Saturday, February 21, 2009

New Poll

Last week Shiva suggested in the comments of the post on recreational access that businesses be closed until they provide disability access and that ADA noncompliance should be considered criminal rather than civil law. So what do you think?

I put up a poll on the right margin, and you can put additional commets below. Here I mean access that keeps people from entering, conducting their business, participating in an event, or receiving the same service as other patrons. Of course many businesses are not completely accessible and don't comply with all parts of the ADA building codes, or we'd be closing down everything.

Beyond that, what should be the tolerance level and penalty? Lack of restroom access (narrow hallways, tight turns that prohibit wheelchair use)? Lack of room between racks and shelves when there is some maneuverability through main aisles? Parking the company's own trucks in the access aisle or disability parking (as I've seen at two businesses)? Lack of one disability height counter or portion of a counter in a newly constructed business?

NOTE: ADA does not force small business owners to make changes that would place an undue burden on the business owner. But many changes are not expensive.


Jason Nolan said...

I should have read the entire post before voting. I voted no, before reading the "note". I just got back from NYC with a friend, and I could see how much difference merely requiring a ramp at a door (almost no cost) would mean. My issues don't include mobility.

I think they should be responsible for making all changes, and should be forced to do so. And I would suggest that companies who had done renovations since the ADA, or our equivalent, came into effect should be required with less sensitivity to the 'burden' if the changes could have been done with little cost originally. That would help motivate people renovating.

Also, when stores move into new locations, accessibility should be checked before they're allowed to open. People wanting to rent space will then choose places that are more accessible already or make it a term of their contract. And building owners may do more work in advance because they can attract renters (and now is a time when fewer stores are opening).

Where I live the buildings are old, and 99.9% of the stores are family places (kensington market in toronto). It would shutdown this historic outdoor community and market if people were forced to make it all accessible... without a government program. All the stores are built out of houses that are at least a century old. But the community has a strong sense of social justice... it would be interesting to see how that all got negotiated as a model for others. Hmmmmm... :) Good question.

FridaWrites said...

I do agree with you that businesses should plan ahead when they're moving; a smallish space might work for a small gift shop but not for a furniture store (I came, I saw, I couldn't get in). Also, franchises need to be given more instruction, guidance, and training from the overseeing company.

With historic buildings, it does seem that there should be some kind of grants available or city assistance to help. Indeed small business owners often can't afford renovations though it's frustrating not to access anything in an area.

I wonder if some kind of initial deadline would be better (wait, ADA did this, and presumably DDA and the Canadian Act did too). But I mean maybe the businesses should be given a set time to comply depending on whether it's a fast fix or takes longer. I'm not certain.

I'm also not sure who would oversee this kind of thing--the police writing citations or municipalities, as they do with restaurant oversight. Certainly municipalities could add some ADA checks when they check restaurants.

I guess I'm wondering how to make more places accessible without adding huge layers of government bureaucracy so that time is actually saved.

One potential problem is that people would have to know whether the business could afford the changes or not.

Jason Nolan said...

Personally, I would put it under the public health inspector, or any level of the government that is already looking at things... bylaws perhaps? I don't think it needs more bureaucracy, just more observation and sensitivity.

FridaWrites said...

That's a good idea. I also remembered that our city does inspections on all new construction, both initial approval and approval before a business/home is opened/sold--I wonder what they look at in terms of ADA accessibility.

It seems like some of this could be incorporated into existing frameworks--only how to get everyone to buy in? I wonder if the legislative section of a disability nonprofit would be willing or interested in taking up this idea.

Terri said...

Cilla at Big Noise suggested ticketing like parking or driving tickets with a set scale fees and expectations without the lawsuits etc. I thought that was a really good idea (though lawyers need jobs too!) I think if enforcement were easy and expected and didn't cost as much or more than making accommodations that would help.

FridaWrites said...

I will look up her post. We do need better means of recourse--I just want to be able to get into places. I don't care about the money in lawsuits or the time/energy involved--I just want access.

There aren't many attorneys who specialize in disability, especially for EEOC/DOJ matters, because there's so little money and a lot of loss in it, thanks to contorted readings even in egregious cases. The ADA Restoration may change that. I suspect people would still need attorneys for reasonable accommodation and some access issues, but the government has a huge, huge backlog of meritorious cases--and one has to go through them first for most issues.