Whittling away the Americans With Disabilities Act
It seems that the restaurant industry is leading to fight to keep America inaccessible to people in wheelchairs. There was a problem in Kansas (where else?) last year that was shot down.
These businesses have had nearly 15 years to make the small changes that are needed for accessibility. Some of these businesses were established after the ADA was law, and ignored it. Now, they want to have up to another year to make things accessible, and not be otherwise penalized for their indifference (I am being charitable).
This measure should never reach the ballot:
Building and Restaurant Industries Trying to Stop Disability Rights Enforcement
The California Building Industry Association and California Restaurant Association started out 2006 by submitting a proposed ballot initiative to the California Attorney General for inclusion on the November 2006 ballot.
The proposed initiative, which is awaiting Attorney General approval and will then require signature collection before it can be put on the ballot, would amend the California disability rights laws and construction defect laws to make it much more difficult for Californians to enforce the law.
The proposal would require people injured by discrimination in disability access, or by construction defects in their homes, to notify the building owner or builder by certified mail, and wait 30 business days (amounting to 40 days total) for the owner to respond. The owner/builder can then choose to (1) ignore the notice or reject the claim (in which case the injured party can proceed to court) or (2) respond by promising to make improvements within 120 business days (200 actual days ( 6.6 months)) or by demonstrating that the violations have already been corrected after the incident occurred. If the building owner cannot get the corrections made in 120 days, he can get an extension of another 120 business days - thus delaying compliance by up to 13 months!
If the owner's modifications have fixed or will fix the access violation, the injured person will have NO RIGHT to seek compensation for the initial discrimination or injuries caused by it. He or she will not be compensated for injuries and will not be reimbursed for having to pay an attorney to investigate the case. Over 15 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (and more than 20 years after the California disability rights laws), building owners will be exempt from compensating victims for their ongoing discrimination.
If the owner's modifications are inadequate, the owner can force the injured party to go into a "prelitigation procedure" where a neutral access specialist (paid, in part, by the injured party) reviews the property or the owner/builder's proposal to fix the property and approves it as complying with access requirements. This process has no deadlines and will presumably extend the 120 day period for making improvements. At the end, if the neutral reviewer approves the modifications, the injured person will have no rights to compensation for the initial discrimination or injury, will have no right to reimbursement for attorneys fees and costs for participating in the "prelitigation procedure", and will, in fact, have to spend additional money to pay the neutral reviewer.
Notably, this initiative, applies to new construction and alterations, even though owners and builders have no defenses to providing access in new buildings. Moreover, the initiative will let both private businesses and state and local governments off the hook for new and ongoing access violations. This proposal would make people with disabilities the forced, unpaid consultants for business and governments - people with disabilities will, in effect, have to subsidize building owners' compliance (we will have to pay all of their access consultants!) with the law and will have no ability to enforce disability civil rights.
The Disability Rights Legal Center will work actively to oppose this ballot initiative in every possible way. Your support will be essential to this effort, which will require us to educate voters across the state about why disability rights should not be restricted and why, after decades of laws requiring disability access, building owners should not be encouraged to ignore those laws even longer and to place responsibility for compliance on us.