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As I mentioned in
my article published last week,
July is one of my favorite months because the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law 31 years ago. On July 21, 2021, I attended a webinar entitled
“A Smattering of ADA Cases Worth Noting for the Past Three Years (2019 to present)”.
The event was hosted by two ADA centers which provide ADA information: the
Southwest ADA Center.
In this blog post, I will summarize what I learned from the webinar about ADA legal cases and provide my reflections for the thirty-first anniversary of the ADA’s passage.
Disability Access at Businesses
A store’s web site was determined earlier this year to not be fully accessible for people who use screen readers. After suit was filed, a court agreed that web site accessibility is needed when a business has a physical facility. A customer using a wheelchair was not able to navigate another retailer’s physical location due to barriers in aisles. That store is not admitting liability of wrongdoing. However, the store’s facilities will provide disability-awareness training for employees and conduct frequent ADA compliance. Another wheel chair user encountered difficulty using a coffee shop due to counter height. A court determined that the counter did not need to be unobstructed as long as it is 36 inches or more in height. Employment (Title I of the ADA) was the next focus.
Two legal cases make clear that some employers do not consider migraine headaches or an elbow injury as a disability. The fact is that, as a presenter stated, disabilities can be episodic or temporary under the 2008 ADA Amendments Act which expanded disability definition. It is necessary to discuss reasonable disability accommodations. Additionally, the ADAA does not require a person to be substantially limited in situations where a person is regarded as having a disability. ADA Title II cases were then discussed.
An organization of the blind sued the city of New York about inaccessible pedestrian signals. The U.S DOJ wrote a statement of interest regarding this case. The DOJ’s statement was summarized briefly during the presentation. Newly constructed intersections must be accessible and existing signals should be modified. Financial burden is only relevant in considering effective alternatives. The goal is enabling navigation. In another case, a child with autism had a negative counter with a school resource officer. Per a presenter’s case summary, the officer’s ignorance of disability needs lead to an autism meltdown. The officer had been informed about the autistic person’s disability. There were similar circumstances regarding a school resource officer in another case affecting a student with an invisible disability. I will now provide my own reflections on the ADA.
Blake’s ADA Reflections
One way in which the ADA has impacted me by helping me advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. As I wrote last year in
my article commemorating the 30th anniversary of the ADA,
being able to access online services can still pose barriers to people with disabilities. Title III of the ADA (places of public accommodation) requires access to a business for people with disabilities. I have known for years that the issue of web sites needing to be accessible for ADA compliance or not is controversial from a legal perspective. Some courts say yes, others have indicated no. My solution when encountering accessibility problems online is to report an issue and request resolution without taking legal action. As my illustration in last year’s ADA commemoration article makes clear, advocacy is not always successful. However, speaking up in writing or verbally can possibly make a difference. I also consider it important for people with disabilities to understand their disability rights. Although I was a child when the ADA was passed, I did not know anything about the ADA until after I graduated from high school. Having eventually learned about the ADA, I am thankful for the ADA and the protections provided. Knowledge itself is crucial. Bottom line: Learning and educating others can make a difference.
Question for Readers
As a person with a disability, what is one way the ADA has impacted your life and why? I will return with another article.