Advocacy Systems Split Over ADA Negotiation Tactics?
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 20, 2005
JULIAN, CALIFORNIA--Disability groups seem to be divided regarding the use of the threat of legal action to enforce the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, the North County Times has reported.
The Times, which covers the area in and surrounding San Diego, focused on Theodore Pinnock, an attorney who uses a wheelchair.
After spending a weekend in the historic gold mining town of Julian, located about one hour east of San Diego, Pinnock informed 67 businesses that they did not comply with the ADA. Pinnock reportedly outlined the accessibility problems, which ranged from inadequate accessible parking to counters that were too high, then told the businesses that he would sue unless the businesses became ADA compliant and paid him $2,500.
Pinnock told the Times that 11 of the businesses have already agreed to take care of the problems over the next three years, and to pay him less than $800 each.
Many of the remaining businesses are more than a little upset with him, Pinnock said.
"They are very angry. They are very mad," Pinnock explained. "We need to work through the anger, but I think we are doing a good job of that. Most people want to comply with the ADA."
Diana Honig, an attorney with California's federally-mandated Protection and Advocacy Inc., (incorrectly cited as by the Times as "Protection and Access, Inc."), said she thinks Pinnock's negotiating tactics are a good way to force compliance because they are effective and give businesses plenty of time to respond before legal action is taken.
"In our view, there is nothing wrong with filing a lot of lawsuits," Honig said. "The purpose of the law is to get access."
But the Times then quoted Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, the nonprofit membership organization for the country's Protection and Advocacy Systems, as saying such tactics would create "a backlash".
"We are going to lose the kind of public support we need for any issues before the Congress," said Decker. "That's very bad for public policy relating to disabilities."
"I don't think there's anything wrong with alerting business of noncompliance but attorneys' fees and lawsuits should be for those who refuse to comply," Decker added.
Disability rights advocates have opposed "ADA Notification" measures that have been introduced in Congress, which would require people with disabilities to give businesses a 90-day notice before filing any lawsuits related to the 15-year-old law.
"Disability-rights advocates split on support of lawyer" (North County Times)