Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Several years ago, a disabled person who uses a cane was attending a commencement ceremony at the Adams Center on the UM Campus, but complained when she was asked not to use an area specifically set aside for wheelchairs.

I spoke with the U.S. Attorney for Montana Jesse Laslovich this week about how the dispute, or more of a misunderstanding, turned out to provide even better access for the disabled at the Adams Center.

Laslovich Described the Complaint about Access to Disabled Seating

“We received a complaint a few years ago from someone who was attending a graduation that was being held there (at the Adams Center), and since she has to use a cane to move she brought her own chair, however when she went to sit in the designated disabled section, she was prohibited from doing so because only folks in wheelchairs could sit there.”

Laslovich said his office worked closely with UM officials on changing their policy to allow more access.

Laslovich said UM Worked Proactively to Solve the Access Issue

“During the course of the investigation, we worked proactively with the University of Montana,” he said. “We realized that U of M had a good faith belief at the time that folks who weren't in wheelchairs couldn't sit in that area even though they were disabled and could move around only with the assistance of a cane, so they changed that policy and now allow all disabled folks to access those areas, even if they're not in a wheelchair.”

Laslovich said UM officials went over and above the settlement requirements required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.


UM Officials went Over and Above the Settlement Requirements

“Our settlement resulted in lots of designated seating by the University of Montana in the Dahlberg arena, in fact more than is required under federal law,” he said. “Interestingly enough, the question was they needed to be dispersed throughout the arena to be more consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and so worked proactively with the university to do that. We entered into the settlement. They actually have until the next basketball season to comply, but I'm pleased to say they've already implemented the changes, so we’re really pleased and proud to have worked with the university on this.”

Laslovich was careful to note that there was no intent by UM to deny access, so no fine was assessed.

“Unlike our other settlements, it's not a punishment,” he said. “There's no fine, just an  acknowledgement of what it is that the university has already done. It was a joint effort and I think how the university responded is consistent with what you and I have always known all along, that they're very conscientious of folks with disabilities.”

Read the settlement document between the United States Attorney’s office and the University of Montana here.

30 Items That Montana Goodwill Will NOT Accept

Gallery Credit: KC

More From Newstalk KGVO 1290 AM & 98.3 FM