There is a trend happening in an area of Minnesota of going after businesses whose buildings are not accessible according to the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) laws. Now this topic hits home on two different fronts for me. The first hit against me on this is the fact that I am in a wheelchair and I remember when I was a kid, we would have to check whether a place was wheelchair accessible before going. Now it’s not even a thought to me about checking to see if a building is accessible, I just go and assume the place is accessible and I will admit that it is really nice! Whether this should be the way, whether everywhere should be required by law to be accessible is what I am going to debate here.
As I just said, I love the fact that I can expect to be able to go to a restaurant that somebody recommends without worrying about if I will be able to get in or not. Actually it wasn’t until I started writing this that it had even occurred to me that I don’t even worry about accessibility anymore. Other than knowing some places are cramped and a little difficult to get around in, life is pretty dang good for wheelchairs in regards to accessibility!
Now the second place this hits me is the fact that I am a business owner myself so I have some business logic which not too many people have anymore! I know that everything costs money and despite what people may think, just because you own a business does not mean you are a greedy millionaire who has money to burn. Or even to buy necessities, let alone just throw away. In the news article I read that made me aware of this trend in Minnesota, there was a lawsuit being filed against a bowling alley because, obviously, they were not up to code on accessibility. The owner of the bowling alley said that when a person with a disability came in to bowl, he would provide whatever accommodations he could, such as portable ramps. The article said that the owner had two options, he could either pay a $5,500 penalty or he could get his building up to code, which would cost him about $20,000.
I don’t know if this penalty was a monthly, yearly or just a one time penalty. Hope it’s not a one time penalty, that would be kind of funny and dumb! They would basically be saying “you’re breaking the law but if you pay us, we will let it slide”. The scary thing is, this penalty is probably recurring which means they’re basically saying “even though you might not be able to afford to renovate, we will suck you dry with monthly penalties”. Obviously this makes complete sense, right? I shouldn’t have to say this but I am going to so that there is no confusion, THIS IS DUMB! Think about your own personal life, if I tell you that if you don’t pay me $20,000, you have to pay me $5,000 every month untill you can pay that other person the $20,000 you owe them. What is going to happen? Of course this is assuming the penalty is recurring. If I don’t have the money, I don’t have the money, bottom line! Unless you want to borrow money and go into debt and put my business at greater risk.
Don’t forget, businesses employ people so by hurting a business, you could very well be hurt their employees. You know those unfortunate people who have to work like slaves while the owner sits back and just rolls around in the money. That $20,000 renovation could pretty easily cost somebody their job. I don’t know about you but I’m not okay with somebody losing their job so I can go bowling once a week, if that. I will gladly forego bowling if it keeps or gets someone a job! I really don’t think people who bring these lawsuits up think about it this way, all they see is they want to go bowling and can’t at this one place. The real kicker with the bowling alley situation is, how many people in wheelchairs go bowling? Ever hear of getting a good return on your investment? I will go out on a limb here and say that the bowling alley does not get enough business from people in wheelchairs to make the $20,000 investment worthwhile.
I’ve discussed the financial aspects of the problem of requiring PRIVATELY owned establishments to make pretty damn expensive renovations for accessibility reasons, let’s discuss the moral aspect of this requirement. As I started this paragraph, I’m talking about PRIVATELY owned establishments! Do we know what that even means anymore? It use to mean that I can do whatever I want to my property within the confines of LOCAL regulations. It also meant I could decide who I wanted on my property and who I didn’t. The subject of requiring privately owned buildings to be accessible reminds of those dumb ass lawsuits that have become popular where if a baker refuses to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. To me, I don’t understand the couple who is suing because if I want to marry my partner, isn’t that a very special day? In that, wouldn’t I then want every aspect of the wedding to be done with love? So if the baker is getting forced to make that cake, do you really think the baker is making it with love? To me, this is the same with a business being accessible. If I want to go bowling and the alley doesn’t care enough to make their building accessible, I really don’t want to give them my money. I will try to educate them because they may honestly not know anything about accessibility! But isn’t there something about caring who you are giving your money to?
Can we please stop attacking businesses? A business is not this ruthless greedy entity that they have been branded as. No doubt there are bad companies out there but guess what? A bad company will go under by itself! A company has to do things that benefit their customers or else they don’t have customers and hence, they won’t have a business. However they also have to do cost analysis of any expense. A company will do things that don’t directly benefit them out of kindness but again, they have to have the ability!