The city’s first Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) outreach clinic was recently held at PS 257 headed by the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) and co-sponsored with the Graham Avenue Business Improvement District and the support of Councilman Anthony Reynoso’s office. The event’s purpose was to inform and encourage businesses in the district to comply with existing, but often ignored, ADA regulations.
In 2016, the Graham Avenue BID won a Neighborhood Challenge grant through Small Business Services for its proposal to fix storefronts that did not legally accommodate the physically challenged. During that time, the BID worked closely with MOPD and found that many small businesses were not aware of their responsibility to comply with the 25-year-old laws.
Many businesses wrongly thought that by having an inclined ramp going into their storefronts they met the ADA regulations. A number of businesses were threatened by federal lawsuits which resulted in the stores accepting expensive settlements rather than fighting the costly suits. The result was devastating for many stores and property owners who paid out settlements starting at $20,000, leaving no finances to correct the ADA problems. This left the stores open to repeated lawsuit by parties using the ADA laws in an unethical way and short-changing the physically handicapped community from proper access.
While the Graham Avenue BID successfully helped several stores with the grant money it had received, more work was needed both in the Graham Avenue BID district and city-wide. The first meeting encouraged businesses to bring photos of their storefronts allowing one on one discussions on specific problems and solutions. MOPD also provided valuable information on applying for waivers where the legal ADA requirements were either not physically or financially possible.
MOPD is currently planning other such meetings to help prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation and all public and private places open to the public.