The Law Offices of Michael Grinblat devote their practice to representing individuals with disabilities, who are being discriminated against by businesses that provide services to the public. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”) such businesses include stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, restaurants, diners, cafes, coffee shops, doctor's offices, hospitals, as well as many other places of public accommodation. Historically, society has tended to isolate and segregate individuals with disabilities. Unfortunately, to this day, despite some improvements, discrimination against individuals with disabilities continues to be a serious and pervasive social problem. Individuals with disabilities constantly face different forms of discrimination, including outright intentional exclusion, as well as the discriminatory effects of architectural and communication barriers, overprotective rules and policies, failure to make modifications to existing facilities and practices, and exclusionary qualification standards. “The continuing existence of unfair and unnecessary discrimination and prejudice denies people with disabilities the opportunity to compete on an equal basis and to pursue those opportunities for which our free society is justifiably famous, and costs the United States billions of dollars in unnecessary expenses resulting from dependency and non-productivity.” These words from the ADA, the law enacted by the US Congress to protect individuals with disabilities, encapsulate the pervasive problem. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §12182 and 28 CFR §36.201(a), the congressional intent was to ensure that no place of public accommodation may discriminate against an individual on the basis of such individual’s disability, with regard to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations at that place of public accommodation. The 2000 US census indicates that in the civilian non-institutionalized population more than 49.7 million people in the United States have a disability. The census also indicates that more than 1.39 million New Yorkers have a mobility disability. The ADA, the New York State Civil Rights and Human Rights Laws and the New York City Human Rights Laws recognize individuals with disabilities as a protected class. It is unlawful for a private entity, which owns, leases, leases to, or operates a place of public accommodation to discriminate against an individual with a disability. The landlord, who owns the building that houses a place of public accommodation and the tenant, who owns, or operates, the place of public accommodation, have a non-delegable duty to comply with the ADA and the New York laws. Discriminatory intent is not required to establish liability under the ADA and the New York laws. One type of disability discrimination is an owner’s, or an operator’s, of a public accommodation failure to remove those architectural barriers, removal of which is readily achievable. If an individual with a disability is dissuaded from entering, or receiving services of a public accommodation because of the existence of an architectural barrier, the business may be found liable for discrimination on the basis of disability.
Are you a person with a disability?
Under the ADA, “disability means, with respect to an individual, a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual… . The phrase major life activities means functions such as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning and working.” 28 CFR §36.104
You are most likely considered to be disabled if you are using an assistive device for mobility, such as a wheelchair (electric or manual), walker, scooter, and/or if you have a license plate for the disabled, or a handicapped placard.
What are architectural barriers?
The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) published revised regulations for Title III of the ADA in the Federal Register on September 15, 2010. “These regulations adopted revised, enforceable accessibility standards called the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, ‘2010 Standards’”. 2010 Standards, Overview. These standards “set minimum requirements – both scoping and technical – for newly designed and constructed, or altered … public accommodations, and commercial facilities to be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.” Id. The regulations are technical, but are not complex. Some examples include those listed below.
The 2010 Standards require that each place of public accommodation allows access to customers using wheelchairs. An entrance to such a facility may not have a step exceeding ½ inch (13 mm), as it would prevent a person using a wheelchair from entering it.
Businesses providing parking for their customers must have at least one parking space for a van, which is at least 132 inches wide. There must also be an access aisle adjacent to that parking space. Under an exception, a van parking space may be 96 inches wide, where the access aisle is also 96 inches wide.
Car parking spaces shall be 96 inches wide minimum.
Access aisles serving car and van parking spaces shall be 60 inches (1525 mm) wide minimum.
Accessible routes must connect parking spaces to accessible entrances.
Access aisles shall be at the same level as the parking spaces they serve. Changes in level are not permitted. Slopes not steeper than 1:48, or approximately 2%, are permitted under the exception.
Ramp runs shall have a running slope not steeper than 1:12, or approximately 8%. There may be exceptions due to space limitations, but a slope steeper than 1:8, or approximately 12.5%, is prohibited.
The rise for any ramp, i.e. change in elevation, shall be 30 inches maximum.
An aisle must be wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair, be at least 36 inches wide, but may be as narrow as 32 inches wide for a length of 24 inches maximum, provided that reduced width segments are separated by segments that are 48 inches long minimum and 36 inches wide minimum.
There are dozens of other requirements.
Under the law, if you are disabled, businesses that provide public accommodation must not discriminate against you by creating, or failing to remove, architectural barriers, which prevent you from using their facility. If they do, and you are prevented access to the facility, or have difficulties using it, you may receive compensation under the New York laws. However, compensation may not be received in every situation and its amount differs based on circumstances. If a violation exists, a business or a property owner may be required to remove architectural barriers that make it difficult for you to enjoy its benefits and services like everyone else. We will explain that in greater detail during a free consultation.
Businesses, which discriminate against people with disabilities, pay our legal fees.
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If it is difficult for you to come to the office, a free consultation may be provided at your home, over the telephone, or over the computer.