In response to the March 3 editorial “Make ADA smarter, stronger in Florida,” the Americans with Disabilities Act has been the law for 27 years; millions of people with disabilities have been able to obtain access to programs, benefits and services in their communities. Further, Florida’s building code has been amended to include accessibility standards that are stricter than the federal law.
However, how do we ensure access or provide other remedies so a “handful” of lawyers do not penalize the millions of persons who depend on the law in their daily lives?
The experts in accessible construction have always been skilled architects and contractors. There is no need for a person with less skill or experience to be deemed a “licensed expert.” Further, for the past 15 years, and despite the urging of the Governor’s Commission on Disabilities, Florida has stubbornly refused to amend the state’s Civil Rights Act to include all public accommodations.
The failure to make this simple change denies people who believe they have been discriminated against, an easy process that would allow a person with a disability to proceed without the need for an attorney and expensive federal litigation.
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If the Legislature goal is to ensure access and eliminate discrimination, it should 1. focus on ensuring that code enforcement officials are trained to identify and cite for violations; 2. ensure that business owners are aware of tax credits to improve accessibility; 3. provide people with disabilities a mechanism to complain and receive a remedy for discrimination instead of filing a federal lawsuit.
The issue should not be protecting businesses that have ignored the law, but instead finding methods to improve access and ensure compliance for the residents and visitors of Florida who have disabilities.
Matthew W. Dietz,
Disability Independence Group, Inc., Miami