Grasshopper Soup: Expect more ADA lawsuits
October 4, 2011
TAHOE/TRUCKEE and#8212; There is a trend in human relationships and law that has been showing its ugly face for too long in debates about nearly every serious issue faced by our community, state and nation. The trend is not new. It threatens social and civic relationships, and the trend continues to become so divisive our problems may never be resolved, except at a terrible price. The trend is factionalism. We were warned about it 200 years ago.
One small, but important, example of factionalism is the way the Americanand#8217;s with Disabilities Act is sometimes used. ADA advocates intend to shut down every business they can for ADA noncompliance. You should take them seriously.
I have heard it straight from the source. I have been corresponding at length with a disabled advocate who is convinced that, if you are not in compliance with ADA, you are a bigot who has always deliberately discriminated against disabled people, and you hate them all. He refuses to accept the fact you are a decent person just trying to make a living like everybody else. He and his colleagues are intent on shutting down your business for the slightest infraction they can find. He is satisfied with the fact that specific problems that spark ADA complaints never get fixed even though the party responsible for the infraction settles the complaint for thousands of dollars. A local case resulted in a settlement of about $7,000 with no action being taken to fix the problem that sparked the complaint. I asked him if he would be interested in working with the small business involved to fix the problem. He refuses to have anything to do with helping to remove that particular obstacle to disabled access, even though he himself is in a wheelchair.
A lot of money changed hands but the problem was never fixed. People on both sides of the ADA issue, and the legal system, share the blame. But only one side is profiting from ADA lawsuits, and from threatening non-compliant businesses with lawsuits.
The problem here is not ADA compliance or discrimination against the disabled. The problem, as in most other issues we face, is human greed, political correctness, an almost complete lack of common sense and an unwillingness to give others the benefit of the doubt. Problems like these are at least as serious as any physical problem anyone might have with physical access, maybe even more so, because these problems go straight to the heart and soul of who we are as human beings.
Nowhere in the legal text of the ADA are the concerns, rights and freedoms of those who might be sued addressed at all. The ADA has done a lot of good, but, where small business is concerned, it is a one-sided mandate that caters to a special interest (a faction) at the expense of everyone else involved. No law should favor one group over another except in cases where right and wrong are most obvious.
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The ADA needs to be rewritten to reflect a common sense respect for the rights and freedoms of society as a whole, as homogeneous groups, not adversaries. Attempts to enforce the ADA should be made with the same attitude of cooperation and mutual respect any decent citizen would use to help a friend in need. After all, that is why the ADA came into being, because we all deserve respect, support and cooperation.
There are disabled people who understand, and practice, cooperation with all parties while promoting their own special interests. And there are those, like the disabled man I have been trying to reason with, who refuse to cooperate to find ways to fix the problems. They will take advantage of every situation they can to realize their demands and force you to pay instead of working with you to improve disabled access.
If you own a business, make sure it is ADA compliant, or you risk losing it.
Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, former college instructor and ski instructor. He has a B.A. and an M.A.T. from Gonzaga University. He has lived at Lake Tahoe for 28 years.