The ADA law that the Court used is a sleeper, and most businesses are unaware of it, including ADA attorneys. It is so vague that your average business owner and/or operator would not have known of about it. Pursuant to 42. U.S.C. sec. 36.302 (a), the ADA provides that a business (public accommodation) “shall” make reasonable modifications in policies and procedures, when they are necessary to afford equal access and enjoyment to the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations to the disabled unless the business can demonstrate that making the modification would “fundamentally alter” the nature of its goods, services and operations.
The Court used the “policy and procedure” requirement to rule that the dealership was liable for the plaintiff's emotional damages, ordered the entity to have hand controls and awarded the plaintiff her attorneys’ fees and costs.
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More Details on the Case:
The Plaintiff was paralyzed from the waist down, sought to test-drive one of the used cars offered for sale by an automobile dealership. He asked the employees “for the opportunity to test drive a vehicle and informed them that he could not use his legs and, therefore, needed to have vehicle hand controls temporarily installed on the vehicle so that he could avail himself of this opportunity.” The employees told Plaintiff that Defendant “does not install vehicle hand controls on any vehicles for sale and that they would not do so for him as an accommodation.
The Plaintiff argued that, “[t]here are numerous companies that sell (and will install) vehicle hand controls that are universal in design, meaning that they can be used on any vehicle, and their installation does not render any safety features inoperable or cause any permanent modification or damage to the vehicle itself.” “Such hand controls are inexpensive, are widely used within the car rental agency world for temporary installation and removal, and could be easily installed by [Defendant] without much difficulty or expense.” And the evidence of such was submitted to the Court.
The Ninth Circuit Court ruled that offering inexpensive hand controls to enable the disabled (in wheelchairs) to test drive a case was a policy/procedure that the dealership should have modified and allowed.
Businesses, and auto dealerships, must do and think as the Court ruled: “Public accommodations must start by considering how their facilities are used by non-disabled guests and then take reasonable steps to provide disabled guests with a like experience.
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