RICHMOND, Va. — Federal and state laws require the Virginia Lottery to ensure that its games are accessible to people with disabilities, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
But nothing in those laws specifies how accessibility must be achieved, the court said in a unanimous decision reviving a lawsuit filed by four disabled Virginians who identified 16 lottery retailers unable to accommodate their wheelchairs.
The court returned the case to Richmond Circuit Judge Margaret P. Spencer to determine what actions, if any, the Virginia Lottery must take to comply with state and federal disabilities laws. Spencer had ruled that the lottery's program is not covered by those laws, but the Supreme Court disagreed.
The justices acknowledged that the lottery can't require private businesses to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Virginians with Disabilities Act, but added that the state agency has a broader obligation to ensure that its programs comply.
"It is correct that the Virginia Lottery has no power to make physical changes to the lottery retailers' premises or to control the day-to-day operations of the retailers," Justice S. Bernard Goodwyn wrote. "However, this does not absolve the Virginia Lottery of its obligations under the VDA and ADA."
In returning the case to the lower court to fashion a remedy, Goodwyn added that the law does not mandate complete accessibility but requires that a public entity operate is program "so that it is accessible, when viewed in its entirety, to disabled persons."
Colleen Miller, executive director of the Virginia Office of Protection and Advocacy, said she looked forward to exploring a solution with state lottery officials. Miller's state agency, which campaigns for the rights of the disabled, represented the plaintiffs.
"This is wonderful news for people with disabilities in Virginia" she said of the ruling. "It's clear the lottery has to ensure equal access to its program. We'd be open to any suggestion the lottery might make, but our goal is to ensure accessibility."
Paula I. Otto, executive director of the Virginia Lottery, defended the agency's practices.
"Now that the court has remanded the case to the trial court, the question will be whether the lottery is ensuring that lottery play is available to all Virginians," she said in a statement. "We are confident that when the facts are heard in this case, it will be established that the lottery is doing that while raising money for Virginia's K-12 public schools."