Thursday, October 19, 2006
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Suit: State Election Law Discriminates Against Disabled
A state law surrounding absentee ballots unfairly restricts the mentally disabled, stripping those confined to mental hospitals of voting rights, according to a class-action lawsuit filed Monday on behalf of several mentally disabled Virginians.
In the suit, the Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy takes aim at a state law that says "any person who is unable to go in person to the polls on the day of election because of physical disability or physical illness" can vote via mail-in, absentee ballot. The law doesn't extend to those with mental disabilities or illnesses who can't reach the polls because they are confined, VOPA says.
It alleges the law violates the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. The suit seeks a revision to state law.
Ramasastry on the ADA and Website Access
FWIW, I think Judge Patel's basic holding -- that the ADA's public accommodations title applies, at the least, to the websites operated by retailers that run places of public accommodation -- is clearly correct as a matter of statutory interpretation, and it seems unlikely to me that it will be overturned on appeal.
ust last month, U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel -- of the San Francisco-based U.S. District Court for the North District of California - ruled that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to some commercial websites. The holding was the first of its kind.
Unless Judge Patel's ruling is reversed on appeal, its upshot will likely be that many retail websites - in particular, those intrinsically linked to companies' brick-and-mortar operations - will have to start complying with the ADA.
However, because Judge Patel's decision did not reach web-only retailers, it may be necessary for Congress to revisit the ADA if it wishes to ensure that all web retailers make their sites accessible.
Given that there are some very significant web-only sellers - eBay and Amazon.com come immediately to mind - Congress should seriously consider this option. (Some groups have lobbied Congress to modify the ADA to explicitly cover the Internet, but the law has yet to be changed.)
Disabled Transport Cost Woe
The costs of providing door-to-door transportation for the disabled is soaring - and there's no quick fix, according to a report released yesterday.
The Access-A-Ride program, which offers van service to those unable to use mass transit, cost the Transit Authority $189.8 million last year, up from $85.2 million in 2000, according to the report by the city's Independent Budget Office.
Transit officials anticipate program expenses to rise by an additional $50 million this year, according to the report.
The Independent Budget Office doesn't blame bureaucratic bungling for the burgeoning budget. In fact, it says TA expenditures are being driven up by the growing number of passengers requesting trips - which more than doubled: 4.7 million in 2005, compared to 2000.
The TA released a statement noting that the IBO report found that per-passenger expenses remained relatively stable over the years.
The higher demand stems in part from an easing of the rules, the report states. Passengers now need to request a trip only a day in advance. Reservations in some cases had to be made up to four days prior to the travel date in some cases.
"Driven by the increase in demand, Access-A-Ride has become one of the fastest-growing parts of NYC Transit's Operating Budget," the report states.
The report says that enabling more of the disabled to use the TA's system of subways and buses would be one way of reducing its paratransit budget. But making a subway station fully accessible by installing elevators and making other upgrades is a big-bucks endeavor, averaging $13million per station.
The Americans With Disabilities Act mandates public buses and key rail stations be accessible. In a lawsuit settlement, the TA agreed to make 100 key subway stations accessible by 2020. A total of 68 stations meet the Americans With Disabilities Act requirements, including 53 key stations.
DOJ Reports on its Own Disability Rights Enforcement
The Bush administration said Thursday it has forced government agencies and businesses into complying with federal disability laws in more than 2,000 cases over the past five years, mostly without imposing penalties.
The vast majority of the complaints – an estimated 1,800 – were resolved amicably through mediation, the Justice Department said. Additionally, the department's civil rights division settled 151 cases against state and local governments to bring them into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.