Tag Archives: ADA

Christmas Display

I saw the most wonderful display in front of a church as I drove down University Blvd today.  Not a creche, no lights, no crosses, no Santas or reindeer.  Just:

{Image:  photo of a church buliding with -- in front of the church -- a long concrete and brick ramp under construction.}

a ramp under construction.   St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church is building a beautiful ramp in front of their church building.  No back entrances here; nothing ad hoc or flimsy.  They’ve given over the front lawn of the church to a cut-back concrete ramp, lined with brick to match the building.

{Image:  more distant photo in which the entire church building is visible within the frame, as is the ramp extending the width of the building.  Construction equipment is visible in the lower right of the photo.}

I was very moved by the message of inclusion that this collection of concrete and bricks and construction equipment sent especially at the time of year when there is generally so much hand-wringing about Christmas displays.*  Sometimes the simplest things speak the most eloquently.   It’s is even more moving, I think, because the ADA does not require churches to be accessible, so this likely reflects a simple decision that everyone should feel and be invited to worship.

Because ramps are fun to do in panorama:

{Image: a panoramic view in which the entire ramp is visible close up, with construction equipment to the right.}

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* You know, the creche; the creche + menorah to show that we’re ecumenical; the creche + menorah-even-when-Chanukah-was-over-two-weeks-ago to show that we’re ecumenical but sort of clueless; the creche + menorah + Santa Claus to show that we’re not really religious, just seasonal; and of course the creche + menorah + flying spaghetti monster just because we can.

Because the biggest f*****g problem with the ADA is too many f*****g drive-by plaintiffs

This evening we went back to the completely gutted and remodeled Izakaya Den restaurant and found that they installed a raised sushi bar with no ramp.  Here’s a photo from Westword with my added mark-up.

Photo of the inside of a restauarant.  To the lower left of the photo, a raised area is visible with seats at a lowered sushi bar.  The raised area is circled in red, with an arrow pointing to it from text that reads "Step up to sushi bar."

Sigh.

Just that, by itself, is deeply frustrating.  As we’ve discussed in connection with our lawsuit against the El Diablo restaurant, you can’t take an empty space and make part of it inaccessible.  While this should be obvious, it’s also illegal.

But what made this depressing, frustrating, infuriating and really sad was that we have been patronizing Izakaya Den and its sister restaurant, Sushi Den, for years.  They know us in both restaurants, well enough at Sushi Den that we had a table where we always sat, and most of the waitstaff had served us so often they automatically brought me a phone book to sit on.*  We had participated in a private sushi tasting with a chef visiting from Japan, and at that point (and others) met the owners.

It’s bad enough that Izakaya Den got seriously bad architectural advice.  It’s really depressing that no one ever stopped to think, this isn’t just a theoretical legal question; we have a regular customer who will want access to the sushi bar.   And what’s funny:  they have an elevator.  They added a second floor and an elevator.  Very fucking cool.  But damn!  Why on earth add an unnecessary, new, inaccessible raised area?

We proceeded from Izakaya Den to Kaos** pizza, which was also inaccessible,  then*** on to the Black Pearl which had this gorgeous ramp

Photo showing front of restaurant with a ramp to the front entrance adjacent to a patio area with tables and seats.

as well as truffle fries, an excellent cheese plate, and a nice refreshing bottle of 90 Shilling.

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*  Yes, I’m that short and have that little pride.  But it’s nice to be able to look my fellow diners in the eye.

** Sounds like Maxwell Smart should be nearby, talking on his shoe phone.

*** I’m leaving out the part where I crossed the street from Kaos to where Tim was waiting, swearing my ass off, while he made “maybe you don’t want to use those words just now” eyebrow motions.  Turns out he was chatting with a nice woman — hidden to me by a parked car — and her cute Lab puppy.   I was embarrassed, she was understanding (“that’s OK; let it all hang out!”), and the puppy was really really cute.

This is why I never read comments on news stories

On Friday, the judge in our case against Hollister stores and their inaccessible front entrances ordered that the violations be remedied within three years.

Red Alert Politics — “an online publication written by and for young conservatives” — gave the case a straightforward, factual write-up.  There are two comments.  The first is I guess a typical conservative response:  it’s their store; they can do what they want.  Not respectful; not even legal; but plain vanilla conservative.

The second comment was this, by someone designated with a little star as a “Top Commenter”:

yeah well obama is all about controlling and lying…he’ll cost anyone money he can, direct the DOJ to infringe on multiple constitutional rights and keep doing it…

think about this, any speech charge, using what you say in court against you – is against the first amendment, that is saying that you’re freedom is speech can be used against you – that’s a law to the contrary, or the second ammendment – you have the right to keep and bear arms….

article 6 is the supremacy clause and the oath that judicial branches, judges, senators, congressmen, even the president takes….

any charge for a speech or a gun is unconstitutional — ever wonder why when they charge people with murder charges, the gun NEVER EVER comes up? lawyers of that caliber would shit on it….just like america needs to shit on obama, and carry guns, and exercise their god given rights, that their ancestors fought to ensure were protected.

So in response to the fact that Hollister stores will be required to fix their raised front entrances to make them accessible to customers in wheelchairs, we are supposed to “shit on obama and carry guns.”  Ladies and Gentlemen, I present:  Conservative Logic and Spelling 101.

 

The ramps of Route 1

[Cross-posted at CREECblog.]

Every summer or so, we visit my brother and his family at their place in Maine.  To do this, we generally fly into Boston and then drive the four hours from Logan to mid-coast Maine.  The first three hours are on I-95; the last hour or so on Route 1 from Brunswick to Thomaston.  It has long struck me, as we meander up the barely two-lane road — often at 30 mph behind a giant RV or tractor — the amazing number of very small businesses that have ramps.

This past weekend I made the trip with no deadline and no one else in the car, so I had the time* to take some photos of these examples of readily-achievableness. (Ready achievability?)**

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.

The first couple were actually near Manchester, NH, where I had taken a detour to visit a college classmate.

Small free-standing store with parking lot.  Store has steps in front and a ramp up the side starting from the back of the store and rising to the middle of the right hand side.
These next two are churches, which aren’t even covered by the ADA (unless they have some sort of commercial business on the side):

Front view of white building with three steps at the front entrance (in the middle of the front of the building) and a ramp extending from the entrance along the front to the left side of the building.  Ramp has a sign that reads, "Christ Died for Our Sins."

 

Photo of beige church building with the words "Saint Peter" on the front and a ramp curving around to the right side of the building.

 

Onward to Rte 1:

One story building with front porch accessible by a short ramp in front of the building.

This actually might have been someone’s house.  Along Route 1, the distinction between house and business is often sort of vague.

Gabled grey house with wooden ramp extending from the front door and curling around to the right in the front yard.  The base of the ramp is white lattice work and flowers grow along the front of the base.

Just north of Wiscasset.

Small free-standing red building with a ramp extending from the middle of the front off to the right.

Jean Kigel Studio, Damariscotta.

One-story building viewed from the side where a ramp provides access up onto the porch.

Cheap cigarettes in Waldoboro.

One-store store with a sign in the front reading "Cheap Cigarettes."  The front door is served by a short apparently level ramp with a slighly sloped portion at the end.

Somewhere south of Thomaston.

House or business with approximately five steps to the front door and a ramp to a side door on the left.

The Hair Loft, Warren, Maine.

One-story building with a sign reading "Hair Loft."  The front entrance is on the left side of the photo, served by approximately six steps.  The door is also served by a ramp from the door leading to the right of the photo.

Unidentified business, Warren:

Front of a two-story house or business with a wide metal ramp leading to the front entrance.

The famous Moody’s Diner, Waldoboro:

White building with neon sign reading "Moody's Diner" on the roof.  A ramp is positioned along the left side of the building leading up to the entrance in the middle.

Ralph’s Homes, Waldoboro:

Freestanding white building with a long switch-back ramp serving the front entrance, which is up approximately six steps.

Random business south of Waldoboro:

Red building with approximately 3 steps to a porch serving the front entrance.  A ramp serves the porch as well.

The Nobleboro Antique Exchange:

Blue two-story building with a switch back ramp serving the porch and front entrance.  Sign in front of the building reads "Nobleboro Antique Exchange."

So next time you hear some fancy store or chain claim that it’s not readily achievable to ramp their business, here are some examples to, in legal terminology, call baloney.***

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* My leisurely pace turned out to have been a good plan for another reason:  when I got to my brother’s house, he and his family were out and their house was guarded by their snarling goldendoodle.  Seriously.  This dog

Benign-looking light brown dog, sized somewhere between a poodle and a golden retriever, with a multicolored color, sitting on a lawn looking to the right of the photo.

exiled me to the hammock until my hosts returned to chaperone my canine interaction.

I was not suffering:

Legs and feet of photographer on hammock, sunny Maine seascape in the background.

 

** Under the ADA, buildings built after January 26, 1993 were required to be accessible.  42 U.S.C. § 12183(a).  Those built before that date and not altered since must remove barriers — by, for example, ramping entrances that are only accessible by steps — where it is “readily achievable” to do so.  42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(iv).

*** I might have used a different word if not for the cross-posting, but I’m trying to keep it clean on CREECblog.

No, I’m not “with the wheelchair.”

I’m “with the passenger in a wheelchair” or perhaps “with the passenger who uses a wheelchair,” or most accurately, “with the hot guy using a wheelchair.”

But I guess this makes the distinction clear:

IMG_1004

 

If you are a “wheel chair” or a stroller, you are not a “passenger.”  You are your equipment.

And airline people, you don’t have “two wheelchairs on the plane.”  As a matter of empirical fact, you have zero wheelchairs on the plane.  You have two people who use wheelchairs who are waiting patiently on your plane for the doofuses (doofi?) in your ramp crew to figure out how to get their wheelchairs to the jetway.

I realize there are other circumstances in which an object associated with a person comes to stand for the person.  “Suits” comes to mind, to mean the dweebs in the organization who are imposing rules on the real people who want to create/get things done/think outside the box.  It’s not a compliment.  “Brass” for officers, perhaps.  “Uniforms” to distinguish beat cops from higher ranking detectives.  I would put “wheelchair” as a substitute for the person in a very different category, though, largely because I only hear it from people in a position to treat the people themselves as objects.

I don’t take a position on the people-first language discussion, that is, whether it is better to say “disabled person” or “person with a disability.”  Both seem better than “the disabled,” but as my disabled friend/friend with a disability Laura Hershey would say, English puts its adjectives before its nouns, so “disabled person” puts the focus on the person, it just does so grammatically.

But once you’ve taken the person out of the equation completely and substituted the thing, you’ve left the realm of grammar and made a decision to depersonalize.

The funny thing is, I always respond — when I hear this — “no I’m not with the wheelchair, I’m with the guy in the wheelchair”  or to the airline peeps, “actually, you don’t have two wheelchairs on board, you have two people who use wheelchairs.”  But no one even gets the difference.

Sigh.

Prior litigation: admissible; evidence of life with a disability: inadmissible.

[Cross posted at FoxRobBlog, which is involved in some sort of DNS attack.  Whatever that is.]

In Yates v. Sweet Potato Enterprises, Inc., 2013 WL 3662645 (N.D. Cal. July 12, 2013), the plaintiff — a guy who uses a wheelchair — alleges that he encountered barriers at a Popeyes restaurant.  In the order, the judge addresses questions from both the plaintiff and the defendant about what evidence can be used at trial.  In so doing, she does two things that are stunning individually, but that — taken together — turn the plaintiff into the defendant, defending his right to equal access to the businesses that non-disabled people patronize everyday without a second thought.

First, the court grants the defendant’s motion to exclude “sympathy-inducing evidence regarding Plaintiff’s disability” that is not directly relevant to his experience at Popeyes, including “testimony regarding his day-to-day hardships.” The court just doesn’t see how that’s relevant.

Second, the court denies the plaintiff’s motion to exclude evidence that he has filed a large number of other access lawsuits.

Pause.

If people who use wheelchairs filed a lawsuit challenging every illegal barrier they encountered each day, most would file — I’m guessing — five to ten lawsuits each day.  Instead, most people go about their days, swearing at the illegal and thoughtless barriers, but without the time or resources to file those tens and eventually hundreds of lawsuits.  A brave and energetic few take the time to bring the lawsuits that remain necessary — twenty years after the effective date of the ADA’s architectural provisions and thirty years after California’s — to achieve a modicum of compliance.  For their trouble, these people are dubbed — in the press and in court — “serial litigators.”

The Ninth Circuit — the court with appellate authority over the Yates court — has recognized the role of these brave and energetic people in enforcing the law:

Courts must tread carefully before construing a Disability Act plaintiff’s history of litigation against him. As we have noted more than once, “[f]or the [Disabilities Act] to yield its promise of equal access for the disabled, it may indeed be necessary and desirable for committed individuals to bring serial litigation advancing the time when public accommodations will be compliant with the [Disabilities Act].” We must therefore be “particularly cautious” regarding “credibility determinations that rely on a plaintiff’s past [Disabilities Act] litigation.”

Antoninetti v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., 643 F.3d 1165, 1175 (9th Cir. 2010) (internal cites omitted; emphasis — though not nearly enough — added).   One of the cites I pulled out to make that quote more readable was Sam Bagenstos’s excellent article The Perversity of Limited Civil Rights Remedies: The Case of “Abusive” ADA Litigation, 54 UCLA L.Rev. 1 (2006).

So despite the fact that the Ninth Circuit has instructed courts to be particularly cautious about credibility determinations relying on past litigation, the Yates judge — without citing Antoninetti — holds that

Plaintiff’s  filing  of  well  over  a  hundred  disability  lawsuits  in  which  he  alleges  identical injuries bears directly upon his credibility.  . . . Plaintiff’s  alleged  scheme  to  generate  income  through  the  serial  filing  of  lawsuits  in  an  effort  to  extract  settlements  from businesses, may, in fact, be probative of his credibility.

More than simply disregarding controlling precedent, this decision has the very immediate and apparently intended effect of converting Mr. Yates from a real, live person who navigates his day to day world  in a wheelchair to a greedy serial litigant, judged on the fact that he has filed other complaints, the legitimacy of which he will likely not be able to prove before the jury.  (This question is not addressed in the decision, but my strong guess is that the defendant will be allowed to show the fact of hundreds of lawsuits, while the plaintiff will not be permitted to show that, in each one, the facility in question was indeed out of compliance.  That would, in essence, require hundreds of mini-trials within this single trial.)

On another level — about which I’ll write more later, as I have to get back to the other outrages on my desk — this is part of the broader scheme on the part of the business world to spin the fact that — 20-30 years after the federal and state standards took effect — there is still massive noncompliance.  When you’re really really wrong, accuse the other guy of “serial litigation” to correct your many many failures.

More coverage of our Hollister case

Hey, you guys!  Check it out!  We made Jezebel!  OMG OMG!

Surprise, Surprise: Hollister Discriminates Against the Disabled

A federal judge has ruled that Hollister is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Hollister’s stores are supposed to resemble Southern California surf shacks. Most Hollister stores in the U.S. feature entrances that are built to look like front porches. Front porches with stairs. And that’s where the problem lies.

And UK’s Daily Mail, in a section with the unfortunate name “Femail,” as well as Salon, and The Gloss:

Hollister Spent Four Years Refusing To Accommodate People With Disabilities Because Of Course They Did

If you’ve ever been near a Hollister store, you know that it reeks of mildewy cologne spilt in a hot bathroom. But you also may know that its storefront is inaccessible to those with disabilities, as they are made to look like porches to “surf shacks,” stairs included (as you can see above). After a four-year class-action lawsuit against the company for discrimination, a judge has ruled that Hollister’s stores violate the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Here is a link to the original story in the Colorado Independent.  Thanks to Susan Greene for the excellent coverage!
Updated to add Qusair Mohamedbhai’s blog post, providing some excellent context for the case.
Update 2:  It’s been picked up by something called Madame Noire.  (h/t Sam Bagenstos (@sbagen)).
[Cross-posted at FoxRobBlog.]