Category Archives: Travel

CREEC-Colorado visits CREEC-California

Earlier this week, Tim and I got the chance to check out CREEC’s California office.  Come along for a quick tour!  Julie Wilensky, Director of our California office, and Executive Director Tim Fox in front of the building where our California office is housed.

Image: white woman in light blue shirt and black slacks next to white man in wheelchair with brown coat and khaki slacks, both on the sidewalk in front of a building bearing the logo sign "WeWork."

CREEC’s office is in the infinitely-hip WeWork building, which offers individual offices,

Image:  the "CREEC" logo on the glass door to an office; inside are visible an asian man drinking from a coffee mug, a white woman in a blue shirt, and a white man in a brown coat.

and conference rooms, for example, this one with a giant scrabble game on the wall:

Image:  giant scrabble game on the wall, with letters in the middle spelling out "God Is Love Tony."

And – so not kidding! – free beer on tap:

Image:  beer tap handle that reads "wework draft beer."

I think I was most impressed with the view, though.

Image:  clear blue sky over tile-roofed buildings with hills in the background.  Stop by and visit if you’re in the neighborhood!

[Cross-posted at CREECblog.]

Access success and fail in Helena, with random Helena photos

I spent part of last week in Helena, Montana on a new/old case in which CREEC is joining the ACLU National Prison Project and the ACLU of Montana as co-counsel on the case of Langford v. Bullock.  The Langford case was brought and settled in the early 1990s, but the implementation period is ongoing with respect to a claim under Title II of the ADA.  CREEC is lending its expertise in this area.

Image:  four people standing arm in arm.  From left:  a middle aged white man with red-blond hair and a gray goatee wearing a tan suit jacket and open collar shirt, an younger middle-eastern man with short hair wearing a button down shirt, a young white woman in a gray t-shirt and blue scarf, and a middle aged white woman in a yellow shirt and multi-colored scarf.

Jon Ellingson of the Montana ACLU, Ajmel Quereshi of the ACLU NPP, and CREECsters Sarah Morris and me.

Sarah and I flew into Missoula, met with Jon and Ajmel, and then all drove over to Helena.  The meeting went well, and left me a few hours of Wednesday afternoon for a leisurely stroll around Helena.  As I’ve mentioned — among other places, in my Ramps of Route 1 post — I love to observe the small ways that small town small businesses find to provide access.*

First up:  Taco del Sol on Last Chance Gulch Street.**  I love not only their tile ramp

Photo:  Sidewalk sign showing a big, wooden sun with attached smaller signs reading "Tacos Burritos Nachos Fish Tacos and more" and another reading "Beer and Wine."  Next to the sign, a door into a restaurant with a sloped tile ramp leading in.

but that, even as a small restaurant, they made Braille menus available.

Photo:  wooden box containing menus; a sign on the side reads "Braille menus are available for in-store use."

Also the carne asada burrito was fantastic!

Last Chance Gulch was a sort of pedestrian mall that did a great job ensuring the one or two steps of rise at most stores was ramped.  The giant plush bear added an extra touch at the Lasso the Moon toy store.

Photo:  front of a toy store with a large stuffed bear, accessible with a sloped entryway.

And accessible ice cream!

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Helena had a couple of hilarious access fails, as well.  Flower pot access fail:

Photo of two-way ramp in front of the door to an office building with a giant flower pot at the top of the ramp.

Pink flamingo access fail:

Photo of store with level entry, which put a flower pot in the door, and in the flower pot, a large plastic pink flamingo which is pitching face first into the door width.

And major design brain fart fail:

Photo showing ramp down to lowered area of pedestrian mall; there is a single step up to the ramp, however.

The photos below were just randomness from my walk:

Photo of moorish style design in an arch at the Civic Center. Photo of detail from a painted outdoor wall showing an ashtry with a half-smoked cigarette. Photo of a brick wall and text painted on the adjacent wall reading, "Memory Wall:  The Historic Chinese Community of Helena." Photo of large red pickup truck with the license plate "BG JNSN."

And my photos could not capture the beauty of the mountains, but I tried:

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*  As with the original post, I have to offer this disclaimer, because every now and again some defense-side attorney (hi, guys!) may read this:  I did not evaluate these ramps for compliance with the Standards.  I don’t know their dimensions or slope.  If you try to introduce this as evidence in one of my cases, I will file a Motion for Judicial Notice of Completely Missing the Point.

** Not kidding!

Photo:  traffic light and street sign reading "Last Chance Gulch."

New Rule: Remedial Scotch

New rule: when we arrive at a hotel at 2:00 in the morning — a hotel that has confirmed by phone and fax that it has reserved for us a room with a roll-in shower — to find, after unloading our voluminous luggage (shower chair; giant duffel; garment bag; suitcase; suitcase; computer wheelie; backpack), checking in, and tipping the helpful bellman who has transported this unGodly collection of luggage to the room, that the room has only a tub and that, in fact, no room with a roll-in shower is available that night (“night”), there will be a member of the ADA defense bar available on-call to secure alternative accommodations and to provide a nightcap of very very expensive Scotch.

These are the facts:

1.    The hotel had at least one room with a roll-in shower.

2.    The hotel confirmed — several times* —  that it had reserved a room with a roll-in shower for us.

3.    This was incorrect. When we arrived, there were no roll-in-shower rooms available.

4.    The hotel had at least one non-roll-in-shower room available — the one with the tub that they sent us to with our mule-train of luggage in tow.

5.    At least one of the rooms with a roll-in shower was occupied by someone who did not need it (this fact related to us by the night manager).

This is the law:

1.    Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in places of public accommodation, including hotels. 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a).

2.    Hotels are required to provide rooms with roll-in showers in proportion to the total number of rooms.  DOJ 2010 Standards for Accessible Design, Table 224.2.  I’m guessing that this hotel was required to provide at least nine such rooms; every hotel is required to provide at least one.

Image: Roll-in shower.

3.    Hotels are required to

[e]nsure that accessible guest rooms are held for use by individuals with disabilities until all other guest rooms of that type have been rented and the accessible room requested is the only remaining room of that type;

    and

[r]eserve, upon request, accessible guest rooms or specific types of guest rooms and ensure that the guest rooms requested are blocked and removed from all reservations systems.

28 C.F.R. § 36.302(e)(1)(iii) and (iv).

So there’s pretty much no question that the hotel violated the law.  And there’s no question that the violation had consequences: after flying across the country and arriving at 2:00 in the morning, Tim would not be able to shower when he woke up later that day.

The problem is, while there were consequences for Tim, there will be no consequences for the hotel.  Title III of the ADA has no damages remedy.  Truth is, we would be fairly unlikely to bring a lawsuit for damages.  We didn’t want damages; we wanted a useable hotel room.  We wanted to be able to do what every weary traveler wants at 2:00 a.m. — to check in and go to sleep; NOT to travel up and down the elevator with our piles of luggage, have a long — pleasant but unfruitful — conversation with the night manager, wait through long sessions between the night manager and his computer terminal, finally settle for the (inaccessible) room at 3:00, and (Tim) be unable to shower the next morning.

In other words, we just wanted the system to work.

But wait!, you say, Title III has an injunctive remedy!  The court can order the system to work, right?

Well first of all, of course, only after a lawsuit, which can take anywhere from two to 12 years.  By then, we’d be home and Tim would have showered, repeatedly, in our very own roll-in shower.

But more importantly, the hotel, in a case like this, would almost certainly argue** that Tim has no standing to sue unless he can specify the date on which he will return to this precise hotel. And while many people travel repeatedly to the same hotel, many don’t.  That’s the point, right?  When you’re planning travel to a new city, you want to be able to pick up the phone or go online, make a reservation, show up, and have a room you can use.   The problem is, under the current system, there is very little incentive for this system to work for people with disabilities:  no damages remedy; and no injunction unless you plan to come back to the very same hotel AND have the time and energy for a lawsuit.  Given this, the hotel knows that it doesn’t really need to comply.

So — new rule: every ADA defense lawyer who makes these bone-headed standing arguments must register on an ADA Compliance Resolution List and provide a number where they can be reached 24 hours a day.  When one of these damagesless, standingless events occurs, they must be ready to solve the problem, provide the room, and send a nightcap of very very expensive Scotch.

Anyone want to help me draft the bill?

[Cross-posted at CREECblog.]

************

*  When we make hotel reservations, we can’t just go online and request the room we want.  We call, we have a long conversation about roll-in showers (“Are you sure?  You’ve seen the bathroom in that room?  Can you ask housekeeping to check?  I heard you roll your eyes — just go check please.”), we often call back at least once, and we send a confirming fax, which we then have on hand when we arrive at the hotel.  None of that matters if it’s 2:00 a.m. and there simply isn’t an accessible room available.

** Indeed, this hotel has made this precise argument with respect to violations known to exist in many of its hotels.  The court held that the plaintiff “must assert an intent to return to the particular place (or places) where the violations are alleged to be occurring.”  Scherr v. Marriott Int’l, Inc., 703 F.3d 1069, 1075 (7th Cir. 2013).  So there is no standing to make them fix the problem in other hotels unless this plaintiff is planning to go to each of them?  Which means, of course, that none of the other hotels in the chain will be fixed until other wheelchair-using hotel guests — in this case, 56 other guests at 56 different hotels — encounter the barriers and sue.  Or unless one guest has the foresight to bring a class action, adding to the length and complexity of the suit and the elapsed time until a discrimination-free stay can be ensured.

Image from the webpage of Fine Design Contractors of Somewhere, MN.

Photos from Baltimore

In Baltimore for the National Disability Rights Network conference and have been playing with a new lens.

 

Update:  More Baltimore photos on my Flickr page.

 

Holly and Amy’s Big Adventure

I got to do one of my favorite things on Friday:  talk about the ADA to a bunch of disability rights advocates.  Even better:  the advocates were with the Southwest Center for Independence, and were in Durango, Colorado.  I had the choice of six* hours of driving (each way) through the amazing Colorado countryside, or an hour (each way) bouncing over the mountains in a regional jet.  I chose the drive without a second thought.

Denver to Durango

So Friday morning early, I lit out for Durango and because Holly still isn’t fully house-trained, and thus can’t stay alone with Tim, I brought her along for the ride.

 

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It’s almost as if I bought the CRV with the dogs in mind!  Oh, right.  Turns out it has an added feature I hadn’t even known about.  For those awkward moments when she poops in the middle of a scenic overlook that lacks a trashcan:

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Always pack out your trash!

Anyway, I chose the southeastern route in the map above — down I25 and across Route 160 — because I’m not a big fan of pass driving.  Google Maps helpfully sets out various routes, and then lets you choose your mode of transportation:  car; bus; on foot.  To accurately calculate our time, however, they need another option:  traveling with puppy.

 

Google maps composite

We stopped every hour and a half to two hours to find Holly a grassy spot.  Besides that slight inconvenience, though, she was the perfect traveling companion.

Driving in Colorado:  breathtakingly beautiful.

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Breathtakingly scary:

 

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Breathtakingly . . . obvious?

 

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Got to Durango without a minute to spare before the talk.  That is, though I didn’t have any minutes to spare, I spared a couple, and ended up about 5 minutes late.   It was my favorite kind of talk:  with interested advocates who had great ideas and great questions.

After the talk, Holly and I set out to explore Durango a bit, and found a path by the river that was perfect for a post-driving-trip stroll.

 

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Obligatory “Holly Posing Because She Knows Just How Cute She Is” photo:

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Dinner was yak stew — a first for me! — and lamb dumplings at The Himalayan Kitchen, then back to the hotel, where Holly checked out the accommodations.

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For the drive back to Denver, I chose the more direct route — in blue in the map above — that took me on Route 160 as far as Del Norte, and then Route 285 northeast through the mountains.  There were a couple more passes, but either they were relatively easy passes or I’m finally getting use to pass driving.  Or possibly exchanging the 1988 Accord for a 2013 CRV just makes the whole thing feel safer.  But I also took the time to stop for photos.  These first four were processed in HDR:

 

AR056479_80_tonemapped

 

AR056489_90_91_tonemapped

 

AR056492_3_4_tonemapped

 

AR056492_3_4_tonemapped b&w

Wildlife!

 

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Colorado life!

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Uh oh!   Better behave myself!***

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I arrived home, tired and happy, yesterday afternoon, very grateful to live in a state of overwhelming natural beauty and kick-ass disability advocates.

*********

* Actually, I have to confess, when I first learned I would be going to Durango, I thought, “it’s in the same state; how far can that be?”  Having grown up out east**, I assumed that anywhere you had to go within a single state couldn’t be more than a couple of hours’ drive.  Soooooo it turns out they make states bigger out here.  So the six-hour drive was a bit of a surprise, but ultimately a pleasant one.

** I’ve been overthinking the phrases “back east” and “out west” recently.  I use the phrases mostly because they reflect my path.  I started life on the east coast, and I’ve migrated out west.  But it occurs to me that these common phrases are not only sort of east-coast-centric, but also reflect a European-American-centric path (my peeps mostly entered the U.S. from the east coast and headed west) as opposed to an Asian-American path, as many Asians entered the U.S. from the west coast.  So I thought I’d try “out east” for a while and see how it sounded.

*** Tim’s uncle Pete Palmer is sheriff!

Vegas at Sunrise

The views from  our hotel at sunrise:

{Image:  orange sunrise with the silhouette of a building in the lower left-hand corner of the photo.}

 

{Image:  mountains and sunrise reflected in the windows of a highrise building.}

 

{Image:  sunrise over the mountains, but in the foreground, a busy airport runway and the neon "6" of a Motel 6 sign.}

 

And we really enjoyed a small oasis of beautiful music amidst the mayhem.

 

{A female cellist with cello and a male violinist with violin on a pedestrian bridge over a street in Las Vegas; the background full of neon signs and traffic.}

Yes, we tipped them, both for the music and for the photo opportunity.

More photos from Santa Fe

Taking photos in Santa Fe is like cheating.  You just point the camera out the back door and voila!

{Image: two bare trees, very slender with white bark against a very deep blue sky.}

Disc Golf Henge:

{Image:  snowy field with four small (approximately one-foot-tall) rock formations each in the shape of an inverted "U"}

Fence.

{Image:  fence made of vertical pieces of natural wood of varying heights.  In the bottom half of the photo, the wood slats are backed by a solid piece of wood.  In the top half of the photo, there is nothing behind the vertical slats, and the sun peeks through between two of the slats.}

Fence, HDR.

{Image: fence made of vertical pieces of natural wood of varying heights. In the bottom half of the photo, the wood slats are backed by a solid piece of wood. In the top half of the photo, there is nothing behind the vertical slats, and the sun peeks through between two of the slats.}

Barbed wire, HDR:

{Image:  close up of a photo of a single barb in a strand of barbed wire.  In the background, and out of focus, is the side of an adobe building.}

I couple of friends we met on our walk.

{Image:  A goat peers around the corner of a wood and wire fence.  To his left are three chickens, two black and one white.}

Window.  Almost anything looks good in adobe.  Ask Santa Fe!  I think it’s in the building code!

{Image:  a window in an adobe wall.  The window reflects a very blue sky.  Tree branches enter the photo from the right.}

Water spout:

{Image:  a flat water spout protrudes from an adobe wall with several feet of frozen water suspended off the end.}

The same water spout, an hour later:

{Image:  a flat water spout protrudes from an adobe wall with several feet of frozen water suspended off the end.  The adobe is much darker than the previous photo because of the setting sun.}}

Hubble the Golden Retriever discovers that Rodney has a snack.

{Image:  in the left side of the photo, a man sits at a table working at a laptop computer.   To his right, a golden retriever stares intently at him.  The corner of another laptop shows in the foreground; kitchen appliances are in the background.  The table  has a candle, a water bottle, a card and envelope, a french press with tea and a mug,}

And it wouldn’t be my blog unless I took the opportunity to go just a bit Andy Rooney on your ass.   My rental car was a Prius.  Even after I learned the sequence of button pushing and gear shifting that was necessary to make it go, and adjusted to the fact that it sounded, at every light, like the car had died and I’d need to call a tow truck, there were two more very disconcerting things.

(1)  You don’t need a key to drive the car but you do need a key to unlock it.  This means that when you get in the car, you have to figure out what to do with the key, since it’s not sitting in the ignition.  If I owned a Prius, I would lock the keys in the car at least once per week.

(2) You not only get the general warm, fuzzy, superior feeling of driving a really fuel-efficient car, you get a constant, real-time, animated demonstration of just HOW efficient you’re being:

{Image:  photo of a diagram of a car showing three unnamed parts with arrows going from one to another.  The diagram is labeled "Energy Monitor."  The display also contains the time (3:16 PM) and  the odometer (2837.4 MI).}

This little animated diagram changes as you drive, showing — near as I can tell — which direction the little energy hamsters that power the car are traveling.   The diagram is (a) designed for the driver to monitor the car’s energy situation in real time, and thus incredibly distracting and unsafe; (b) not designed to convey anything to the driver, and thus pretty pointless; or (c) designed solely to show the passenger what a cool, energy-efficient person the driver is.