Lebedeva joined a Streeterville fitness club at 355 East Grand Avenue in Chicago in 2010 in order to start swimming. The Streeterville location was close to her home and her doctor recommended that she start swimming, which helped address the degenerative effects of Lebedeva’s juvenile arthritis. Lebedeva discontinued her membership in 2011 because of health reasons but then rejoined in November of 2012. At the time Lebedeva rejoined the club, LA Fitness owned the facility. From November 2012 through mid-2015 Lebedeva used the pool regularly.
In the summer of 2015, the elevator that Lebedeva used to access the locker rooms broke. Without a private area to change, Lebedeva was unable to use the pool. In the months following the breakdown of the elevator Lebedeva called the LA Fitness Streeterville Facility, met with a temporary manager of the facility, and posted a message on the Facebook page of the facility, registering complaints about the elevator, which remained broken and unrepaired during this time. Multiple friends of Lebedeva also called LA Fitness over the course of one month to express concern about the broken elevator. In January of 2016, a friend of Lebedeva’s, who had called LA Fitness, was told the elevator would be repaired in a few weeks. Yet, the elevator remained broken into the spring of 2016.
In April of 2016, Lebedeva, through Access Living, sent a letter to LA Fitness demanding that the elevator be repaired. After the letter was sent, Lebedeva was told that LA Fitness had begun soliciting bids for the elevator repair and that her membership fees would be refunded for the period of time the elevator was broken. LA Fitness also indicated the bid process would be completed by the middle of May. By July, the fees were still not refunded and the elevator was still broken. In August, with the elevator still broken, LA Fitness temporarily modified a one person bathroom next to the pool so Lebedeva could change. The one person bathroom does include a shower. Yet, by mid-September, the elevator remained broken and Lebedeva still could not access the locker room and the shower within the locker room.
“I’ve waited for more than a year for the elevator to be repaired,” said Lebedeva. “I have a right to equal access. I shouldn’t have to wait that long in order to access the same locker room and showers used by other members of LA Fitness.” Lebedeva filed the complaint based upon the Americans with Disabilities Act. When passing the ADA, Congress found that “society has tended to isolate and segregate individuals with disabilities.” Among other things, the ADA requires health clubs such as LA Fitness to “maintain in operable working condition those features of facilities and equipment that are required to be readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities.”
“This is about accessibility, integration, and equality,” said Charles Petrof, an attorney for Access Living. “Because of her disability, Lebedeva has been denied access for more than one year to the locker room that other members of LA Fitness have been able to access. She should not be turned away just because she uses a wheelchair.”
The complaint filed by Lebedeva asks the court to order the LA Fitness Streeterville location to come into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, award attorneys’ fees and costs, and award other relief that is considered just and proper.