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Avis Promises Greater Effort To Obey Disabilities Law

March 6, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Avis, the nation’s second-largest car-rental company, promised Wednesday to try harder to live up to its agreement with the Justice Department to accommodate disabled people.

The company and the department reached a new agreement following complaints that Avis was not complying fully with an agreement it signed in September 1994. At that time, Avis was accused of discriminating against disabled people in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

``Avis has shown that it wants to comply with the ADA,″ said Deval L. Patrick, assistant attorney general and head of the department’s civil right division.

``We are pleased that Avis has acknowledged the agreement could not be effectively carried out unless it regularly trained its thousands of employees.″

In the first agreement, Avis said it would provide vehicles with hand controls at no extra charge at all corporately owned rental offices and would urge owners of licensed sites to do the same. The company also agreed to let disabled people who do not drive _ such as those with seizure disorders or severely impaired eyesight _ to take financial responsibility for the rental agreement if they are with a licensed driver.

In November 1994, Patrisha Wright, a disability-rights activist who is visually impaired, complained to the Justice Department that an Avis representative refused to rent her a car unless she documented her disability. She was accompanied by a licensed driver, Kelly Lueshow.

Under the agreement, Avis will pay Wright $7,000 and Lueshow $3,500 in damages.

The company also agreed to:

_Conduct extensive training for its employees and reaffirm previously agreed policies for the disabled. Avis has more than 3,000 customer service representatives who handle more than 23 million car-rental reservations a year.

_Allow disabled people accompanied by a licensed driver to be financially responsible for car rentals without documenting the disability.

_Appoint within two weeks a disability services coordinator to ensure compliance.

_Design a system at its Tulsa, Okla., headquarters to track reservations by disabled people.

_Provide hand controls for convertibles, as well as for the types of cars listed in the previous agreement. Hand controls for convertibles will be kept in Boston, Phoenix, Miami, San Francisco and Honolulu and be available for shipping to other sites.

Patrick said Avis cooperated throughout the investigation.

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