Sensible reform needed to fix nation’s ADA

The Americans with Disabilities Act Education and Reform Act of 2017 is a vital opportunity to advance the mission of the ADA while protecting business owners from costly lawsuits.

Since 1990, the ADA has served an important purpose by expanding access for disabled Americans to public places. Unfortunately, the law has all too often been abused, with serial litigants taking advantage of the law to file lawsuits purely for monetary gain. For instance, one serial litigant here in California has filed 2,000 lawsuits in federal court since 2004.

Every year, thousands of lawsuits are filed in federal invoking, in particular, Title III of the ADA which, as the Justice Department explains, “prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the activities of places of public accommodations.” Examples of places of public accomodations include businesses, restaurants, movie theaters and doctors’ offices, locations that are generally open to the public.

Under the ADA, people who believe they are being denied access in places of public accomodation due to architectural barriers are allowed to file a lawsuit.

The ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017, or H.R. 620, seeks to make the sensible reform of requiring would-be plaintiffs to first provide written notice to the owner or operator of the business with a description of the barrier, the circumstances in which the barrier prevented access and whether the barrier is permanent or temporary.

Business owners would then have 60 days in which to respond with a plan to address the problem. Failure to respond would then allow the would-be plaintiff to proceed with a lawsuit. Business owners who do respond in time will then have an additional 60 days to correct the issue.

This simple, commonsense fix to encourage compliance without requiring costly litigation strikes a reasonable balance between the interests of disabled individuals and the business community.

In the last couple of years, Arizona, California and Minnesota have enacted laws aimed at reducing “drive-by lawsuits” by allowing a grace period for businesses to address certain ADA violations before being subjected to litigation. It’s time for Congress to do the same.

The bill passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support last month. For the sake of curbing the abuse of a well-intended law and our court systems, we encourage the Senate to take up the proposal and pass it as soon as possible.

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Justice Department Reaches Settlement with Atlantis Events, Inc., to Resolve ADA Violations


This week the Justice Department reached an agreement under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requiring Atlantis Events, Inc., to provide interpreters or other aids or services to individuals with disabilities who are deaf or hard of hearing and traveling on Atlantis cruises and vacations.

Atlantis sells vacations by buying and then reselling to the public cabins on ships and rooms at resorts. The Department’s investigation found that Atlantis denied effective communication to three individuals who are deaf, and who had planned to take an Atlantis vacation cruise.

The settlement agreement requires Atlantis to adopt ADA accessibility policies, train its employees on the ADA, appoint a corporate ADA compliance officer, and designate an ADA shipboard contact on all cruises to respond to ADA-related issues. Atlantis will pay $10,000 to the United States in civil penalties and $9,000 in damages to the individuals harmed by its denial of interpreters and other aids.

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People interested in finding out more about the ADA or this agreement may call the toll-free ADA Information Line at 1-800-514-0301 or 1-800-514-0383 (TDD), or access the ADA website at

How Adaptive Clothing Empowers People with Disabilities

How Adaptive Clothing Empowers People with Disabilities
Do you have a favorite T-shirt or pair of jeans that transforms you and makes you feel confident — makes you feel like you? That’s because what you wear can affect your mood, your health and your self-esteem, says fashion designer Mindy Scheier. Inspired by her son, who was born with a degenerative disorder that makes it hard for him to dress himself or wear clothing with buttons or zippers, Scheier set out to make clothing that works for everyone, including the differently abled. Learn more about how she’s made fashion history by producing the world’s first mainstream adaptive clothing line.

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Mindy Scheier · Fashion designer

Mindy Scheier is the founder of the Runway of Dreams Foundation. Prior to launching the nonprofit, Mindy spent over 20 years working in fashion as a key member of the design team for the INC collection and stylist for Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City.


Justice Department Settles with Restaurant that Refused Veteran with Service Dog

Justice Department Settles with Restaurant that Refused Veteran with Service Dog

The Justice Department reached an agreement under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with the When Pigs Fly BBQ Pit restaurant in Westfield, New York to resolve a complaint under title III of the ADA.

The Department’s investigation found that the restaurant discriminated against a veteran with PTSD when it refused to seat him and his family in the main dining room because he was accompanied by his service dog.

The settlement agreement requires the restaurant to adopt and implement a service dog policy; provide training on the service dog policy to employees and managers; and post the service dog policy at the restaurant and on the restaurant’s website and in its advertising. The When Pigs Fly BBQ Pit cooperated with the Department throughout the investigation.

People interested in finding out more about the ADA or this agreement can call the toll-free ADA Information Line at 1-800-514-0301 or 1-800-514-0383 (TDD), or access the ADA website at

AccessWorld Recognizes the Birthday of Louis Braille

Braille Labels - ADA Compliant CA Grade 2 Domed Braille on Self-Adhesive Strips

From ADA Sign Depot: Braille Labels – ADA Compliant CA Grade 2 Domed Braille on Self-Adhesive Strips

Dear AccessWorld readers,

The holidays are behind us now, and it is time to start looking forward to a new year. For many, that means New Year’s resolutions and commitments to exercising, losing weight, eating healthier foods, and taking better care of ourselves. Statistically, people with vision loss tend to be among the most sedentary and unhealthy among all age groups, but it does not have to be that way. You may be surprised by how technology can help you become healthier in the new year.

On another topic, at this time each year, AccessWorld recognizes and celebrates the birthday, contributions, and legacy of Louis Braille. The fact is, 200 years ago, a child or adult who was blind had no effective way to read or write independently. Today, thanks to Louis Braille’s invention and continuing advancements in technology, children and adults who are blind can read and write as well as their sighted peers. The invention of braille, a system of raised dots representing letters, numbers, and punctuation, truly revolutionized independent communication for people who are blind or visually impaired.

This month, AccessWorld celebrates the anniversary of Louis Braille’s birthday, January 4, 1809. We also celebrate the braille code, named after its young inventor, and the expanded possibilities for literacy and independence this code created for people with vision loss.

The AccessWorld team invites you to visit The Louis Braille Museum on the AFB website, which illustrates the life and legacy of the creator of the braille code. Using photographs, engravings, and illustrations from books preserved in the AFB Archives and Rare Book Collection, the museum traces Braille’s life from his childhood in Coupvray, France, through his student years in Paris, to his invention of the braille code and the recognition of its importance throughout the world.

We also invite you to read The Reading Fingers , the full text of Jean Roblin’s classic 1952 biography of Louis Braille, and “Braille, the Magic Wand of the Blind,” Helen Keller’s essay on Louis Braille, written around 1924. In this essay, Keller describes how the braille system works and relates how she benefited from learning and using braille. She describes the reading systems that existed prior to braille and the debates of the late 19th and early 20th centuries over competing embossed systems.

I also encourage you to check out Cay Holbrook’s blog post, Falling in Love with Braille, on the AFB FamilyConnect site. If you happen to be a teacher of visually impaired students or a professional in the field of vision loss, you may want to take Reinforcing Braille Using the iPad, a webinar available for purchase from the AFB e-Learning Center. For kids, parents, and teachers interested in learning about braille in a fun and interactive way, please check out AFB’s BrailleBug website.

Today, braille has made the leap into the increasingly fast-paced world of technology via braille notetakers and braille displays. The following braille-related articles from the AccessWorld archives will be interesting and useful to those who are interested in, or users of, braille and braille technology.

The entire AccessWorld team hopes you enjoy this issue and exploring the additional braille resources linked to above. The team hopes you will make 2018 the year you become more tech savvy than ever. We encourage you to download and try the AccessWorld app for iOS, and we wish you the best in the new year!

Lee Huffman
AccessWorld Editor-in-Chief
American Foundation for the Blind

Guide Dogs for the Blind’s 75th anniversary year

Guide Dogs for the Blind 2017 Donations Thank YouADA Sign Depot, Inc.:

Thank you for helping to make Guide Dogs for the Blind’s 75th anniversary year so spectacular!

Your support this year helped us provide approximately 300 guide dogs to clients at our two amazing campuses, including training, support, and veterinary care as needed. We broke ground on our brand new Puppy Center, matched specially selected career change dogs with children and young adults who are visually impaired, developed an Orientation and Mobility Immersion Program to assist new and prospective students in preparing for their guide dog partnerships, and continued to train the next generation of amazing guide dogs.

All of our work is supported by private donations from people like you. Because Guide Dogs for the Blind doesn’t receive a penny of government support, your generosity is essential to our success.

Thank you again for being a part of our work, and I look forward to our continued partnership in the future.


Christine Benninger
President and CEO

Uber Me to My Airbnb? For Wheelchair Users, Not So Fast

Sylvia Longmire
From: NYT DISABILITY NOV. 22, 2017

Sylvia Longmire, a service-disabled veteran who was Ms. Wheelchair USA 2016, blogs at Spin the Globe and is the author of “The View From Down Here,” an accessible-travel photography book.

Whenever I hear someone mention Airbnb, I cringe — on the inside, at least. Not because there’s anything inherently wrong with Airbnb, the home-sharing business that has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years and has opened up affordable accommodations to millions of people around the world. The problem is, it hasn’t done so for people like me.

Airbnb is part of something called the sharing economy, an evolving system in which people who own certain things, like homes or cars, rent them out to others when they are not using them. In many cases, travelers can save a significant amount of money by staying at an Airbnb host’s property rather than at a hotel. Uber is another company that is part of the sharing economy. Drivers use their own vehicles to drive people around town. Despite Uber’s sometimes lax regulations and harassment and discrimination scandals, people still love using it and other services like it because of their lower prices and the ease of summoning a vehicle.

There are many companies that are part of this new economy, but for the purposes of accessible travel, Airbnb and Uber are the most relevant. And sadly, wheelchair users are largely being left out of it.

Because Airbnb involves people renting out their private homes, the company lives in a sort of regulatory gray area. Homeowners in the United States who use Airbnb are not required to make their properties comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, although they are prohibited from discriminating against people with disabilities and those who use service animals. A few years ago, Airbnb gave homeowners the option of describing their properties as wheelchair accessible. But in most cases homeowners who are able-bodied tend to believe “wheelchair accessible” means a wheelchair user can get through the front door — and that’s about it. This puts wheelchair users in the exhausting position of having to contact every Airbnb host who has listed a home as wheelchair friendly in their destination to ask questions about roll-in showers, doorway widths, ramps and other items, over and over again.

While Uber has improved its accessibility options in some areas, it still has a long way to go. In January 2016, Uber began its UberWAV program (WAV for wheelchair accessible vehicle) in Toronto. The company was able to offer the vehicles in limited locations by partnering with paratransit agencies, and Uber says its drivers are certified by the Community Transportation Association of America “in safely driving and assisting people with disabilities.” Despite this program, the company has developed something of a reputation for having drivers who fail to respond to calls from wheelchair users, or who drive right past passengers who have wheelchairs or service animals.

While UberWAV sounds like a great step forward for wheelchair travelers, its availability is so limited that the service is often rendered useless. A CNN article from May 2016 explained: “In San Francisco, where Uber is based, there were consistently zero UberWAV vehicles available. In Los Angeles and Portland, there were zero to one cars available, with wait times between 25 and 45 minutes.”

UberWAV is also not as cheap as its fellow Uber ride services, and in some cases, the rates are astronomical. A wheelchair traveler, John Morris, wrote in his blog in March 2016, that when wheelchair users request an accessible Uber in Washington, “the company is only connecting you with one of the local cab companies.” He noted: “You won’t get Uber’s discounted rate — you’ll instead pay the city’s standard cab fare. Oh, and they’re collecting a $2 booking fee to boot.”

So where does this leave wheelchair users who want to take advantage of the savings and convenience that the sharing economy offers?

Fortunately, some smart entrepreneurs have realized the huge need for accessible accommodations around the world. In June 2015, Srin Madipalli and Martyn Sibley introduced Accomable, which is essentially an international Airbnb-style service for wheelchair users. The site vets submissions from homeowners around the world who want to rent their accessible homes. Airbnb itself took a huge step toward improving its meager inventory of truly accessible properties by recently purchasing Accomable. The company will add Accomable’s 1,100 listings to its existing inventory of more than four million homes. It will also work with Accomable’s staff to add features so homeowners can detail in their listings whether their homes have stairs or an elevator, doorways and accessible bathrooms.

Airbnb is also trying to train existing homeowners to be more aware of what accessible really means by working with the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers to help hosts more accurately describe accessibility features at their listings. This is all very promising — but changes will take considerable time.

As for transportation, Uber claims it is starting up UberWAV models in cities across the United States and partnering with commercial wheelchair-accessible vehicle providers to extend its reach. But in June, Equal Rights Center, a nonprofit civil rights organization, filed a lawsuit against Uber for not making its service accessible for disabled customers in Washington. In July, the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled, along with other disability rights groups, sued Uber, arguing that the company violates New York City human rights laws because it doesn’t have enough wheelchair-accessible cars available.

It’s encouraging that some companies are taking steps in the right direction to accommodate wheelchair travelers, albeit after being pushed. For now, it seems that unless we create our own spaces in the sharing economy, we are doomed to be largely left out of it.


‘Disabled Airbnb’ bought by Airbnb

Srin Madipalli says struggling to cope with inappropriate accommodation was "humiliating and embarrassing" A London firm sparked by two disabled people’s frustration at hotels’ inaccurate information on accessibility has been bought by Airbnb.

Accomable was founded by two friends with spinal muscular atrophy in 2015.

Former corporate lawyer Srin Madipalli came up with the idea after he quit his job to travel the world and found it difficult to find appropriate hotels.

“You’d turn up to places and the shower was tiny or there was a step to get in. It’s just really humiliating,” he says.

He persuaded childhood friend Martyn Sibley to join him, and together they created a website aimed at making it easier for disabled people to travel.

Like Airbnb, home owners are able to rent out rooms or entire properties via the website which only shows places which have step-free access and detailed information on accessibility adaptations.

‘We can do more’

Airbnb said Accomable would now be wound down over the next few months, with the listings incorporated into its own website,

It said that the firm’s founders and most of its seven-person staff would stay on and help Airbnb improve the accuracy of its accessibility listings.

“While we have rules that prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities and an Open Doors policy that helps ensure everyone can find a place to stay, it’s clear that we can do more to effectively serve people with disabilities,” Airbnb said.

The rental website said it was already working on new “accessibility needs” checklists for hosts.

Airbnb didn’t say how much it had paid for Accomable, but Mr Madipalli said the sale would enable it to finally meet customers’ demands.

He said up until now the website had not had enough cash or staff, meaning it could only fulfil about 5 to 10% of booking requests.

“We see the need every day, which is why we wanted to team up with a bigger player,” Mr Madipalli said.

And the other change, Mr Madipalli said was that he would now start using Airbnb himself.

Up until now the lack of wheelchair-accessible rentals had stopped him.

“But I look forward to trying it out,” he says.