For Immediate Release:
CBS 60 Minutes aired a segment titled: 'What's a "Drive-By" Lawsuit?' The piece was less than forthright with what the ADA really requires and left out several key pieces of information. Both Anderson Cooper, and the attorney they consulted as an expert, repeatedly stated incorrect facts about the ADA Accessible Guidelines. It was even more surprising when they interviewed John Woodatch, former Chief of the Disability Rights Office at the U.S. Department of Justice, and he failed to mention the network of 10 regional ADA Technical Assistance Centers that can be reached at 800-949-4232, the Department of Justice ADA Technical Assistance Line 800-514-0301 (voice)
800-514-0383 (TTY), the DOJ ADA website: www.ada.gov, and the Tax Incentives for businesses to use when making accessible improvements, which are directly available on the DOJ website.
Here is the story if you missed it:
Apparently 60 Minutes had been working on this piece for quite a while. Some of the footage they showed in the story was actually from the previous version of this piece. We can see from this link that there was a completely different perspective on the ADA and people with disabilities initially. It actually was supposed to paint everything in a more positive light. So it is understandable how there is some upset now among the people whose images were used.
Here are key points to bring to everyone's attention moving forward and getting the real story out:
1. Yes, drive-by ADA lawsuits do exist. However, any business that is subject to one should first make a free call to their regional ADA Center or the Department of Justice ADA line. Staff at both are experts on the ADA and can inform a business what their responsibilities really are with accessibility, depending on the construction date of the facility in question. Did I mention this information is free?
2. If the facility in question was constructed before January of 1992, an owner is only responsible to perform readily achievable barrier removal. Under this clause, the obligation for full compliance is limited to the improvements that can be done without significant difficulty or expense. If an accessible modification can be demonstrated to be structurally or financially infeasible, the business has a legitimate reason for non-compliance. This same clause does not apply to facilities constructed after January of 1992 as they were to be designed and constructed in full compliance with the ADA Accessible Guidelines.
3. When businesses do make accessible improvements to their facilities, there are tax incentives to relieve some of the burden of those expenses. See the Department of Justice ADA website: www.ada.gov/taxincent.htm
4. Lastly, businesses should not be afraid of opportunistic and unscrupulous attorneys. Any attorney bringing an ADA suit should be able to: produce a receipt showing that a customer visited the business, assert the customer has an intent to return, state what discrimination occurred, and give specific code numbers of areas believed to be out of compliance. The plaintiff must also be a qualified individual with a disability, have a history of disability or be regarded as disabled. The attorney should also be able to prove and document these facts. Without all of the above, the likelihood of a defense attorney demonstrating that a plaintiff has no standing is pretty high and the case will most likely be dismissed by the court.
A news blog on issues in the community of people with disabilities and accessibility.
Derek Mortland, ADA and Community Outreach Coordinator