You’ve probably seen it by now: Anheuser-Busch put a statement that Bud Light was “perfect … for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary” on some bottles (here’s a link to one story if you’ve missed it).
Predictably, the company has apologized and hopes to move on. Will they, or others, catch on? It’s not clear who thought it up, or why, but unintentional or not, it shows that our society, as a whole, is still not operating with fair regard for all.
At the same time, The Economist came along with something that has received far less notice – and just as problematic. An article, “Hobbling businesses,” seeks once again to tell us how the ADA is hurting business. It trots out some familiar stories, starting with a business that is surprised to be on the receiving end of an ADA lawsuit. Large sums are spent, but resolution is uncertain. Because of unique circumstances, Florida and California are hotbeds of such activity.
In their rush to discredit the ADA, several points are overlooked. Disability advocates will not be surprised to learn this. Disabilities have been overlooked for years – as one of my teachers once said, “disabilities are not on anyone’s agenda.”
One of the first is that the ADA is now 25 years old. Perhaps the 63% increase in lawsuits that the article claims have occurred over the last year stems from another cause. Would you like to be able to say when you’re stopped for speeding that the law hasn’t been in effect long enough to take notice and do something? Generations of drivers have found that a “buffer zone” to slow down for a new, lower speed limit doesn’t provide a defense. After twenty-five years, people who need accommodations are tired of waiting.
No mention is given of the regional ADA network centers, where anyone can call and receive guidance. These centers also offer extensive resources, including webinars. No mention is given that architects and designers are educated on ADA requirements – and find their efforts to provide accessibility thwarted.
This article also attempts to portray the requirements as depending on “minor” technicalities such as “the slope of a ramp,” soap dispenser height, or parking space width. When you can’t get up a ramp, reach a soap dispenser, or a parking space isn’t wide enough to get out of your van, or an aisle isn’t wide enough to clear a wheelchair, those are not minor problems.
The article notes that “some customers have legitimate claims.” Yes, when we can’t get in, around, use the restroom, we consider that legitimate. The article also notes that asking for a change works. It does, sometimes. There are places where I’ve asked and something is done. There are also plenty of places where I’ve been ignored. And I and others are tired of being ignored. As I write this, my Facebook feed is full of suggestions that one can avoid problems with the police by following the law. “Go thou and do likewise.”