The Americans with Disabilities Act, signed into law in July 1990, was to give the 60 million Americans who have an impairment recourse if they face discrimination.
In addition, the ADA Architectural Guidelines were designed to remove the physical barriers that exist for those with mobility and other limitations.
Under the ADA, anyone can file a complaint, not just a person with a disability. If a business, for example, does not have doors that are 32 inches wide, can be opened with five pounds of pull or less, accessible bathrooms and parking places and other elements that interfere with the movement in such a building by someone who might use a wheelchair, a complaint can be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or Department of Justice.
The idea that attorneys would file complaints just to boost their revenue is abhorrent to those who helped formulate and implement what has been called the “most comprehensive civil rights law in the nation’s history.”
The New York Times reported that some attorneys in New York are filing complaints against noncompliant businesses and then finding people with disabilities and paying them $500 or so to put their names on the lawsuit.
The reason for this is greed. These attorneys aren’t motivated by seeing the world become more accessible to the disabled, but are making a fast buck off the businesses that should but haven’t obeyed the 22-year-old law.
When President George W. Bush signed the ADA into law at the White House’s Rose Garden, he said, “Let the shameful wall of exclusion come down.” Everyone cheered.
The results of the suits filed in New York were almost immediate. The businesses hired workmen to install ramps, lower counters and shelves and smooth out busted cement near store entryways.
The businesses also had to pay thousands of dollars in legal costs to the attorneys.
This is not the intent of the hundreds who worked with Justin Dart Jr., Sens. Tom Harkin and Bob Dole to gain civil rights through the ADA for the disabled.
In fact, we suspect such tactics by attorneys and misguided disability advocates are hurting the chances of the ADA being further implemented in places of public accommodation.
This kind of ambulance chasing should cease immediately. We want every type of place listed in the law to be made accessible, something that should have been done by now. These attorneys should be reprimanded. They are killing the dreams of many who have a disability of equal access and opportunity.