Saturday, July 26, 2014

Federal complaints allege civil-rights violations of midtown law offices.

By Tim Wheat

The Memphis Center for Independent Living will announce on Saturday federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Complaints against four local establishments alleging the public accommodations are not accessible. The federal complaints are to remind the Memphis community that access is a civil right and that twenty-four years after the signing of the historic civil-rights law, people with disabilities expect equal access to our community. Beginning at 11:00 AM with a Barbecue lunch, MCIL will hold a press conference at noon with details of the complaints before music and celebration into the afternoon. 

“We are tired of being treated as second-class citizens,” said Deborah Cunningham, the Executive Director of the Memphis Center for Independent Living. “After twenty-four years, it just doesn't make sense that attorneys are unaware of the law or cannot afford equal access.”

The complaints are simply that people with disabilities are not served as other citizens in our community and that some legal firms have not provided reasonable accommodations as the Civil Rights Law requires. The ADA was signed by President George H. W. Bush on July 26, 1990 and intended to tear down the “shameful wall of exclusion,” that prevented people with disabilities from equal access to the community. 

MCIL is especially concerned that businesses that did not provide access in 1990 when the law was signed, have made no plans to eventually become compliant by making reasonable accommodations.  MCIL wants to help business meet their civil rights obligations to the community and is hoping that the federal complaints will lead to real changes and an expanded celebration of the ADA on the twenty-fifth anniversary next year. 
The ramp at 1448 Madison
The ramp at 1448 Madison

“The intent of the law was that the community become more and more accessible,” said Ms Cunningham. “The ADA only requires reasonable accommodations, but these businesses for twenty-four years have not even made the most basic attempt to include people with disabilities.”

It is not only the letter of the law that people with disabilities require, but also the intent. For people to be excluded from equal access by the legal community is especially harmful for an historically disempowered community attempting to seek equal justice. MCIL hopes to have a larger and inclusive celebration next year that will include greater access to our community.

WHO: The Disability Community
WHAT: Celebration of the anniversary of the signing of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.
WHEN: Saturday, July 26, 11:AM Lunch served: 12:PM Press Conference; 12:30 to 4:PM Music and Celebration. BANDS: ActionKat: Barbara Lester and the Memphis Drum Tribe; The Scene.
WHERE: The Memphis Center for Independent Living, 1633 Madison Avenue, Memphis TN 38104.