Friday, December 2, 2022     Volume: 23, Issue: 40

Santa Maria Sun / Commentary

The following article was posted on November 23rd, 2022, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 23, Issue 39 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 23, Issue 39

We still have a long way to go to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act


I remember how things were when the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990. 

People with physical disabilities could not get on buses because they couldn’t climb the stairs or the bus couldn’t carry a wheelchair. It was hard to cross city streets because there were no curb cuts. Those with hearing impairments received no help with phone calls, and there were no flashing lights in buildings to indicate whether there was a fire. Employers were not required to accommodate the needs of those with challenges of any kind, and job discrimination against such people was rampant. Stores, hotels, restaurants and movie theaters, for example, had spaces that were not accessible. The automatic doors that we see everywhere today did not exist. 

Obviously, we have come a long way, right? Maybe not. 

The ADA is usually thought of in terms of physical disabilities but mental impairments are neglected. The ADA defines a covered disability as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a history of having such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment.”

People who have cognitive deficits are now required to perform tasks online that may be difficult or impossible and may be denied access to businesses and even health care. Really? Yes, really. For example, my local CVS now has only self-checkout with no employees who can ring up a sale. Most of us can handle that, but some cannot. Folks with early Alzheimer’s disease or with severe Down syndrome are capable of going to CVS and picking up shampoo, but they may not be able to use the self-checkout. 

Another example: People with mental disabilities may encounter a requirement that all medical information needed prior to a first appointment with a doctor must be submitted through an online portal with multiple links to multiple forms, and this task is beyond their abilities.

I recently experienced this problem myself. A local doctor’s office asked me to complete a number of forms online through a patient portal. I managed to get some done correctly but could not access others. I am not as competent online as I was even five years ago, so I asked if I could come in before my first appointment to fill out the required forms. The answer was no. I then asked to have the forms faxed to me and was again told no. 

I could not see the doctor unless I could manage to do everything online. I had asked for “reasonable accommodation” and was shocked to be refused, especially by a health professional! Denied treatment by this doctor, I was forced to look elsewhere for help, somewhere that offered me the chance to fill out the forms by hand.

Fortunately, there is now legal precedent regarding cyberspace, according to a Wikipedia article: “Two major hotel room marketers ( and with their business presence on the internet were sued because its customers with disabilities could not reserve hotel rooms through their websites without substantial extra efforts that persons without disabilities were not required to perform. These represent a major potential expansion of the ADA in that this, and other similar suits (known as ‘bricks vs. clicks’), seeks to expand the ADA’s authority to cyberspace.”

I could bring a lawsuit because I was denied access to a care provider, but I am not really seeking the publicity or a financial award. I simply want to make people in our community—be they store owners, medical professionals, hotels, etc.—aware that the ADA is not limited to physical disabilities. If you truly see yourself as being of service to our community, you must take a look at how you conduct your business and ensure that it doesn’t exclude or make access difficult to anyone with a disability who wants to patronize your establishment or seek treatment for their health needs.

Judith Amber writes from Arroyo Grande. Send a response for publication to

Weekly Poll
What do you think about a farmworker resource center in Santa Barbara County?

It's a great way to create a network of collaboration and reach people in need.
It's been needed in the county for a long time and should have been made earlier.
We don't have the funding now, but we should come up with ideas in the meantime.
We don't need it. There are plenty of resources readily available.

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