Oh, you pesky folks with disabilities who insist on being able to get around and leave your house just like “normal” people.
It’s like you want to live your life or something. Silly you with your expectations that state and federal accessibility laws count.
You don’t need laws. You have Yelp!
More on that later.
It happened Thursday. The state House voted 38-20 to force a person to wait at least 30 days, and sometimes 60, before he or she can sue a business for not complying with accessibility laws, such as the Arizonans With Disabilities Act and Americans With Disabilities Act that require things like wheelchair ramps, specific parking spaces, signage, and a minimum width of doorways.
The reason, according to House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, is that businesses should have time to fix their violations before being taken to court. It’s about “balance.”
Throughout the hearing Thursday, Mesnard returned to a refrain: that accessibility regulations can be overwhelming, costly and inconvenient. Therefore, his thinking goes, it’s reasonable to ask people with disabilities to wait before exercising their legal remedies. Give the businesses time to make fixes.
Here’s something that might help businesses: Make sure you’re compliant with federal and state accessibility laws. They’ve been in effect since the mid-1990s.
Sure, there are a lot of specifications, and they might not all make sense to you, but they exist because we humans are a many-splendored group, and we all have different needs. And we’d like to be able to patronize your store or museum or hotel or bar.
The pretext for this bill is protecting businesses from so-called frivolous lawsuits, like the hundreds one lawyer filed last year against Phoenix businesses for accessibility violations. The lawyer then sought a financial settlement from the business.
But existing remedies worked. Businesses complained to the Arizona Attorney General, he intervened, and the court consolidated and rejected most of the cases, in part because a lawsuit needs a real person who has been affected directly by the violation, and these cases didn’t have that.
I don’t think most business owners try to flout accessibility laws. Customers with disabilities just aren’t a priority, even though there are millions of us.
And we’re not extra, separate from everyone else. We’re not a burden. We’re not “those people.” We’re not frivolous.
But I know, because it happens almost every time I write about disability, that I’ll receive emails telling me to stop feeling sorry for myself and how you people with disabilities always want someone else to pay for your problems.
Mesnard’s remedy for what a person should do when he or she can’t access a place of business or perhaps a doctor’s office is frustratingly ridiculous, shallow — and familiar. He doesn’t get it.
“I think some of this is going to be self-regulating,” Mesnard said. “It’s going to be very bad PR for you if you have a really messed up business where you’re blatently out of ADA compliance. I mean it’s just bad.
“In this world of Twitter mobs and Yelp, it will affect you. It’s just bad business.”
We shouldn’t have to rely on Yelp and “bad PR” because some legislators think enforcing our civil rights should be on a time delay.