Were you aware that there are one in five, or 56 million Americans living with disabilities? Further, of those 38 million, or one in ten, are considered living with severe disabilities such as blindness, deafness or epilepsy. These are sobering numbers and brings to light that the challenges Americans with disabilities face on a daily basis are on a grand scale.
Because of these challenges, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush. The legislation prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life. To be protected by the ADA, one must have a disability, which is defined by the ADA as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. To architects, the most concerning part of the act is Title III. This concerns physical access to privately owned places offering public accommodation, such as restaurants, retail stores, hotels and other public environments.
This act has created tremendous change for the accessibility of millions of Americans. Most developers, architects and business owners have energetically embraced the letter of the law and the spirit of the act to make life just a bit more reasonable for the disabled. Just like every good action, there seems to be a sinister force that has taken advantage of well-intentioned legislation. This deceptive group of individuals have created a ‘business’ of filing thousands of lawsuits against businesses for alleged noncompliance with Title III and the ADA. These suits have damaged businesses, hamstrung courts with unnecessary actions, and created a shadow on legislation that was created to do what is right and just.
Currently, H.R. 620 just passed the House of Representatives, which promises to remedy and relieve Americans from the burdens of some elements of Title III and the ADA. If it falls on favorable ears in the Senate and on the desk of the President of the United States, these changes would become permanent. This being the case, it could actually create new legal barriers for the disabled and leave them stranded without legal relief.
We must understand the impact the ADA has our our society, and overall it has been a positive force in our society. What needs to change is the cottage industry of fraud surrounding this act and the unscrupulous behavior of less than reputable businesses that refuse to act in a manner that is respectable.
Can we preserve Title III and the ADA, while respecting the rights of millions of disabled Americans? Why did the American Institute of Architects (AIA) not shout loud enough for the public to hear that the rights of 56 million Americans will be impacted?
From the Factory Floor
…a fixture in the making
By Gerald Olesker, CEO, ADG Lighting