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Disability Advocates: Law Would Encourage Arizona Businesses To Ignore ADA

Earlier this week, Arizona Sen. John Kavanagh and Republican members of the Senate Government Committee voted to pass Senate Bill 1284, legislation that would give small businesses 60 days to fix violations stemming from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

But disability advocates say the law is discriminatory.

For Phil Pangrazio, the president and CEO of Ability 360, a disability advocacy group, SB 1284 is not only illegal under federal law, he says it would encourage Arizona businesses to ignore the ADA.

"Why would they want to comply with the ADA when they know, hey I’ll take my chances and wait until a complaint is waged against me and then I got 60 days to fix it. That’s really why it’s ridiculous and, quite frankly, offensive," said Pangrazio.

As it stands today, a person with a disability can sue a business. There is no need to first notify the business about a complaint. If SB 1284 passes, that would change. But there’s also a practical issue.

ADA sets forth very specific guidelines about accommodation, and for a person with a disability, for example: "It can mean they cannot use the toilet at all," said Sarah Kader, an attorney with the Arizona Center for Disability Law. "It can mean they cannot access the toilet paper in order to clean themselves after they use the toilet."

Kader said this bill would affect all places of public accommodation.

"That could be a restaurant or hotel, but it could also be a public park, a food bank, a homeless shelter and some of the more concerning places like medical facilities and hospitals," she said.

In an interview with the Arizona Republic, Sen. Kavanagh said he sponsored the bill to prevent attorneys and plaintiffs from using ADA violations to quote “shake down business owners.”

Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.