Our services are provided free of charge to our clients.
Our services are provided free of charge to our clients.
Federal and state laws define disability differently. Generally, a disability is a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. A major life activity can range from walking, to caring for yourself, to performing manual tasks.
Your disability does not have to be outwardly apparent for you to qualify as a person with a disability, as long as you meet the definition above. Moreover, your disability can be temporary and expected to resolve, but that will not change your ability to pursue your rights to full and equal access.
The accessibility requirements are broad, and apply to public and private entities. For example, most government buildings, facilities, and services are required to be readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities when seen in their entirety. Also, private businesses, such as restaurants, hotels, and amusement parks, are required to be accessible.
"Accessible" means that a disabled person can use the facility, service, or program in question in a full and equal manner, regardless of your disability.
There are specific and technical requirements that public places are required to meet in order to be considered "accessible," although those requirements may be different depending on when the public accommodation was built and/or remodeled. For example, public facilities are required to have doors that are wide enough to allow a wheelchair user to safely pass through; designated accessible public restrooms (or stalls) must provide a minimum amount of transfer space at the toilet; and restaurants must have a minimum number of dining tables that allow you to slide under the table in your wheelchair. Public facilities also must have designated accessible parking spaces with corresponding access aisles, and a safe and accessible path of travel from those parking spaces to the facility entrance.
When it comes to government entities, accessibility is determined when the entity's program or service is viewed in its entirety. Thus, while there may be particular architectural barriers or policies that deprive an individual of full and equal access, the program or service must be looked at holistically in order to determine whether it provides full and equal access to disabled individuals.
Often, public facilities or government agencies have policies that must be modified to avoid discrimination against a disabled individual. For example, while a restaurant can have a "no dogs" policy, it must allow a trained and controlled service animal in certain parts of the restaurant, and a hotel must modify its room reservation policies to make sure that a disabled guest can reserve an available designated accessible guest room.
There has been much bad press surrounding so-called ADA "shakedown" schemes. Most of these cases arise when a disabled individual (often with a valid claim) files a lawsuit, but settles the lawsuit for money only (his personal damages, and his attorneys' fees). The lawsuit is settled without forcing the property owner to fix the problems that caused the inaccessible condition. This does a disservice to the disabled community, because future patrons of that business will continue to encounter the same issues. It also does a disservice to those individuals who have valid claims and who are fighting on behalf of the greater community, but who are often portrayed as "extortionists."
Because our goal is to ensure that our clients – and other persons with disabilities – can live independent, fulfilling lives, our primary focus is the removal of physical barriers to disabled access and modification of discriminatory policies and practices. That result – to create access – comes first and foremost, before any discussion or negotiation of monetary damages. By ensuring that we have an agreement to remediate barriers before even discussing anything else, we can ensure that the work gets done to improve accessibility for the entire disabled community, and we avoid any potential conflict between the public interest aspect of the case and the pecuniary aspect of the case.
While it is not required by law that you notify a property owner of your issues prior to filing a lawsuit, our firm prefers to do so, in order to give all parties the opportunity to resolve their concerns without filing a lawsuit. We encourage property owners and operators to work with us outside of litigation, which we believe saves all parties' time, resources and funds that are better spent making their property accessible.
California and federal law prohibits discrimination against a tenant or homeowner (or a prospective tenant or homeowner) based on their disability, their association with a person with a disability, their race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, familial status (i.e., living with minor children) and other protected classes. Discrimination can look like an explicit refusal to rent or sell to an individual, or imposition of different terms and conditions on an individual because of his or her membership in a protected class. For example, a housing provider cannot impose “quiet hours” on families with young children if there are no quiet hours imposed on other residents.
Housing providers like landlords and homeowners associations are required to make reasonable accommodations in their policies and practices when necessary to afford a disabled tenant or owner (or a prospective tenant or owner) an equal opportunity to use and enjoy their housing. For example, a landlord who imposes a “no pets” policy may be required to waive the policy for a disabled tenant who relies on an emotional support animal to alleviate the symptoms of their disabilities.
Housing providers are also required to allow owners and tenants (or a prospective owner or tenant) to make reasonable modifications, at the tenant's or homeowner's expense, to their units if necessary to allow them an equal opportunity to use and enjoy their housing. For example, a landlord may not withhold permission to allow a disabled tenant to install grab bars in his restroom to make it easier and safer to shower or use the toilet. However, the tenant is responsible for the cost of installation and may also be responsible for the cost of restoring the unit to its original condition after moving out of the unit.
If you encounter a barrier or policy that you believe is discriminatory, it’s best to contact an attorney as soon as possible. An attorney will work up your claims and conduct the necessary research to determine whether you have experienced an actionable violation of the law. If you chose to wait, be aware that there are statutes of limitations that limit the time in which you may file a claim. For issues with government agencies, you have six (6) months from the date of the last incident of discrimination to file a Tort Claim (which puts the entity on notice of your claims). For issues with private businesses or landlords/homeowners associations, you generally have two years from the date of the last incident of discrimination to file a lawsuit.
Yes. On a case-by-case basis, we will assist clients who have suffered personal injuries due to a facility's non-compliance with accessibility laws.