ADA can disable businesses
Thirteen years ago a piece of legislation was passed that helped give those with disabilities more access to buildings. This includes public and private facilities.
Much like the laws that gave women and those of color rights that should have been written into the Constitution from the get-go, the Americans with Disabilities Act is one of those documents that, unfortunately, is needed. We all deserve access to public facilities.
As much as providing access to private buildings for all is a worthy goal, one has to look at the recent federal case against five South Lake Tahoe motels and question its validity. Discrimination is wrong. But so is profiting off the backs of small business.
It would be one thing if these five establishments were the only ones on the South Shore in their price range. That is not the case. The woman and attorney who have brought forth the case seem to be on a crusade.
Paul Rein, who is representing the San Francisco woman who claims she could not access a guest room, registration desk, restroom or parking space here, hails from Oakland. He even admits to filing such cases for nearly three decades. He sounds more like an ambulance chaser than a man who wants to right the wrongs of the world.
Becoming ADA compliant costs money. The Tahoe Daily Tribune knows all about this. In our quest to modernize the building with a major renovation we have had to make the site more accessible to the disabled. Bathrooms and a front entrance that were once wheelchair unfriendly will, when it is all done, be accessible to all.
The necessity for these changes was called to our attention when we submitted our plans to the city. Aisles will be wide enough for an employee who is in a wheelchair.
There is no question these changes needed to take place. We want to be an equal opportunity employer. These changes will allow us to better accommodate those with special needs.
But what does not make sense is for a lawsuit to be filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento more than a year after the alleged incident. If the motels in question lose, they could wind up paying $1,000 a day from the date the woman tried to rent a room to the date the case is settled. Even the corporations in town would have a hard time staying afloat with paying upward of a half million dollars.
As was stated at the beginning, discrimination is wrong. But so is making money off small businesses or driving them out of business. If they close shop, that does not help the plaintiff or those like her.
It is a worthy goal to have all rooms in the United States be accessible to everyone. However, as long as there are rooms in a town, then those motels that do not have the access should be cut a little slack.
We may not be the most wheelchair friendly area, but we are making strides. There needs to be some reality though — no town will ever be all things to all people. Discrimination should not be tolerated, nor should frivolous lawsuits. This woman found a bed to sleep in here.
Our town and country have enough problems without people trying to make a quick buck off a business.