MOUNTAIN VIEW (CBS SF) — A measure sponsored by California representative Jerry McNerney could give businesses 90 days to correct Americans with Disabilities Act violations before a lawsuit could proceed.
He’s been in business more than ten years, but John McAlister said the first time he realized his ice cream shop wasn’t in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act was when he was hit with a lawsuit.
McAlister, a Baskin Robbins owner and a member of the Mountain View City Council said, “We had a lot of people coming in with wheelchairs, no one ever mentioned anything.”
McAllister, who supports McNerney’s measure, said making the changes to his store, including bringing in a new table, cost around $400, but the legal fees and settlement cost around $16,000.
But disability rights activist Marilyn Golden contends the proposed bill would only discourage compliance. “This bill if it becomes law would encourage a wait and see approach,” Golden said.
She says the accessibility requirements aren’t exactly a secret since they’ve been around for 25 years.
Nikki Brown Booker has filed four ADA compliance lawsuits, including one that led to changes at San Francisco’s Metreon movie theater. “The access was bad, I couldn’t reach things,” Booker said.
Supporters of the bill say they’re all for accessibility, but contend that the suits are about money. California law allows for a $4,000 penalty for each violation.
More than half the ADA compliance lawsuits in California are filed by just a handful of lawyers, and Tanya Moore is among them.
“I am doing my best to help as many clients as I can,” Moore said. “I am very determined to help anybody that has a legitimate claim.”
Interestingly, Moore’s own office is not ADA compliant.
“It was almost impossible to do anything because of how old the building is,” Moore said. “I meet with all my clients at the place that they choose.”
McAlister said he thinks the compliance lawsuits are probably 90 percent motivated by a way to find a revenue source and ten percent motivated by the desire to enforce compliance.