Disabled students: We'll sue college

Disabled students: We'll sue college

BY KEREN DABUSH


Members of SOFEDUP - Student Organization Every Disability United for Progress - rally on Brooklyn College campus last week. The group claims college is not in compliance with federal disabled access regulations.

A vocal group of disabled students at Brooklyn College says it is so fed up with school polices it is taking legal action against the college.
But school officials say the students are preaching to the converted.

After a rally last week staged by members of the Student Organization For Every Disability United for Progress (SOFEDUP), protest leaders filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, claiming that the college is not in compliance with federal disabled access regulations.

The two-hour rally ended with both sides agreeing to sit down and talk. But the meeting was not as fruitful as protesters had hoped. The next morning the students announced they not only had filed a formal complaint but would begin litigation against the school.

"We have been left with no other alternative," said Michael Harris, 22, the group's secretary, who uses a wheelchair.

"They told us our issues were just inconveniences but that there was nothing legally wrong with them," Harris said. "We beg to differ and want a ruling from the U.S. Department of Education to see who's right."

In their complaint, the students claim that the school denies access to disabled entrances by locking elevators and lifts; does not offer disabled rest rooms in some buildings, and fails to put up proper signage for disabled access.

Brooklyn College officials disagreed with the claims.

"The college has always been supportive of, and responsive to, the needs of students with disabilities, and remains in full compliance with the legal mandates providing accessible facilities as defined by federal, state and local law," school officials said in a statement.

John Hamill, director of communications at the college, said after Thursday's rally that he was disappointed with the way the student group has aired its grievances.

"You know who the real victim is?" Hamill said. "The victim here is the reputation of a great school."

U.S. Department of Education did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the complaint filed Friday.
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