Disability Discrimination Complaint Handling is “a Joke”

Following my article on Friday, about a court deciding that Disney’s access procedure at its theme parks does not contravene the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a reader contacted me.

You may recall that having multiple sclerosis and being a wheelchair user, I take access issues very seriously.

Patricia Browne is critical of the administration of the ADA, and she accuses it of letting her down.

Writing from her heart, Patricia said: “The ADA has been for me nothing more than a joke.

“I’ve been harassed at airports trying to enter a plane. I was harassed at work and reported it in writing to the ADA.

“The person who received my case was less than helpful. From the way (that) she spoke to me I could tell she had already made up her mind that there wasn’t a case, this was before she ‘investigated’. I was right, she called me and said she was going to close out the case on her decision there wasn’t any discrimination against me.

“I do not know who was interviewed, what questions were asked. I was told no information except my claim was unfounded of discrimination. So maybe this agency has helped others but not me,” she concluded.

Now, I have no idea about the details of Patricia’s complaint but her chilling words “I could tell she had already made up her mind” has unfortunate parallels in the UK. Across the Atlantic, recipients of two separate government disability benefits are having their eligibility reviewed and some are accusing the assessors of not doing so fairly, of lying and having already made up their minds.

ADABack in the States, ADA enforcement activities are carried out by the US federal government’s Department of Justice, headed by the Attorney General, a position currently held by Jeff Sessions.

It is this department that is charged with administering the terms of the ADA including the handling of complaints of discrimination against people with disabilities, lawsuits, consent decrees, settlement agreements, and alternate dispute resolution – otherwise known as mediation.

In both these cases, on different sides of the ‘pond’, one truth shines through – that no one in any position of authority should ever pre-judge an issue or allow themselves to give the impression that they have already made up their minds.

As top British judge Lord Justice Hewart said in a legal ruling, in 1924, it “is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.”

I would venture to suggest that a truly pre-judged issue is not a being handled justly and, even if it is only that impression that is being given falsely, justice is not being seen to be done.

Seventeen years into the 21st century, is it really too much to ask, to expect, that assessors and investigators do their jobs honestly and with transparency? Of course, it isn’t. Wherever we are, we have every right to receive fair treatment that is seen to be open and honest.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

 

Disney Disability Access Rules Don’t Break Law, Court Rules

Living with a disability, in my case multiple sclerosis, and having to rely on a wheelchair to travel further than 15 yards, I am more than a little interested in access issues.

Access concessions for people with disabilities are, in reality, not about giving preference to such people. They are to enable those of us with challenges of one kind or another to be able to participate in something as easily as any able-bodied person.

access

Disneyland Resort Theme Park, Entrance to Magic Morning, Extra Magic Hour, California. (Pic: Alamy).

Misapprehension that the access rules should give priority to those of us with disabilities seems to the thought behind legal cases against entertainment giant Disney. The actions claim the company has violated the Americans with Disabilities Act – all because it changed its access rules back in 2013.

Federal courts in both Florida and California have rejected the cases. In the first to be considered, Judge Anne Conway has determined that Disney’s disability access policy does not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Sitting in Florida, she ruled that a man was afforded access on par with other visitors to Disney’s theme parks even if the disability ‘accommodations’ were less generous than he had received in years past.

“Plaintiff was given an opportunity to experience Magic Kingdom in a similar manner as guests that do not need accommodations,” Conway wrote in her ruling.

That seems fair to me. Do we really need to go straight to the front of the line of people lining up? I think Disney have got it right.

Before changing its procedure, Disney had allowed people individuals with disabilities, and everyone in their parties, to bypass long lines for rides.

However, in response to abuse of that system, the company now provides a Disability Access Service Card instead. With the card, visitors with special needs who cannot wait in line can schedule a return time for one park attraction at a time based on current wait times.

One thing that does puzzle me is that to get a card, Disney doesn’t ask for any proof of disability, such as a letter from a doctor. They cite legal restrictions as the reason why. But, whatever they may be, it’s interesting that they don’t prevent the Department of Motor Vehicles from requiring such evidence before issuing a disability parking placard.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.