Happy 20th Anniversary, ADA! Or...Is It?

Reason Contributing Editor Walter Olson questions the inherent goodness of the Americans for Disabilities Act, on the occasion of its 20th anniversary. After listing a few of the more notorious silly legal outcomes from lawsuits under the Act, Olson notes:

One reason for the law’s immunity from criticism is that it is defended as a matter of identity politics: if you’re against it, then you must be against the people it protects. So it is treated as rude, not merely provocative, to bring up the failure of the original ADA premise that the new law would “pay for itself” by increasing the labor force participation of the disabled (the ratedeclined instead). Or to question the law’s “all for one, one for all” extension of the disability label to cover alcoholicsthe mentally ill, and the mentally retarded, groups whose problems have historically been seen as quite different from those of the blind, deaf or paraplegic. Or to mention the money-driven ADA “filing mills” in California, Florida and other states under whichcomplainants roam the land filing hundreds of similar complaints against local businesses which their lawyers then convert into assembly-line cash settlements.

The Detroit Free Press has one of the more standard and expected "it makes darn good sense and has improved many people's lives" features marking the anniversary, though even it has a curious focus on improved attitudes rather than justifiable and reasonable improved outcomes.

I surveyed the world of the ADA in its early days, in a 1995 Reason magazine cover feature.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Jeffersonian||

    You miss the point, Brian: It's not about improving lives, increasing workforce participation or any of that. It's about the great feeling liberals get pushing people around.

  • MNG||

    Yeah, helping disabled people lead more dignified lives is all about pushing people around Jeff. I mean, won't someone please think about the poor large business owners and governmental entities!

    You would think the same people here who are so aghast at any mention of utilitarianism would appreciate a law that puts the dignity of the unfortunate few ahead of some idea of overall economic efficiency.

  • ¿||

    Fuck Off slaver

  • tarran||

    Except it does no such thing MNG, and you know it.

    The ADA has become yet another tool big established companies use to reduce competition from upstarts; by adding yet another set of barriers to entry.

    It's not Raytheon or Enron (two companies the Democrats loved so much) that were inconvenienced by the law, it's the family trying starting a bakery building who are trying to build a commercial kitchen on their rural property that are inconvenienced.

    You know this - I remember you decrying exactly this sort of feel good - scre the smal businessman legislation in your first years on the board.

    I am, frankly, curious what prompted your retrograde motion. Did you forget economics & public choice theory? Or have you drunk the Team Red koolaid and feel duty bound to tow the party lion no matter what the damage to your reputation?

  • MNG||

    What hogwash. Small businesses are exempted:

    "The term employer

    means a person engaged in an industry affecting commerce who has 15 or more employees for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year, and any agent of such person, except that, for two years following the effective date of this title, an employer means a person engaged in an industry affecting commerce who has 25 or more employees for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding year, and any agent of such person."

  • ||

    You really are dumb as a box of rocks. Yeah the law exempts small companies. But it doesn't exempt them once they have more than 15 employees. That makes the marginal cost of hiring the 15th employee enormous. It keeps small businesses small and keeps them from growing and competing with big businesses. You end up with an hour glass economy of big businesses who can afford the regulations and small business who are exempt and nothing in between.

    As AO says below, you really have sold yourself to trolling.

  • BakedPenguin||

    There was a great King of the Hill episode about this ("Junkie Business").

  • ||

    That is a good one. That is the only King of the Hill I have ever watched start to finish. And it was brilliant.

  • BakedPenguin||

    The writing on the show can be very good. The characters kind of suck.

  • ||

    "engaged in an industry affecting commerce "

    am I seeing shadows now, or is that language in the law as a way to say, yes we have this authority under the Commerce Clause ? That's why it says that right ?

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Mainer - yes. The ADA is, of course, unconstitutional if you read the constitution as an adult rather than a twisted maniac, but hey...

  • MNG||

    But I am glad that you realize the concept of differential burdens depending on how wealthy a person or entity is. Let's remember that in tax discussions of the future!

  • The Angry Optimist||

    You really are just trolling at this point. Decided to sell yourself out for a few emotionally satisfying moments, eh? For shame.

  • tarran||

    Why?

    Does the wealth of a person somehow make theft OK?

  • Jordan||

    He's a utilitarian. He can justify anything.

  • Christ on a Cracker||

    Because the rich guy can afford it.

    Next question?

  • Take Care of THIS!||

    Don't feed the minge.

  • Jordan||

    And as we all know from your defense of Fannie and Freddie, no price is too high for a little dignity.

  • ||

    You haven't lived until you've spent $100,000 to put wheel chair ramps into a gymnastics training center.

  • bmp1701||

    I rather like the idea of wheelchair ramps in strip clubs. After all, doesn't everyone like the idea of a blind, depressed stripper slowly spinning onstage in a wheelchair?

  • johnl||

    Yes?

  • Brett L||

    I'd prefer the accomodations for the blind customer.

  • DADIODADDY||

    hey, don't squezze the charmin!!!

  • tarran||

    My favorite was the lady building a commercial kitchen on her land in Vermont who had to put in a wheelchair ramp despite the fact that nobody in her workforce was disabled, and she was struggling to make ends meet on two jobs earning just above minimum wage.

    The bakery was her ticket out of poverty, and the progressive legislation to protect workers made it that much harder to get her business off the ground - in the end it took her an extra year to earn the money needed to finish construction.

    But, she overcame the obstacles thrown up by the laws that MNG claims enhance human dignity, and her bakery became succesful enough that after 20 years she was able to put her kids through college and retire. Today, I doubt she could have gotten it off the ground. The FDA left her alone, not they'd send a SWAT team after her ass.

  • MJ||

    Liberals cannot be held responsible for the failure of every undercapitalized business out there.

  • West Texas Boy||

    It's funny because this is exactly the way they think. Both Chad and Tony have advocated that kind of mindless shit before in here.

    If you don't have the money to build wheelchair ramps pay for your employees' health care then the country is better off not having your business in existence in the first place.

  • ||

    The current Administration is fond of tallying jobs "created or saved" as "evidence" of their economic genius, but the job that never existed can never be lost; it will never show up as a statistic on a spreadsheet; they can never be blamed.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Salient point, Sun.

    Basic Readings for those who still don't get it.

  • tarran||

    No but they should be held responsible for kneecapping otherwise sufficiently capitalized businesses.

    And don't call them liberals; true liberals believe in freedom, not using the hangman's noose and the policeman's tazer to perfect man.

  • WTF??||

    Why did Reason delete this post? I posted this 30 minutes ago and it disappeared from the thread.

    "The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that customers in wheelchairs are denied the "Chipotle experience" of watching their food being prepared because the restaurants' 45-inch counters are too high."

    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/.....0&.v=1

  • johnl||

    On the west side of the Oceanside Ca train station, there are only a couple of openings in the fence between the parking lot and the boarding platform. The farthest north opening is about 150M from the undercrossing. The Metrolink parks right there next to the northmost gate, so it would be a great place to access the train from the lot. Unfortunately, the wheelchair ramp is there next to the gate. The wheelchair ramp blocks the gate, for wheelchairs, so to make access equal, the gate is locked closed. So amputees, arthritics, people with other assorted ambulatory disabilities, and everyone else have to walk an extra 300M so that the people in wheelchairs get equal treatment. Thanks ADA!

  • ||

    Just like Title IX:

    "This will ensure equal opportunity for women in sports."

    (Years later): "Hmmm, there are more men who want to play sports than women. To make things equal, we'll just cut out some men's sports. How can you object to that? Are you a sexist?"

  • ||

    And here's the best part:

    The company now faces hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.

    Because the pain and suffering not being able watch your food prepared at Chipotle's is so valuable and crucial to living a full life, and evil corporations must suffer great financial pain so they'll never again perpetrate such inhuman abuse!!1!

  • ||

    No, here's the best part: The ruling was issued on the 220th anniversary of passage of the American with Disabilities Act.

  • ||

    I'd think that Chipotle's shouldn't be fined. It allows people to experience being disabled, or at least it allows them to experience pain and suffering while seated for hours.

  • ||

    "Americans for Disabilities Act"?

    Lawl. Does Obama support disabilities?

  • ||

    Isn't the ADA the law that forces me to park way far from the entrance to the store, while about 12 spots sit there, completely unused, right next to it?

  • ||

    The walk to entrance is good exercise, citizen.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    An apartment building that houses friends of mine has handicapped parking spaces, but only has stairs to get to the front doors. This makes it easy to park on weekend nights when the spaces on the streets are full.

  • ||

    I have an aunt who has terrible arthritis in her hand. Those door handles that are supposed to be easier for people in wheel chairs are torture for her to use. There are 100s of examples of people with one disability being totally screwed by accommodations for another disability.

    But hey, it makes people like MNG feel better. And that is what it is all about right?

  • Dr. Grant||

    Velociraptors also have an easier time with those handles as opposed to knobs.

    Didn't they think of the children?

  • John Hammond||

    Nonsense. The raptors will never escape. This park is foolproof.

  • ||

    Or requires a military unit to devote precious parking spaces, on a very small base, for disabled placards - even though not only are there no civilians working with this unit, if you couldn't walk you wouldn't be working with us anyway.

  • Abdul||

    My favorite ADA scam which I hear from another employment lawyer:

    Woman goes to job interview, brings up her Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Whole job interview spend talking about shits and farts. She's not hired. Her lawyer calls, and wants a settlement for discrimination. $5,000 usually does the trick.

    Funny thing, her whole means of living is brining up her IBS in job interviews every day.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Woman goes to job interview, brings up her Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Whole job interview spend talking about shits and farts. She's not hired. Her lawyer calls, and wants a settlement for discrimination. $5,000 usually does the trick.


    How does she get away with this?

  • hmm||

    The ADA does not endorse velociraptor proof door knobs and even goes as far as to ban door knobs that are velociraptor proof. They have made us a little less safe.

    American Society for Velociraptor Attack Prevention

    XKCD is also a great resource for velociraptor related topics.

  • Almanian||

    Thank you very much for posting this. I added it to my FB page.

    Even one person killed by velociraptor attack it too many. Unless it's Perez Hilton, or something, then it's OK.

  • ||

    How does she get away with this?

    Easy. As a "whistleblower", she is immunized against any form of retaliation.

    The companies could tell her to just go and take a flying leap, of course, but as a good little rent-seeking parasite, she calculautes her demands so they fall just below the company's pain threshold.

    She is, of course, erecting barriers to disabled people getting hired everywhere she goes. Every manager that she rips off learns a lesson: Thank God we didn't hire her, even though it cost us a few thou. Imagine what she would have cost us if she (and here's the important part - anyone else like her) got through the door. And the next disabled person finds it that much harder to get a job.

  • ||

    Very true, and another example of why this is a bad law. It makes employers reluctant to hire disabled people because there will be hell to pay if they don't work out and must be fired. (And the definition of "disabled" also includes people with non-apparent and non-verifiable conditions like back pain and depression.) And because an employer cannot even raise the issue in a job interview it makes it impossible to determine whether or not someone can actually do the job they are interviewing for.

  • ||

    My homeschool group of 10 families is being sued for a violation. We met once a week and for parties for the teenagers. We kicked on of the families out because the mother is a ... well is disliked ... she sued because her child has a disability. She is highly allergic to chicken and other foods. The Indiana Civil Rights Commission has been persecuting us for over a year.

    It's been in the newspaper and everything.

  • ||

    please !!! fight this .only by fighting the lunacy will we be able to end it. each victory hopefully will make others think twice about pulling this "i'm disabled so i'm entitled to make your life hell and ruin it just so i can be special" crap. i almost lost my job because i critized achild's effort and after the fact the mom said she was bipolar and i had caused her precious pain and suffering . sorry but how are they supposed to learn if you can't tell them what they're doing wrong?

  • Abdul||

    --not legal advice--

    Why not pelt her with McNuggets until she goes into anaphylaxis?

  • ||

    This wins the funniest comment award.

  • MNG||

    HRRRRKKKKKKKKKK...MUST.......FIGHT........INTOLERANT.......LIBER...TARIANS.......

  • Joshua||

    I'd agree with you except it's the CHILD who has the allergy. She can't help that her mum's a twat.

  • ||

    It sounds like your homeschool group is basically a social group, rather than a business. How does any civil rights commission have jurisdiction?

  • ||

    The claim is that it is also a "school". We meet once a week and have what we commonly call classes.

    http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/1227913200.html

    Religious groups are also exempt but the claim is that we are not religious enough.

    My suggestion has always been to just shut down and start a new group. Fighting is extraordinarily expensive if only in consuming large amounts of time.

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    Ya. Stop meeting until she leaves you alone, then start meeting again. Be the water, not the rock.

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    Once private businesses are considerd public (as in publuic accommodations), the principle has been conceded. The rest is just haggling.

  • ||

    Last week I attended a conference on computer law and policy. One of the panels was on the Kindle accessibility lawsuit against a small number of universities that were running pilot programs to try out using e-books for textbooks. The National Federation for the Blind sued them (their lawyer was on the panel). His point was that it didn't matter that this was only a test program, that there was no obligation for anyone to participate in the pilot, or that none of the universities had sight-impaired students. All that mattered was that the Department of Justice would issue a threat (which they did) and it would make headlines.
    reference here
    and and here
    The ambulance-chasing lawyer actually virtually said they went after universities because they were timid and wouldn't fight back.
    But of course, because the room was filled with academics, who were a little nervous about being sued themselves (and were, of course, sympathetic with the goals of the ADA) nobody really hammered on the stupidity of accommodations for non-existent clients using technology that nobody wanted.
    And of course, the lawyer started by talking about how the ADA benefited the economy--didn't we all appreciate the wheeled suitcases that would never have been invented without all the wheelchair ramps that the ADA required...

  • Almanian||

    I have some broken windows I'd like to sell that weasel lawyer

  • ||

    He's picked his target well. I doubt any university will fight.

    Of course, as long as the textbooks are available as both e-books and whatever blind-friendly version is out there, it shouldn't be a problem in any event.

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    My number one memory of what a crappy candidate Bob Dole was is how could talk about how much he stood behind the tenth ammendment, but seconds later be bragging about what a critical role he played in passing the ADA. Fuck you Bob, you dumbass compromiser.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement