Don’t Tread on My ADA!” A Three part series on the attack on the ADA in the 115th Congress (Part II)

Part II: Why US Businesses are winning support for the passage of the harmful ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 and why they shouldn’t!”

 From Part I of “Don’t Tread on My ADA!”

There is no need to clarify or provide education for the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because there are more than enough resources (free) that educate and inform the public about the ADA. This bill was done to address the issues and concerns that business owners have about providing public accommodations for persons with disabilities in 2017, which is 27yrs after the ADA has become law. This bill is supported by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), the Asian American Retailers Association (AARA), and the National Apartment Association (NAA).   The ICSC represents shopping centers like strip malls around the country. It must be noted that the other larger shopping centers like Willowbrook Mall in NJ and around the country do not complain about the ADA and have worked closely with the disability community to implement the ADA and include all people in their shopping centers. The ICSC member’s complaints are based on the number of law-suits lodged against their members (more on this in Part II).

There is a long history of these ADA notification bills being introduced into Congress as discussed in Part I of this series. The supporters of this legislation claim that they are the victims of hateful lawyers who are attacking them on a regular basis for minor infractions of the ADA. They also claim that this is done in the format of massive or multiple law suits. The law-suits are causing them to go out of business. The ADA is the cause of all of these laws suits and a change must be made in this historic civil right to make this better. They also claim that this has nothing to do with their desire to become accessible to all. Let’s break these points down one by one, in reverse order.

Desire to be accessible

They claim that this problem of law-suits has nothing to do with their desire to become accessible to all. This July the ADA law will be 27yrs old and yet this country continues to struggle with following the law and implementing the intent of the law, which is community integration. Part of this is Public Accommodations for persons with disabilities. It does not surprise me that this country continues this struggle because there are so many civil rights attacks on the many public accommodation laws of this land. But what is infuriating about the supporters of H.R. 620 is their plausible deniability. They are trying to use ignorance of the law as an out for not following the law.

This bill is titled The ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017. There is no need for education of the ADA as there are more than enough resources (free) for businesses to learn about this law. Business owners can get free training, evaluations and learn about tax abatements and credits for their work. This community of organizations the ICSC, AARA & NAA have refused to accept the assistance of the disability rights community in multiple ways. They refuse to sit and meet with the community to discuss their concerns. They refuse to have training sessions about the ADA and how it works at their conferences; attend any of the disability rights organizations conferences where this training is provided and they will not accept RFPs from the disability rights community to present at their conferences. Many have tried and have been rejected.

In review of the ADA Resource Centers many trainings via webinars and in person there are never businesses from this community in attendance. You will find builders, architects, prisons and correction facilities, contractors and the like, but not retail owners. I have attended multiple trainings and done trainings across this nation and have never seen a retailer in the audience or on the attendance rosters provided to all.

History of other industries who started this way and now have changed:

The bus industry started this way. Fighting at all cost to resist and not become accessible. But disability advocates literally put their bodies in front of, under and on buses to demand accessibility. (see Part III) This took years and now here we are almost thirty years later and almost all buses in the U.S are accessible. In addition to those activists who put their lives on the line there were conversations at meetings and conferences, focus groups and dialogue happening at sessions that assisted with moving the bus industry toward accessibility. Now the bus companies attend disability rights organizations conferences and disability rights activists attend their conferences talking about ways to make things accessible.

It seems like if retailers in this country really wanted to be accessible they have every opportunity to do so. The opportunity is cost efficient and sometimes free. Hearing the retailers talk about their not having a problem with being accessible reminds me of the franchised hotel owners who in 2012 did not want the pool lifts to be accessible and tried to stop the implementation of that regulation. They always started their conversation with “We want to be accessible to all. We have no problem with this, but not the pool!”

Read comments by Hotel owners who did not want Pool Lift regulations implemented in 2012. Some of these comments will amaze, shock and appall you. See one such comment below.

The ADA is the problem – really!

The ADA is the cause of all of these law-suits and a change must be made in this historic civil right to make this better. Now this is not in alignment with the supporters of H.R. 620’s rhetoric of “we have no problem with being accessible” but that is using logic right? (Smile) There is no logic in this complaint and reason for support of H.R. 620.

The problem is not with the ADA. There are multiple problems one is some in the legal profession and another is the intentional lack to learn about the ADA by business owners. Even organizations that represent lawyers say this and are on the Hill opposing H.R. 620. There should be an outcry for change in how lawyers function and are sanctioned for their behavior in this work.

Now this is happening in some states, there are judges lodging investigations and sanctioning some attorneys. But at the federal level legislatures have joined the business community in this push to change a civil rights law rather than punish those who engage in the abuse of the law.

Business owners, specifically those supporting H.R. 620 are also part of this problem. The scenario of such cases is something like this:

A person/customer (usually working for the attorney) goes to a strip mall in rural USA to do some shopping, sign their child up for dance class, wash and dry clothes or even go inside a police satellite office to talk with authorities but encounters a number of barriers that do not allow them to enter said entities. This person or a lawyer sends the business owner letters letting them know that they are not in compliance with the ADA with the information about the barriers. These complaints may state in some format that if you don’t fix the barriers we will sue your establishment or you can pay us (amount of funds) and we will ignore this lack of compliance.

 *NOTE: that in the federal ADA law – only injunctive relief – fixing of the barrier and attorney fees (which should be about $500 – $700) are paid out for these types of law suits. But the amounts in these letters are far above the average price and these attorneys will send multiple letters to the same place of business – why? – because the business still has not fixed the barriers and become accessible.

Now this type of work is nefarious in its nature and just wrong on the part of the lawyer. But at the same time, as I stated owning a business in this country is a privilege and one that comes with responsibilities. It is the business owner’s responsibility to take this letter and do a little research about why there are barriers and if they are truly not compliant with the ADA. These days with all the information on the world wide web that is the first place most intuitive persons go to find answers. If you Google ADA, there is a plethora of resources that come up for one to review and most of it is there for no charge to the business. There are also multiple groups of disability rights organizations and advocates who are more than willing to assist a business to become accessible. They want to be customers and work in the business.

Instead of doing this these business owners have decided to just pay off the lawyer with the amount/fee inserted into the form letter of notice of noncompliance. Now how is this the fault of the ADA and not the fault of an uninformed business owner, who purposefully choses to be uninformed? (Remember the first section- refuses to meet with the community, does not attend trainings)

Things that make you say Ummm!

Targeted by lawyers

The supporters of this legislation claim that they are the victims of hateful lawyers who are attacking them on a regular basis for minor infractions of the ADA. They also claim that this is done in the format of massive or multiple law suits. This was discussed a bit in the last section. But here is some information about another side of this
“targeted” victims opinion of these business owners. There are no “minor infractions” of the ADA. If a business is violating the ADA this means that a person with a disability, usually a mobility disability is unable to enter or move around in that place of business. This is no small infraction, this is a denial of services and violation of their civil rights.

If you read some of the comments done by franchised hotel owners in 2012 who fought so hard to not have the pool lift regulation implemented you will see a pattern. As in the example comment below:

Excerpt from one of the comments submitted in 2012:

Between my husband and myself, we have over 65 years in the hotel industry. Never once during those years of service has anyone asked for access to our pool. Never once during any of those years has anyone asked for use of our TDD equipment that by law we have to have. First of all, if a handicap person needs said lift to enter the pool, what are they going to be able to do once they are in there.

There remains the stigma in this country that people with disabilities are unable to do much of anything and they belong in their homes – homebound doing nothing. When people like this writer make this insulting statements it is because they are ignorant and lack interaction with persons with disabilities. In 65 years no one asked for access to the pool because it was not an option and these hotel owners had no desire to find out if it could be an option. Instead they took their antiquated and ill-informed thoughts about disabilities to block an entire community from community integration. This is where the disability sensitivity and ADA 101 training and education for this industry would assist with bridging the gap of a hotel owners thoughts and reality.

This is the same for ill-informed business owners who are part of the hundreds of thousands of members of ICSC, AARA and NAA and are now supporting weakening a civil right to make up for their ignorance.

Maybe these business owners are being targeted by lawyers who are well informed about the lack of knowledge this community has and will not obtain. Knowledge is power! Just a little bit of knowledge about the ADA would go a long way for these business owners. Changing the foundation of a civil rights law will not change this outcome. Lack of knowledge and desire to change will continue to make this industry a target and these lawsuits will not end.

Although there was a delay, the pool lift regulation was implemented by the Obama Administration in 2012. The results are amazing. People with disabilities are swimming and enjoying pools all across the country (check InstaGram and see pictures). They are participating in water aerobics classes, lap swimming for exercise and enjoying pools with their families. The US ParaOlympic swimming team advocated for this regulation to be implemented.

For the couple above, who asked “what are they going to be able to do once they are in there” – well some of them win metals in the Olympics!

Stay tuned for the next Part III in this series to discuss this opposition to a horrific law!

Thank you for reading, please leave a comment and tell all about The WIYATT!

Help oppose this bill and sign petition at Change.org titled: “Don’t Tread on my ADA!”

Goal 5,000 – as of today we have 2, 820 sign ons!

https://www.change.org/p/dara-baldwin-don-t-tread-on-my-ada-oppose-ada-education-reform-act-of-2017-h-r-620

To read more about this bill go to:

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr620

To see letters of opposition from organizations:

http://ndrn.org/en/public-policy/ada-a-civil-rights.html

Resources that are helpful:

PVA:

Paralyzed Veterans of America have drafted a point paper explaining their opposition to H.R. 620.

http://ndrn.org/images/Images/Issues/ADA/ADA_Notifty_Point_Paper_022217.pdf

DREDF:

Blog post: ADA Under Serious Attack Urgent Action Needed

https://dredf.org/2017/04/17/ada-serious-attack-urgent-action-needed/

Website with information:

https://dredf.org/hr620/

Robyn Powell’s blog on this legislation and how it will affect her life:

https://rewire.news/article/2017/05/30/americans-disabilities-act-attack-congress/

Read comments by Hotel owners who did not want Pool Lift regulations implemented in 2012:

https://www.regulations.gov/docketBrowser?rpp=50&so=DESC&sb=postedDate&po=0&dct=PS&D=DOJ-CRT-2012-0006

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About wiyatt

Hi I am Dara born in Spain, raised in Newark, NJ and now enjoying living a dream in Washington, DC. I am zealous about Social Equity and Justice. I am an Advocate for Disability Rights. I am a Sister & Friend to many! Years of studying, living and changing policy brought me to this place. Thank you for reading my blog! Follow me on Twitter: @NJDC07 The quote above is from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr in a speech he gave here in Washington, DC in 1955. It is now carved into one of the many stones at his memorial on the National Mall.
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