Tales from the Stupid Side — The ADA and the DOJ

By Alden L. Benton

Every time I scan the news, I find articles detailing yet another massively stupid action or decision by President Obama or his minions in myriad government departments.  Today was no exception.

According to CNS News,

“The U.S. Justice Department says it has reached a settlement with the Sacramento (California) Public Library over a trial program the library was conducting that let patrons borrow Barnes and Noble NOOK e-book readers.

DOJ and the National Federation of the Blind objected to the program on grounds that blind people could not use the NOOK e-readers for technological reasons.”

On the surface, this sounds simple: the government agency charged with enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws, in this case the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), is acting to protect the rights of the blind.  However, when you read deeper into the article you find that the Department of Justice, “…interviewed a woman who could not participate in the library’s e-reader program due to her disability and concluded that the program had violated the ADA.”

The ADA sets a standard called reasonable accommodation.  In this instance, the Sacramento Public Library system fully accommodates blind or visually impaired people by the by giving them access to audio books and books in Braille. 

It should be a no-brainer that “blind” people cannot use a device designed to display electronic print.  It is also faulty reasoning to decide that an entire program serving thousands be stopped over the objections of one individual. 

CNS News reports,

“As part of the settlement agreement, the Justice Department directed the library system to purchase at least 18 e-readers that are accessible to the blind, something that comes in the midst of budget cuts that have forced Sacramento libraries to implement one employee furlough day each month for two years.

The library says it will add iPod touch and iPad devices, which read e-books aloud with a computerized voice.

Adding the Apple devices could cost the library anywhere from $3,582 with the purchase of 18 of the most inexpensive iPod Touch models, to $14,922 if they wish to provide the high-end version of the iPad, which cost $829 a piece.”

It appears, by interviewing one individual, the DOJ has institutionalized a common sham in disability law: Unscrupulous members of the “legal” profession filing bogus ADA lawsuits.  According to ADAabuse.com, “More than 14,000 ADA/accessibility lawsuits have been filed in California in just the past few years by a small number of lawyers.  Many firms have closed, dismissed employees or sought bankruptcy protection as a result.”

How many library personnel will be terminated under this agreement, and, since only one person was supposedly discriminated against, is it even a valid issue or is it fraud?

ABC’s local news affiliate, KABC7 exposed one such fraudulent suit.  KABC7 reported on August 26,

“A man who has filed well over a hundred lawsuits against local small-business owners says he’s an advocate for the disabled.  His critics say what he does is harassment and extortion.

James Farkus Cohan says he’s disabled with end-stage emphysema.  He sues small businesses, claiming those businesses are violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Cohan has filed at least 161 lawsuits.

Eyewitness News caught up with Cohan after his daily hike up a steep hill near his Sun Valley home.  He was hiking without a wheelchair, walker or oxygen tank.

James Cohan has filed three more lawsuits since Eyewitness News took those pictures of him.  The most recent filing was just three days ago.”

Video of Cohan hiking posted with ABC7 article here.

This is a classic problem with big government, nanny state programs.  Many of these programs are well intended, including the ADA. 

However, as Ronald Reagan once said, “No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size.  Government programs, once launched, never disappear.  Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth!” 

The ADA has morphed into a byzantine labyrinth of muddled and conflicting regulations that create entrenched bureaucrats and rich lawyers instead of creating more access to society for the disabled. 

Smaller, less complex, more efficient government does not mean abandoning anyone, but serving them better and at less cost.  It is a lesson that we must apply to all levels of government from the Federal gargantuan down to local communities.

“Man is not free unless government is limited.”  ~Ronald Reagan

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©2012 Alden L. Benton/Independence Creek Enterprises
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