The ADA Is Under Attack By Big Business. Learn How You Can Fight Back!

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There are many ways in which a business can discriminate against people with disabilities. For example, they can refuse to make reasonable accommodations for an employee, or they can cut corners by failing to include wheelchair ramps in their plans for new construction. Both of these are forbidden by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.

Other forms of discrimination are more subtle and—in some cases—not even illegal. We are referring to the organized campaign to besmirch the reputation of brave Americans with disabilities: Those who know their rights and take a stand for what they deserve.

On April 7, 2017, the Times-Picayune published such an attack in the form of a “Letter to the Editor” by Marty Mayer. The piece entitled “Congress Should Fix ADA Law to Reduce Frivolous Lawsuits” (link), claims that the number of ADA lawsuits is on the rise due to a “surge” in frivolous complaints over “minor technical violations.”

Who is this champion of “small businesses” who wants to protect them from unscrupulous people in wheelchairs and their attorneys? Why would Mr. Mayer write a letter impugning the reputations of Americans with disabilities and those who fight on their side?

Marty Mayer is President and CEO of Stirling Properties, one of the largest property management companies in the State of Louisiana. The “small business” he’s trying to defend makes millions of dollars per year in revenue from a portfolio that covers over 16 million square feet in rental space.

The author paints the picture of small businesses put in danger of closing due to a flood of lawsuits. It concludes with a call for a new 120 day “notice and cure” law. This idea—and it is by no means a new one—would place on disabled people an unreasonable burden for pursuing their Civil Rights. One would have to formally alert the offending property owner of the infraction—say the absence of a wheelchair ramp or of an accessible bathroom—and then wait for four long months before they could follow up in court.

The letter, which the newspaper should have declined to publish, is heavy on hypothetical complaints and nearly empty of actual facts. The writer cites no evidence to suggest what percentage of ADA lawsuits are over “minor technical violations.” He also provides no examples to show that small businesses are really closing due to ADA lawsuits, or that licensed attorneys are being “unscrupulous” in filing them.

Marty Mayer, the letter’s author, speaks of anecdotes about misplaced mirrors “off by inches,” and slightly faded parking spots. Instead of focusing on the millions of people the ADA has benefited, Mr. Mayer focuses on vague claims of lawsuits brought on minor technical issues. Despite his lack of concrete evidence, Mr. Mayer suggests that the entire ADA needs to be overhauled.

Mr. Mayer, being heavily invested in the business of real estate, only pretends not to understand how the ADA works, and why the proposed 120 day burden is unfeasible. In fact, the current system was a compromise between big business and the disabled community. The property owners’ lobby agreed to not block the passage of the ADA, but only if they were able to “self-police”. This means that there are no Federal ADA inspectors.

Lawsuits are currently the only way to enforce the Americans With Disabilities Act. If business owners couldn’t be sued until they received a letter, they simply would have no incentive to bring their buildings into compliance. Without the threat of legal action, they would just keep their properties inaccessible and then wait until they received a formal complaint… if they ever did.

At Bizer & DeReus, we believe in advocacy in all its forms: both in court and in the halls of Congress. Please contact us today and we can explain how we will work with you to advocate for your rights and the rights of others with disabilities.

Do not be deceived by this attack on the disabled community by big business. The ADA is a civil rights statute and it benefits real people. Don’t be bullied away from doing what is right.

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