The law has become an unrecognizable language to people, also known as “legalese.” It’s astonishing, and I cannot believe how complacent we are as Americans with our outdated and discriminatory legal system. People are forced to hire attorneys for anything court related, even when it’s really not necessary. However, the system is so complicated it is necessary to ensure you don’t miss anything. Even worse, people feel pressed to hire an attorney when they face discrimination, but that’s only when someone recognizes that they are being discriminated against.
The disabled community in general is fairly uneducated when it comes to what their rights are. Many people have no clue what rights the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects or what state laws might offer. So why is it that we don’t know our rights? There a few major contributors. First, it’s hard to not feel defeated when it comes to accessibility and reasonable accommodations, so we simply don’t know where to go with our complaint. We’ve all been there where a business has failed to meet the legal standards, but we do nothing because we’re unsure what avenue to take. The first step is the hardest, because people don’t know where to start.
The second problem lies in not even knowing our rights. How many of us have complained about disabled parking? Thousands, but I ask you this, of the thousands who complain how many have read the disabled parking statutes? We’re fine with believing whatever watered down law has evolved from false information after being reiterated by 15 people. I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I’ve been told “facts” about the law that couldn’t be further from the truth. Like when people say they’re “grandfathered in” and aren’t forced to provide access…TOTAL BS! Sadly, I have to admit before law school I believed people when they told me that same thing.
The third problem is that the law in general is inaccessible. As an attorney you can access Westlaw, which is pretty much Wiki for law. However, they charge astronomical fees to access information that is public, but just easier to find. Why isn’t this available to anyone for free? Like Wiki. You would think that providing anyone easy access to the law would be a public policy issue. Wrong. Westlaw has created a monopoly of legal information, making what should be a public, free database into a moneymaking scheme that insures lawyers are necessary for even the smallest infractions.
It’s no surprise people are ignorant to the law when it’s not readily available to the public, let alone someone with a disability. Where would one go to read the law in braille? Are the locations with legal resources readily available for an individual who relies on public transportation? Are the locations wheelchair friendly? These questions need to be considered. Often people with disabilities are the victims of illegal discrimination, yet they do nothing because they do not understand the law.
As an individual with a disability do your best to educate yourself on the law, especially the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Click HERE for a PDF Version. Know that if you face discrimination you can contact your local Attorney General’s Office to inquire about your claim. I commend Arizona, where I live, for offering a resourceful, easy to follow webpage. They even allow you to submit a claim online. Check out your local AG’s Office webpage. If they don’t have something similar, contact them with a link to Arizona’s and request similar resources.
It would be foolish to be waiting on the law to become readily accessible or easy to understand. Instead, educate yourself in the meantime. Watch informative videos, read laws, research for yourself, and become knowledgeable about your rights. When you actually know what your rights are you can ensure you don’t allow someone to trample over them. Educate yourself, demand change, and don’t be afraid to speak up against discrimination…for you and everyone succeeding you.
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