Editor’s Note: This is an opinion column written by Jan Lynch, executive director of the Finger Lakes Independence Center.
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— Jeff Stein
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Written by Jan Lynch:
In response to the October 22nd piece in the Ithaca Voice titled “How State’s Bathroom Requirements for Disabled Frustrate Ithaca Merchants”, I would like to remind the business owners and city employee Mr. Niechwiadowicz that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted nearly 25 years ago, making it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities. The goal of the ADA is to provide people with disabilities equal opportunity, full participation, independent living and economic self-sufficiency.
Under the ADA’s “Public Accommodations” provision, any business that provides goods or services to the public is required to construct or adjust its physical space, as well as its policies and procedures, to make sure that people with disabilities have the same access to its facilities and services as people without disabilities.
It sounds like Mr. Niechwiadowicz, Mr. Bonn and Mr. Diamond are aware of the laws and regulations that guide the enforcement of the ADA, however, it is also seems clear that they do not support the intent of the ADA. Over 56.7 million people — 19 percent of the population — had a disability in 2010, according to a comprehensive report released in July 2012 by the U.S. Census Bureau, with roughly 30.6 million who had difficulty walking or climbing stairs, or used a wheelchair, cane, crutches or walker.
From a purely business perspective, I would ask Mr. Bonn and Mr. Diamond if they can afford to discriminate against nearly 20% of their potential clientele. The Americans with Disabilities Act was a high point in ensuring the civil rights of people with all types of disabilities. Twenty-five years later, reading the complaints of a few of our downtown business-people and in particular, a spokesperson for the City of Ithaca’s enforcement of the requirements, speak of the regulations surrounding the ADA in a such a negative light, (“It sucks”; “It was kind of absurd”; “Bad news” ) is a local low point.
Staff from the Finger Lakes Independence Center is available to businesses, schools, religious organizations and other community entities to raise awareness and understanding regarding the rights of individuals with disabilities.
Finger Lakes Independence Center.