Americans With Disabilities Act
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990, and is enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The purpose of the ADA is to prohibit discrimination due to disability in employment and in programs and services provided by state and local governments, as well as goods and services provided by private companies, and in commercial facilities.
If you feel you have been discriminated against because of a disability, you need to call the ADA at 800-514-0301, the EEOC government office which will represent you free, or an attorney specializing in Equal Employment Opportunity law.
A disabled, wheelchair-confined lady planned to attend a gathering for disabled people with the same disease. Confined to her home 95% of the time, this was a big deal to her and took a great deal of courage.
She carefully took care of all details in advance., checking and double checking each one.
She told the airlines she would be taking her professional caretaker. Nevertheless, the airlines charged her full rate for the caretaker, which is illegal under the ADA. Caretakers and service dogs fly free even if, as is obvious in this case, they require a seat.
At the hotel where she made her reservation, she emphasized to them her need for a handicapped room. She must use a slide board or transfer to get from the wheelchair to the bed. She must physically transfer herself, with the help of bars, to a toilet seat equal in height to the wheelchair, such as is found in handicapped bathrooms. She was assured all would be in order.
Under ADA law, all hotels were "grand fathered" under the ADA to provide at least one handicapped room in their facilities. This room must have doors wide enough for a wheelchair to easily enter and egress.
The bathroom doors must also be wide enough, the bathrooms must be large enough for a person to maneuver with dignity to use the facilities, have grab bars, and the toilet must be high enough for handicapped people to use when transferring from a wheelchair to the toilet. Go into any medium to large store and you can observe such a handicapped stall.
Even cruise ships provide these rooms. They are twice the size of a normal cabin, but cost the same.
This hotel also measured the bed and assured her it was the same height as her wheelchair so she could easily transfer, with the help of her professional caretaker, from the wheelchair to the bed.
It took great courage for this woman to make the trip. It involved a two-hour ride in a car to the airport, getting on the airplane, a three and a half hour flight, riding an hour in a rental car she paid half the cost of, and stay at the hotel several days so she could meet other people like herself over the course of the weekend. She knew these people from an online support group. The gathering had been held several years and during these years no such problem as she encountered had occured.
When she arrived at the hotel, the door was barely wide enough to get the wheelchair through. It was no wider than regular rooms. In order to turn around, she had to back into the hall, turn around, and back into the room. The bathroom was standard size and had been "jerry-rigged" with some grab bars, one of which came out of the wall. The toilet was standard height, which combined with the size of the bathroom, made it extremely difficult for her to use. She had no privacy in using it and fell trying to move from the wheelchair to the toilet using the rickety bars.
The bed, which had been measured by the hotel staff, was a good six inches lower than her wheelchair, rendering the transfer board and unit useless.
Although she complained to the management, she was told the manager was off for the weekend, there were no other rooms, and because of the gathering, no other handicapped rooms were available in town.
Due to these woefully and illegally inadequate facilities, she fell several times trying to get into bed to take a nap and generally navigating the room.
She and her caretaker finally went out to eat and discussed this mess in tears. She had not met even one other of her online friends, but it was apparent she would never make it through a weekend. Already her pain had increased dramatically from the falls and she felt utterly defeated.
The airlines, which was wrong in the first place, agreed to fly them back the next day without an additional fee. They had to fly standby, barely making it back late at night, where they faced another two-hour drive home.
In addition to the physical and emotional damage, she had spent over a thousand dollars she'd scraped together out of her meager income on what basically turned out to be a dinner 1500 miles from home.
Once back home, she went to bed and cried all night and over the next days, unable to sleep from the increased pain and the feeling of failure.
It was not her failure -- it was yet another system's failure -- but she took it personally because looking forward to this gathering had kept her going for several months and it had turned into a complete disaster.
HOW THE ADA APPLIES IN THIS SITUATION
AND HOW YOU CAN PROTECT YOURSELF
Hotels and motels are required to have handicapped-accessible rooms on the first floor near emergency exits and handicapped parking. The doors must be widened for wheelchair access, the bathrooms must be wheelchair accessible with raised toilets and permanent grab bars. The room should allow easy navigation while seated in a wheelchair. The exit door to the room should have a peephole at wheelchair height.
If you run into a situation where this is not the case, you should demand to be moved. There are managers above managers and if clerks try to cop out by saying the manager isn't it, elevate to the owner of the hotel if you have to. If that doesn't work, call the police and report a violation of the ADA
If they put you on any other floor than the first, they're really in trouble because obviously in case of a fire, the first rule is don't use the elevators so you are stuck in a burning building. You should demand to be moved to the first floor immediately.
If they don't have a handicapped room or one on the first floor, demand that they find you a handicapped room in another hotel and pay for it using the money you gave them and making up the difference if necessary. Again, if all else fails, call the police
If you are taking a caretaker, tell the airline you are handicapped. Your caretaker should be flown free.
If you use a service dog, no hotel, restaurant, or amusement can deny access to your service dog.
Keep all receipts, for parking, airline tickets, rental car, hotel, meals, etc., any time you take a trip.
If you make reservations, get confirmation in writing or at least get the name of the person making the guarantee of a handicapped-accessible room.
If you run into a problem, document and photograph everything, getting names whenever possible. Have anyone accompanying you do the same.
If a hotel is in violation, write down all the details . Get the name of the person or persons you deal with at the hotel regarding your need for a handicapped-accessible room.
The "jerry-rigging" of bars they did in this woman' room was of course ludicrous. The bars should have been permanent, the door to the bathroom wide enough for the wheelchair and the toilet handicapped height, with room for her to navigate and use the bathroom herself with dignity.
If you have falls, etc., as a result of violations, you should document them and see your doctor or go to an emergency room as soon as possible. You might also want to see a therapist to document the psychological and emotional damage if your trip is ruined. The ADA will assign an attorney to you free. Call the 800 number at the top of this page. Generally you will get all your actual costs back, including airfare, parking, hotel, rental car, etc.
There are also cases where damages for pain and suffering have been awarded in addition to actual costs.
The important elements are that you let the everyone know you are handicapped and the degree of your handicap so they are liable, document everything, and get as many confirmations in writing as possible.
Even if they do not confirm in writing, you obviously are going in good faith expecting such or you wouldn't go in the first place.
As people with disabilities, we have to become familiar with at least the
basics of the ADA to protect ourselves.
The ADA prohibits employers from refusing to hire "a qualified individual with a disability" because of a disability.
An employer cannot require you to disclose an "invisible" disability or sign a form stating whether you are disabled or not.
An employer is also required to make "reasonable accommodations" to employ disabled or handicapped employees. These include special chairs, computers, access. If in doubt, talk to an attorney and your human services personnel. If reasonable accommodations are refused you, you have the right to seek compensation.
A disability is defined as a condition that substantially limits a major life activity.
A qualified person is defined as someone who can do the job given reasonable accommodation. Included in the definition of "a qualified person" are those individuals "regarded as" having a disability.