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Lawsuit claims Sevierville businesses aren't wheelchair friendly

Matthew Lane • Jan 18, 2020 at 1:30 PM

KNOXVILLE — A North Carolina woman is suing four businesses in the Pigeon Forge/Sevierville area, including the Wilderness at the Smokies resort, claiming each one is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act in multiple ways.

Rhonda Asher filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Knoxville this month. Named as defendants are Nino’s Pizzeria and Eatery, Flapjack’s Pancake Cabin, Smokey Mountain Knife Works, and the Wilderness at the Smokies resort.

Asher claims she was denied “full, safe and equal access” to each of these businesses due to various barriers found within the buildings and on the properties.

According to the lawsuit, Asher has diabetes, a partial foot amputation and other complications that require her to rely upon a wheelchair for mobility. She travels to Tennessee two or three times a year to visit with her grandchildren and has done so for at least the past five years.

However, because of some deficiencies at each of these businesses, Asher claims to be unable to fully use their facilities. The lawsuit states Asher does desire and intend to revisit each of the four businesses in the future.

Here are some of the alleged ADA issues with the businesses:

WILDERNESS AT THE SMOKIES

— No accessible parking spaces contiguous to the main entry area, and the spaces that are available are not on the closest accessible route.

— The registration desk is out of reach and has no lowered section.

— No lowered section of the bar in the Firefly Bar and Grille or Thirsty Miner restaurant.

— An insufficient number of wheelchair accessible rooms in the River Lodge.

— The Wild Water Dome, Cataloochee Creek and Wilderness Rapids pools are not wheelchair accessible.

SMOKEY MOUNTAIN KNIFE WORKS

— Five of the six accessible parking spaces in the front area have no adjacent access aisles necessary for a wheelchair user.

— The entry ramp, the ramp in the relic room and the stairwells have no handrails.

FLAPJACK’S PANCAKE CABIN

— An insufficient number of accessible parking spaces; the existing ones have running and cross slopes that are too steep for wheelchair use.

— There’s a lack accessible signage, the bathroom doors require too much force to open, and the hot water and drain pipes are not insulated.

NINO’S PIZZERIA & EATERY

— Accessible parking spaces lack raised signage.

— The van accessible parking space has a running slope that is too steep for wheelchair use and it’s not the closest accessible route to the entrance.

— Bathrooms lack accessible signage, the water closest lacks grab bars and the mirrors are mounted too high.

Asher is asking the court to declare the properties in violation of the ADA and to order them to alter their facilities to make them more accessible.

The main point of these lawsuits is about access, said Birmingham, Alabama, attorney Edward Zwilling, who represents Asher.

“Ms. Asher hasn’t sought damages and is only seeking to enforce her civil rights to equal access,” Zwilling said. “Generally, I try to resolve these matters collaboratively to keep litigation cost to a minimum. We’d prefer they maximize their assets toward barrier removal rather than litigation costs. We just want to ensure that they do it right.”

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