CHICAGO (CN) – A mother and daughter claim Bank of America’s 2017 Chicago Marathon discriminates against disabled athletes by only allowing six duo teams to compete, chosen through a lottery drawing held two months after the drawing for nondisabled athletes.
Arianna Tanghe and her mother, Kelli King-Tanghe, sued Bank of America Corp. dba Bank of America Chicago Marathon in Chicago federal court on Friday, claiming violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Tanghe says she was born with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy and uses her wheelchair and ankle foot orthotics on a daily basis. She also has a visual impairment.
Tanghe and her mother often participate in marathons as a duo team, according to the complaint, where Tanghe rides a customized racing wheelchair while her mother assists as a pusher.
The mother and daughter team say they’ve participated in more than 60 races together, “sharing the joy of participation and competition.”
According to their lawsuit, Bank of America is sponsoring and organizing the 2017 Chicago Marathon, which is scheduled to take place on Oct. 8. About 45,000 runners have been selected to participate in the marathon.
Though the race is open to duo teams, Tanghe says there are only six available slots for duo teams chosen through a lottery drawing that was held on Jan. 24, two months after the lottery drawing for nondisabled participants.
“In addition [to] duo teams being the only disabled participants subjected to the lottery drawing (i.e. the Chicago Marathon does not limit the number of participants, or employ a lottery drawing, for push rim participants or provides a significantly higher limit which has not been reached for years), the duo teams are disadvantaged by being accepted into the Chicago Marathon much later than the general field, thereby making it much more difficult (if not impossible) to find lodging in or around Chicago,” the lawsuit states. (Parentheses in original.)
According to the complaint, Tanghe and her mother applied to participate in the marathon as a duo team on Dec. 27 but were not selected through Bank of America’s lottery drawing the next month.
"Even though there is no guarantee whether an individual would be selected through a lottery system, plaintiff was deprived of an opportunity to participate in an unlimited lottery drawing, open to every nondisabled participant," the lawsuit states. “Furthermore, Plaintiff was deprived of an opportunity to participate in a larger lottery drawing open to disabled persons who can propel themselves in their own push rim wheelchair or hand-crank cycle. No other individuals are subject to the six-slot lottery limit, except for permanently disabled individuals in need of a ‘pusher.’” (Emphasis in original.)
Tanghe says duo teams are not costly nor do they require significant policy changes to the event.
"There is no clear purpose for defendant's limit to only six (6) duo teams, even though none of other participants whether non-disabled or disabled, are subject to this restriction," the complaint states.
Tanghe and her mother seek injunctive relief requiring Bank of America to conduct a new drawing for proposed class members, defined as Chicago Marathon applicants who require the help of a pusher, to remedy the alleged discrimination. They are represented by Abbas Kazerounian with Kazerouni Law Group in Costa Mesa, Calif.
Bank of America did not immediately respond to a request for comment emailed Sunday evening.
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