Thanks to all of you for your comments. I would like to address some of the ideas you raised. 

One question I read was about the strategy of our coalition. Our first step was to identify individuals to be involved in the coalition. The purpose, after all, is to bring to the table a working group of representatives from both sides of the issue. I’m pleased to announce that Dr. Ray Trybus from Deaf Community Services will be joining our coalition. Based on a recommendation I got as a result of today’s blog, we’ll also be pursuing a member from a disabled veterans group. 

Our second step is education of small-business owners. We’ve held one free seminar with over 100 small-business owners in attendance. Representatives from two different law firms as well as staff from the city of San Diego shed light on ADA compliance through lecture and question-and-answer sessions. Still, we heard from a lot of business owners that were afraid to even attend the workshop because they heard that some attorneys have been going to workshops like these, collecting contact information on attendees, and then suing them. We would like to hold future workshops, but are unsure how to address this issue of perception. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

Our third step is to find innovative ways to bring the two communities together. This is now the primary goal of the coalition. We are still brainstorming ways to accomplish this. Does anyone have any good ideas? We find that the more we bring small-business owners and persons with disabilities together, the more obvious our common goal is: We all want to be in compliance with ADA law!

To Billy Bob, who wrote:

First off …there is only one lawyer in So Cal/San Diego going around pulling the ADA scam-and he is in big trouble with the State Bar right now. So, is it a problem??? If you’re a small business it could be a nuisense problem, but not a go out of bsuiness problem. It should be addressed by chamber of commerce, business lobbying groups at the legislative level-and it really needs only minor tweaking based on the fact that the number of scam lawsuits are really at a minimum, engaged i by really only one lawyer here in San Diego …

You seem to suggest that this is not an actual problem. I wish you were right! I tried to interview several small-business owners who’ve been affected by this. None would go on record. One business owner said:

Before we opened, we read the law and did what we thought would make us compliant. We painted stripes in the parking lot to delineate disabled parking, posted signs, built a ramp, made sure the counters were the right height … and then we got sued because one of our measurements was a couple inches off. After we settled the suit, we had to spend even more money re-doing everything to make sure that we were 100% perfect to-the-letter compliance.

Not all small-business owners can make the changes required by these suits, and some businesses even fail because of them:

My neighbor was sued, but he didn’t have the money to settle the suit and make the improvements, so he had to close his business.

This small business owner had to close his doors permanently; how does that bring about compliance with ADA law?

Regarding the issue of responsibility of building owners: Currently, the law does not penalize building owners. One of you suggested that building owners not be able to rent unless they were compliant. We agree to a point. There should be some level of government that tells building owners, and the people that rent from them, whether they are in compliance with state and federal ADA law. At least that way, small business owners would know what they were getting into before they ever sign a lease. Another issue is that, as these laws constantly change, there is no mechanism to notify property and business owners of these changes. 

To Marco, who wrote:

Actually, the legislative fix is relatively simple. Both the federal and state ADAs should be amended to require a 30-day notice period to business owners and landlords, thereby affording them the necessary time to assess and address the alleged noncompliance. To counteract the argument that there is no excuse and businesses should have been in compliance along, simply increase the fines for noncompliance at the end of the notice period. Instead of $4k per violation, make it $10k. There will still be plenty of bad actors who won’t comply (and the jerk lawyers can still go after these), but those who’ve really tried will have a small grace period within which to act. It’s clear the law’s been abused, and though some are afraid of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, it’s time for a change.

You raised a good point about legislation that has been proposed and failed at least once each year for the past six years: the 30-day waiting period. Small-business owners have begged their elected officials to pass legislation that would give them a 30-day notice of suit. This means that they would have 30 days to comply with the charges before having to pay a fine. Make the changes in 30 days, and you don’t pay a fee. Seems like a simple request, doesn’t it? Yet it fails to get support because legislators are afraid that it’s anti-ADA law. It’s not. It would actually serve the purpose of ADA law; it would put small-business owners on notice, and let them use their money to become accessible, rather than forcing them to pay attorneys. Doesn’t this seem better than what we have on the books now?

DIANA SPYRIDONIDIS

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