ACLU Sues Mackinac Island for Disability Law Violations

June 20, 2002

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed a lawsuit today against the City of Mackinac Island for refusing to grant a resident with a Multiple Sclerosis his request to use an electric-assisted tricycle.

The resident, Donald Bertrand, has multiple sclerosis and cannot ride a bicycle -- the primary form of transportation in the community -- because he lacks the strength, stamina, and balance.  However, Mr. Bertrand is able to ride an electric-assisted tricyle because it allows him to turn on a silent motor on those occasions when he needs assistance riding up hills.  Bertrand has repeatedly asked the Island for permission to use the tricycle, but the Island has refused, citing its policy prohibiting motorized vehicle. 

“Mackinac Island already makes exceptions to its no-motorized vehicle policy to allow the use of snowmobiles and golf carts,” said Stewart R. Hakola, cooperating counsel for the ACLU of Michigan.  “Refusing to let Don Bertrand tricycle is both discriminatory and unjust.” 

The ACLU also filed a motion for an order that would permit Mr. Bertrand to ride his tricycle until the court could hold a evidentiary hearing.  Judge Martin B. Breighner, visiting judge for the Mackinac County Circuit Court, granted the ACLU motion.  An evidentiary hearing is scheduled for August 14 and 15. 

“I love Mackinac Island,” said Bertrand, “but the message I’m getting is that people with disabilities are not welcome on the island.”