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Friday, January 20, 2006

Easy-to-find Ignorance

I didn’t go looking for them, but in the last three days I stumbled across three people making a special effort to be ignorant of people with disabilities. As I seek productive ways to advance the cause of people with disabilities — suggestions welcome, by the way — I’ll simply share my experiences.

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On Wednesday, my daily check of Blinq, the Inquirer’s coverage of the blogosphere, revealed a piece on a new blog that sheds light on living with a mental illness. While mental and physical disabilities each come with their own unique struggles, any legitimate effort to raise awareness of disabilities works for me, and it was great to read about The Trouble With Spikol.

It was not so great to read the posted comment from a “William”: “I know, I know, this is one of those ‘feel good’ journalism pieces that isn't supposed to draw criticism because of its benign banality. But, sheesh, I'm supposed to feel sorry for a woman who's afraid of crowded places? Not by a long shot. The cure for that is a martini.”

That’s the hard part of having free speech: idiots like William have to have the same freedom.

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Yesterday, I read a column in the Sacramento Bee decrying a so-called serial suer who files ADA lawsuits for every violation he finds. Marjie Lundstrom’s ridiculous column rips a "prolific Carmichael, Calif., attorney, who has filed more than 150 disability-access lawsuits since August 2003."

She wines, "California, as one of only a few states that allows for monetary damages and attorneys' fees in ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] cases, is seeing an explosion in disability-access lawsuits. And a huge chunk of those cases is coming from just a handful of plaintiffs and attorneys, people whose litigious track records have made many business owners _ big and small alike _ suspicious and wary of any disabled person who comes on their premises."

Lundstrom admits that "Bill Wu, 28, . . . fixed the access problem last year on the family's commercial property in North Highlands, which had been deemed ADA-compliant by the county. But the Wu brothers don't want to settle for the $4,000 they say [Scott N.] Johnson offered. And so they are fighting, navigating the complexities of the federal court system without law degrees."

Well, gee, if they don’t want to settle, why should they? I mean, it’s only those pesky disabled people wanting access just like able-bodied folks. Or as the enlightened Lundstrom concludes:

"Surely we can all agree that, 16 years after the ADA's passage, compliance is a must. But is this how we in California want to enforce the complex law _ sanctioning a pack of serial suers who seem more interested in lining their pockets than in opening doors? Lawsuits may be effective, but at what cost?

'I've heard of business owners who want to pull the shade when they see a disabled person coming,' said Sam Wu.

'We have not gotten one good night's sleep, worrying about this,' said brother Bill."

For those of you missing my sarcasm: Lundstrom should be sued for being an idiot. These people broke the law, and violated what is called the civil rights legislation for people with disabilities. There’s no way she’d have portrayed the Wu’s as the victim had they violated her civil rights.

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Today, I watched a young, able-bodied woman push her shopping cart to her car in a spot for the disabled, unload it, pop the cart onto a narrow, elevated sidewalk with a lawn that quickly slopes up on the other side — ignoring the proper spot for shopping carts located not 20 feet away and blocking the only wheelchair access to the gym I'd just left — and drive away.

I took her license number, but had no idea what I could do with it. I'm tempted to post it, but that would just be ignorant. Right?

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