Call to Action: Sixty Minutes Distortion of ADA Lawsuits

Blog 3. graphic stating disability rights are civil rights call to actionOn December 4, 2016, 60 Minutes aired a segment addressing the Americans with Disabilities Act and “drive-by lawsuits.”

The segment, hosted by Anderson Cooper, was one-sided and did not include the viewpoint of the disability community at large.

Instead of drawing attention to the fact that, while the ADA was enacted 26 years ago, many businesses still fail to comply with the law, Anderson Cooper and 60 Minutes chose to focus on the largely overblown issue of frivolous lawsuits. The Dayle McIntosh Center (DMC) absolutely condemns the actions of those attorneys who are abusing the ADA and making profits off of the civil rights of people with disabilities. While small in number, the actions of such attorneys are harmful to the nearly 57 million Americans with disabilities, and the repercussions of their actions risk increasing the access barriers encountered far too frequently by the disability population.

Dayle McIntosh Center supports the right of citizens with disabilities who have legitimately faced discrimination to file complaints and lawsuits. With no oversight mechanism, businesses around the country wait to comply with the ADA until they receive a complaint. This means that the onus is on the disability community to ‘monitor’ compliance, and that until complaints are filed, people with disabilities will be excluded from these places of business. Anderson Cooper chose to shine a light on an undeniably small problem while paying no attention to the access issues millions face every day in communities throughout America.

Additionally, the segment on 60 Minutes was full of inaccuracies. Anderson Cooper reported that most states allow for monetary damages for accessibility violations under the ADA. In actuality, monetary damages are based on state laws in only a handful of states, and several of these states – including California where some examples in the segment were based – have recently passed legislation disallowing damages. Furthermore, compliance with the ADA was depicted as being overly burdensome and bordering on unnecessary. In reality, the ADA is just one of many laws, requirements, and codes applicable to public establishments and amenities and implying that the law is unnecessary is dismissive of the needs of people with disabilities. The segment insinuated that ADA compliance should only be necessary if a business is patronized by members of the disability population. In reality, people with disabilities often don’t patronize businesses precisely because they aren’t accessible. The very intent of the ADA was to ensure that all public spaces are accessible to all people.

Of particular note is the fact that Anderson Cooper did not include any disability activists in the segment on 60 Minutes. The only people with disabilities on the show were portrayed as pawns being used by the unethical attorneys,. The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, because of the hard work and dedication of supporters with disabilities all over the country. Now, 26 years later, the fight for civil and human rights continues.

The Dayle McIntosh Center urges readers to take action.

Contact Anderson Cooper and 60 Minutes and insist that another segment be presented giving equal airtime to the struggle of the millions of Americans with disabilities who still lack basic access to American society.
• Contact 60 Minutes using the online contact form.
• Contact 60 Minutes on Twitter: @60Minutes and @AndersonCooper.
• Contact 60 Minutes on Facebook.

Source: “Action Alert: Anderson Cooper’s ADA Attack on 60 Minutes,” The Advocacy Monitor, December 7, 2016, National Council on Independent Living

By, Paula Margeson, Executive Director, Dayle McIntosh Center

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