Since 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act had given legal protection to individuals with disabilities, guaranteeing freedom from discrimination and requiring employers to provide “reasonable accommodation” for disabled employees. The act also sets out accessibility requirements for public spaces, private workplaces, and all government buildings and services.
Twenty-five years after the ADA first became law, disabled Americans continue to fight for equal access and treatment in everyday life. Whether its physical access to buildings, trying to get copies of documents, or being able to use customer services, millions of individuals are being failed by companies that don’t comply with ADA rules. Far too many companies are failing – and lawsuits, so often a means of last resort, are still being filed when businesses let down the people they’re meant to serve.
Uber Faces Suit for Refusing Service Dogs
Do taxis and ride-share programs have to take passengers accompanied by service dogs? Yes. Have some Uber drivers been refusing to take blind customers who need to bring their dog with them? Yes, according to a lawsuit filed in California. The suit was filed in September 2014 and alleges that Uber discriminates by offering a high-quality service to sighted riders but refusing to transport “many blind individuals who use service animals.” The National Federation of the Blind has highlighted thirty separate incidents in which blind riders were denied service, often only once the drivers realized a dog would be accompanying the passenger. The suit also alleges that drivers have harassed and mishandled dogs and blind passengers. In April 2014 Uber attempted to avoid the suit by arguing that it is not a “public accommodation” covered by the ADA – a claim that was quickly denied by Judge Nathanael M. Cousins of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
AutoZone Sued by EEOC for Fourth Time after Disabled Employee Faces Retaliation
How many times can one company face legal action for violating the ADA? In May 2014, AutoZone made it an even four after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the auto parts retailer for failing to accommodate a disabled employee’s need for extra time off. The employee in question suffered from Type 2 diabetes and often had to leave work early because of insulin reactions – but, under the company’s points system, which only allowed twelve absences before termination, the worker was fired and not given any exception. In the words of the EEOC:
“The obligation to provide reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities has been the law of the land for over two decades, and businesses large and small, operating coast to coast have found ways to bring their operations into compliance with the law.”
AutoZone has previous been sued by the EEOC for denying a worker permission to use their guide dog, insisting a disabled employee mop floors despite further injury, and refusing to accommodate a worker with a lifting restriction.
Netflix Lacks Closed Captioning, Faces Lawsuit
It’s not just shops that find themselves on the wrong side of the ADA. In 2012, Netflix faced a lawsuit from a hearing impaired woman who accused the online movie giant of violating the act by failing to provide closed captioning, or subtitles, on its web-based Watch Instantly videos. Netflix sought to have the case dismissed, arguing that an online company cannot fall under the jurisdiction of the ADA – but, thankfully, U.S. District Judge Michael A. Ponsor disagreed, writing that:
“[Netflix] is a business that provides a subscription service of internet-based streaming video through the Watch Instantly web site and, as such, is analogous to brick-and-mortar store or other venue that provides similar services, such as a video rental store.”
In 2011, the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act was also passed to clarify accessibility law as it applies to modern technology.
PetSmatt’s Touch Screen Keypads May Violate ADA
New technology can be wonderful, and in many cases technology has improved access for people with disabilities. However, the reverse can also be true – as PetSmart found out when they were hit with an ADA lawsuit over their touch screen debit card keypads. The suit was filed by the National Federation of the Blind, and alleges that the company’s point-of-service keypads are inaccessible to many blind customers, who may have to tell employees their PIN in order to complete debit card transactions. This, of course, raises a whole new bunch of security problems, and the U.S. Department of Justice has already gone on record saying stores must provide physical keypads for blind customers to fulfill ADA requirements. As such, it’s hard to see how PetSmart will defend the suit. The company is facing lawsuits in Colorado, Massachusetts, and Texas.