- Associated Press - Monday, March 23, 2015

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A federal judge approved a sweeping settlement Monday mandating improvements for inmates using wheelchairs and others with impaired mobility at Los Angeles County jails.

Under the agreement, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will be required to construct wheelchair accessible toilets and build new housing for inmates with disabilities, among other improvements.

ACLU of Southern California staff attorney Jessica Price called the settlement a “huge step in the right direction” toward ensuring inmates with disabilities have access to basic accommodations.

“But it is just the beginning,” Price said. “Now inmates, their family members, the Office of the Inspector General, and the lawyers must be vigilant to ensure these important protections are enforced.”

The agreement came six years after attorneys filed the class-action suit alleging discrimination and violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Eighth and 14th amendments.

In addition to making housing and toilets more accessible to the disabled, the agreement requires the sheriff’s department to develop a new system to deliver working wheelchairs to inmates; provide equal access to employment, educational and vocation programs; and appoint a coordinator to address complaints from inmates or their relatives.

The department will be required to create a document outlining inmate rights within the next months and begin taking steps toward implementing training for staff and tracking inmates with mobility impairments.

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