In this great country of ours, laws are usually passed to protect the remainder of the population from criminal acts or to correct a social injustice. Without the protection of laws, it would be unsafe to venture outside our homes. Criminals, who fear little anyway, would have nothing to slow them down. We would all face a huge risk to our safety and property if the criminal justice system was not in place.
When it comes to social injustice, many different groups have benefited from laws that protect them or grant them equality. It hasn't been that long ago since women and other 'minorities' were granted equal rights, thanks to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
. Several protected groups have benefited from the Fair Housing Act of 1968
and its subsequent amendments, although this and other laws promising equality require continual monitoring and enforcement to keep them effective.
Not everyone agreed with the initial passage of those laws and constitutional amendments, but they are acceptable now and have become an important part of the "fabric" of our society over time.
People with disabilities have also benefited directly from the passage of such laws. Early disability civil rights laws such as section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1974
led up to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
in 1990. Unlike some of the laws mentioned above, the ADA still has its detractors and enemies despite the fact that it has been in place for over two decades.
The ADA has passed several judicial challenges at all levels, yet is still not universally accepted despite the initial support in Congress, tax benefits to support compliance, and exemptions if required improvements are architecturally or financially infeasible. The ADA even included an implementation schedule that provided several years before the more expensive aspects of the law needed to be complied with.
Today, over 22 years since the ADA was passed, many businesses still have not taken the first steps toward compliance. Businesses of all sizes, both rural and urban, are at fault. Many government agencies, from cities and counties to states and the feds, are in the same boat.
Keep in mind that most of the costs of compliance are relatively low, yet there are still thousands of parking lots that have yet to re-stripe the spaces so that wheelchair vans can be unloaded. Door closures that could easily be adjusted to eliminate the heavy force required to open them still keep many of us from entering those buildings without assistance, as do single-step entries and many other barriers that could be eliminated for $500 or less.
Post offices, courthouses, restaurants, hotels, amusement parks, retail establishments of all types and many public sidewalks pose obstacles to us on a daily basis, but we persevere with the knowledge that full ADA compliance should surely be just around the corner. But is it?
Individuals who would never consider sneaking by a stop sign with a California (rolling) stop, going one mile per hour over the speed limit, returning for seconds at a buffet, or sneaking into a second movie at a theater are perfectly willing to ignore the major civil rights law for people with disabilities. Due to the weak enforcement provisions in the ADA, there is no widespread fear that violators will be imprisoned, or even have their records marked, for failure to make their businesses or workplaces accessible to all.
One widespread tactic used by those who refuse to follow the law is to use the media to attack anyone who files a complaint or lawsuit about failure to comply with the ADA. It gets worse.
In California, certain individuals and their attorneys have even been refused entry into the courts due to their multiple attempts to "encourage" compliance. Business associations, chambers of commerce and the media have savagely attacked those advocates who are trying to stand up for our rights. They have done that by defining their complaints and court filings as "drive-by" lawsuits and unworthy of public concern.
For all of those scofflaws who think that this particular law does not require compliance I would like to ask: "What's wrong with you people? It's a LAW for cripes sake!"
I am taking this opportunity to put those who refuse to comply with the ADA on notice. For the past 22 years I have spent thousands of hours in surveying hundreds of facilities and dispensing free, or relatively cheap, advice on how to comply with the ADA and state access codes at a reasonable cost. Despite those efforts, inaccessibility still prevails.
If you continue to thumb your noses at our access laws, expect to be sued or have DOJ complaints filed against you. Some of those complaints are likely to have my name on them. Your bad attitudes have soured my attitude toward you: no more "Mr. Nice Guy!"
© 2012 Michael Collins