Taking Action Against ADA Wheelchair Accessibility Violations

Oct 18, 2011

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Americans with Disabilities Act

Modesto Hernandez, a wheelchair user due to the effects of polio, is taking a stand against businesses that fail to accommodate the special needs of patrons with disabilities. Hernandez has filed more than 12 accessibility lawsuits against numerous New York shopping centers and locations including the Bronx Zoo, Cross County Shopping Center, the Nanuet Mall, and most recently the Midway Shopping Center in Scarsdale and Tanglewood Shopping Center in Yonkers. Hernandez’s lawsuit claims the establishments violated New York’s Civil Rights Law and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and his complaints mirror those of millions of persons with disabilities: curbs or walkways that are not designed for wheelchair use, counters and rails that are too high, and inaccessible parking for people with disabilities on excessively sloped ground, to name a few.

Cross Country Shopping Center in Yonkers, NY

Hernandez is one of millions of people all over the U.S. who are exercising their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and holding businesses accountable for not providing adequate access for persons with disabilities. His lawsuits seek changes or modifications to improve accessibility and unspecified damages plus attorney’s fees. Plaintiffs involved in these types of lawsuits hope to send the message to businesses to bring their establishment up to code and make them accessible for all persons, regardless of their physical ability.

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, local and state government, transportation, telecommunications, commercial facilities and public accommodations. Accessibility lawsuits have been on the rise in recent years. Oregon, Florida, Hawaii and California are considered “hot bed” states for accessibility lawsuits. California recently proposed Senate Bill 783, legislation that would give Californian businesses some relief from abusive accessibility lawsuits.

Nanuet Mall Sued for Accessibility Issues

There’s a fine line, however, between a person having a legitimate complaint and a person being nit-picky. Defendants in accessibility lawsuits feel plaintiffs and their attorneys are abusing the ADA laws to make a profit. The plaintiffs insist they are acting on behalf of all persons with disabilities and doing their part to make all places accessible for everyone. Despite increased awareness of the needs of persons with disabilities, too many businesses and other establishments still lack adequate facilities to accommodate such persons. Furthermore, many of these establishments are reluctant to incur the expense to make the necessary changes. In many cases, change only comes when a business is sued.

Hernandez’s attorney insists that his client is not just going around looking for businesses to pick on. Hernandez’s job as a wheelchair repairman takes him all over the country making house calls and deliveries. If he notices a problem with accessibility at any particular place he visits, he calls his attorney.

One defendant has gotten the message and is taking corrective action. The Bronx Zoo agreed to 84 changes at their entrances, restrooms, signage, parking lots, and animal exhibits. The changes include installing accessible tables in the Terrace Cafe, lowering a handrail in the reptiles exhibit, and redesigning paths at the Tiger Mountain exhibit to reduce changes in level.

Bronx Zoo in NY

Will more architects and designers continue making accessibility a primary consideration when designing buildings and structures, so there will be less accessibility lawsuits in the future? What is your opinion of Hernandez and other plaintiffs like him bringing suit against frequented establishments? Is this the right way to go about bringing about accessibility to all–by having lawyers direct businesses to comply–or should these changes be left to established officials, like public health authorities? Weigh in here and let us know!

Source:
http://www.lohud.com/article/20111005/NEWS02/110050324/Wheelchair-user-sues-Scarsdale-Yonkers-malls-over-access-disabled

Image sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross_County_Shopping_Center
http://newyorkguest.wordpress.com/2011/04/12/a-perfect-day-at-the-bronx-zoo/
http://www.ada.gov/

About the author

Jill Liphart
Jill Liphart

Jill is a writer, blogger, social media and Internet marketer, work-at-home, single mom of 5. She provides news about issues that are important to people with disabilities, their loved ones, disability advocates and their friends.

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4 Comments

  1. Peter Batting
    October 19, 2011

    I too am very concerned with wheelchair accessibility since my wife was diagnosed with parkinsons and uses a power wheelchair. There are too many establishmenst and venues which are not accessible at all and nothing will be done unless there is considerable pressure to do so. Unfortunately in this country that means a lawsuit. Even new establishments and venues don”t alwats get it right ( even some medical facilities I might add ) and it appears to me that very often design does not include input from those with disabilities who will be using the facility. A non-disabled person in many cases does not know ( or sometimes even care to find out )what works for those who are disabled. And Government officials are many times the worst. So as things stand I applaud those who make the effort to look out for those who can”t look out for themselves, even if it means lawsuits. Of course in my mind, other than coverng expenses of a suit or any damages to the litigant any awards should go to agencies who have demonstrated their willingness to improve accessibility everwhere and can use funds to do so. No one person should benefit from such suits as the main purpose is to correct situations for all.

  2. Lisa
    October 22, 2011

    Peter I SO agree, I have a daughter with CP and we have been to medical appts and can”t get into the bathroom. If my time was not wrapped up in her care I would create a job where I went to contracters/builders and trained them BUT alas many don”t care because the cost would be high and they”d lose the bid! Our mature and disabled society will not be the minority much longer and then what???

  3. Dan
    February 03, 2012

    I”m disabled and use my electric Wheelchair when out and about and see MANY places inaccessable,,at a downtoem eatery I made my order on the sidewalk because I couln”t get in and ate in my chair outside out of a styroform Doggie plate thingy started to sprinkle and some inside looking out at me started to chuckle..Its the life we Live in a chair,,1990 ADA was put in place,,over 20 years later ,,same ole crap and the bussiness say lawsuits are harrassment,,I never made one,,thought about it many time–even called around to see how to get one started and NO–I Mean NOT one attorney would take on accessability ADA lawsuit,,they ALL go after ADA employment Violations,,, I believe Most WON”T take on ADA acessability just because they get targeted like Most of looking for just $$$$$$$ and made to look Bad,,,BTW I am Service connected Disabled Veteran and theirs many more out there now because of the wars recently,,,so instead of saying thank you for your service lets start thinking about that law thats being IGNORE from over 20 years ago..

    • ADA Compliance Group
      July 01, 2013

      If you are an individual that has suffered discrimination and violation of your civil rights by non compliant business and property owners; then please contact our organization; The A.D.A. Compliance Group.
      We fight for the civil rights of persons wiith disabilities relating to accessibility issues as governed by
      The American Disability Act Title III.
      We fight to assure that establishments make the necessary changes, renovations, and accommodations to allow full access to individuals with a disability.
      To those business and property owners that rant and rave that it is all about money, our response is simple;
      “Live a day in the life of a person with a disability/wheelchair.”
      It has been over 20 years since the ADA was passed by Congress. Business and property owners have had ample time to make small changes like ramping a step, putting grab bars in restrooms, etc.
      Some people simply don’t care and then cry about it once they are identified as being non compliant.
      Our goal at The ADA Compliance Group is to make sure that all of America is accessible and compliant within the next 10 years.
      Contact us to join the fight..
      ADACOMPLIANCEGROUP@ATT.net
      or call 786-355-3573.

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