Disability Discrimination Complaint Handling is “a Joke”

Following my article on Friday, about a court deciding that Disney’s access procedure at its theme parks does not contravene the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a reader contacted me.

You may recall that having multiple sclerosis and being a wheelchair user, I take access issues very seriously.

Patricia Browne is critical of the administration of the ADA, and she accuses it of letting her down.

Writing from her heart, Patricia said: “The ADA has been for me nothing more than a joke.

“I’ve been harassed at airports trying to enter a plane. I was harassed at work and reported it in writing to the ADA.

“The person who received my case was less than helpful. From the way (that) she spoke to me I could tell she had already made up her mind that there wasn’t a case, this was before she ‘investigated’. I was right, she called me and said she was going to close out the case on her decision there wasn’t any discrimination against me.

“I do not know who was interviewed, what questions were asked. I was told no information except my claim was unfounded of discrimination. So maybe this agency has helped others but not me,” she concluded.

Now, I have no idea about the details of Patricia’s complaint but her chilling words “I could tell she had already made up her mind” has unfortunate parallels in the UK. Across the Atlantic, recipients of two separate government disability benefits are having their eligibility reviewed and some are accusing the assessors of not doing so fairly, of lying and having already made up their minds.

ADABack in the States, ADA enforcement activities are carried out by the US federal government’s Department of Justice, headed by the Attorney General, a position currently held by Jeff Sessions.

It is this department that is charged with administering the terms of the ADA including the handling of complaints of discrimination against people with disabilities, lawsuits, consent decrees, settlement agreements, and alternate dispute resolution – otherwise known as mediation.

In both these cases, on different sides of the ‘pond’, one truth shines through – that no one in any position of authority should ever pre-judge an issue or allow themselves to give the impression that they have already made up their minds.

As top British judge Lord Justice Hewart said in a legal ruling, in 1924, it “is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.”

I would venture to suggest that a truly pre-judged issue is not a being handled justly and, even if it is only that impression that is being given falsely, justice is not being seen to be done.

Seventeen years into the 21st century, is it really too much to ask, to expect, that assessors and investigators do their jobs honestly and with transparency? Of course, it isn’t. Wherever we are, we have every right to receive fair treatment that is seen to be open and honest.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability with other companies and products. More.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.



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