• When we wanted to use the upper floor of a two-story commercial building as office space, instead of as a warehouse area (which was its originally designated function), we were faced with a bill of almost exactly $100,000 for putting in an elevator. I don’t recall if this was a federal issue or a state law (we were in Florida), but I certainly recall trying every conceivable way to get around it, since of course we had no disabled employees, and indeed, the nature of our business, which entailed rapid response in emergencies and carrying heavy weights, meant that we would *never* have disabled employees. We offered to compromise by installing a motorized chair attached to the steel handrail of a staircase, but this was rejected, because any disabled person would have to leave his wheelchair at the bottom of the stairs. Couldn’t one of us carry it up to the top for him? Nooo, because then he would be dependent on us for assistance.

    This was all the more maddening in that the business in the unit next to ours, with identical floor plan, was already using its upper floor as office space. But they had been doing it for so long, they were grandfathered in.

    I have no doubt there are millions of similar stories. In the end, we just gave up. It wasn’t worth $100,000.

    The glee with which Ron Paul has been pilloried by the usual gang of media whores implies something very strange and ugly. It’s like watching a gang of brown-furred monkeys ripping at an intruder who has white fur. It’s very primal, and somehow I can’t help thinking it is associated with fear, at some level.

  • I’m not a lawyer, just an avid reader of this website. Remind me again , what in the constitution allows the federal government to dictate local building codes?

  • The ADA may have been a well-intentioned law; however in practice, as dictated by the courts and the federal bureaucracy, it has become a tool for abusing businesses. As we have seen time and time again such as with CPSIA, there is no such thing as common sense when it comes to the interpretation of a law. Rules are written that force businesses to make expensive modifications when a more reasonable accommodation could be made. Businesses are treated as if they were deliberately discriminating against the disabled and have to be punished for disobeying the law. The net result is that businesses are reluctant to hire the disabled because they fear that they will be forced to make expensive accommodations that they can’t afford. Thus, a law that was meant to help the disabled get jobs has the opposite effect.

  • You know, i haven’t looked into the specific ADA element of the controversy, but i find it amazing everyone is freaking out that he is oppossed to the civil rights act on what appear to be principled federalism grounds. i suspect his views on the ADA are similar.

    Mind you, i profoundly disagree with him on this point, but i still consider the reaction outsized. he is proposing to be one senator. he won’t be able to repeal these laws, but he will be a vote against out of control spending and as a result, if i lived in KY i would probably vote for him. And i say that thinking his father is an idiot.

  • By the way let me explain the real reason—not the supreme court’s official reason—why this power is in fact justified.

    Let’s go back to 1850 and the fugitive slave act. Now read the constitution and ask yourself, where is Congress (circa 1850) granted the right to send federal agents to catch slaves. The answer is nowhere. The fugitive slave clause says no state can free a fugitive slaves, but it doesn’t actively empower the federal government.

    But, the supreme court upheld it anyway. Their logic was that the fugitive slave clause gave slave holders a right that the federal government could then actively enforce. And I think its crap. But then something curious happened: the framers of the 14th Amendment adopted it. They drafted the 14th Amendment expecting it to be interpreted that way. (By comparison the Citizenship clause is a direct rebuke of Dredd Scott.)

    Mind you, of course the fugitive slave clause and the fugitive slave act were moribund by then. But those advocating freedom essentially decided to use this “constitutional weapon” against those who created it. So, the argument goes, the 14th amendment creates rights against discrimination that the federal government has an active right to enforce.

    The building codes issue flows directly from that. For instance, in the civil rights act of 1964, they said you can’t discriminate based on religion. But they realized very quickly that it would be easy to discriminate based on religion without actually officially doing so. For instance, you don’t need a sign that says “no jews allowed.” You just need to require everyone to work on Saturdays, and at least the orthodox won’t be able to do it. Ditto, you don’t need a sign that says “no people in wheelchairs allowed”—you just need to put up stairs and no wheelchair ramp.

    Of course that isn’t the supreme court’s official reasoning and who can say what they really think, but it is the cleanest and most logical explanation.


    Which is not to justify the abuses, but you are speaking to a man who faced such severe discrimination that he dropped out of high school. So you can’t tell me that there wasn’t a genuine problem that needed to be addressed.

  • On reason why some people think so badly about the ADA and the resultant suits, is that there appears to be a real feeling of “Dog in the Manger” going on. Recently a local (really good) hamburger joint closed shop because they couldn’t afford paying $50,000 to install a wheelchair ramp in response to a suit. So as a result no-0ne is accommodated anymore. And that piece of land (a weird shaped hilly lot next to a freeway ramp) will probably never usable for a business again because of this issue. Part of the problem is “reasonable accommodation” is so subjective and objective considerations like “return on investment” are ignored. It s it really “reasonable” to require a business to install an expensive accommodation for a small minority that will never be recouped from the small increase in patronage?

  • Aaron, it boils down to which side do you want to discriminate against. The customer or the business.

    Walter Williams is filling in for Rush today. He loves to explain how he committed discrimination by not considering white women when he picked his wife.

  • A further thought, even if you reject the ROI argument due to the “social good” created then that makes this an “unfunded mandate” and the business should get a 100% tax credit for the cost. Note the tax payers will end up paying for it in any case, either in taxes to cover the credit or in increased prices changed by the business. Although that doesn’t help the initial cash flow hit to the business.

  • all i have seen is the uneconomic impact of ruining a man’s life because of irrational prejudice regarding his disability. But for the ADA i would be a drain on society, rather than a contributor to it.

    But i have been 10 rounds with you guys on this before.

  • Ditto, you don’t need a sign that says “no people in wheelchairs allowed”—you just need to put up stairs and no wheelchair ramp.

    Would you apply the same logic to places that sell hamburgers and thereby “discriminate” against vegetarians or vegans? How about a store that decides to sell Pepsi but not Coke? Would they be discriminating against people who want to buy Coke?

    At some point we have to step back and say that businesses have a basic right to make decisions based on the best interest of their business.

    What do you say to a business that is forced to change a building at the costs of tens of thousands of dollars (if not more) and gets a return on investment of no where near that amount?

    There is balance that needs to be struck and currently is not. If a restaurant cannot accommodate a person in a wheel chair without taking up so much space that they cannot serve or seat others, the business should be able to make that call.

    Instead, we have a “cookie cutter” approach that says it is always on the business to accommodate and never on the person claiming a disability.

    There is no balance to this at all. The ADA tramples on the rights of many while inventing “rights” that do not exist.

  • Don’t forget, how about a building built long before the ADA was passed? We had a local restaurant closed due to a lawsuit over the bathrooms built long before ADA. Even disabled came to their defense, but that was not enough. Now, the person really trying to cash in on the ADA (as seen by their prior actions) nor anybody else , including their previous disabled clients, can use it.

  • Jack, no one ever suggested that the Constitution would be the only source for law.

    I’m sure the narrative has been in politics since before recorded history.

    The ADA sometimes leads to illogical conclusions. I’ve built commercial space, I’ve spent start up capital to have to comply with inane conclusions as to what is reasonable. That said, no complex law that has to be frequently interpreted is going to come out logically every time. In the end, I’d rather err on the side of people with disabilities. Reasonable people can differ on this but one thing is for sure: if you strongly disagree with me, I bet you don’t have a disability.

  • All well and good, but when the draconian mandate results in the business closing, then no one is accommodated not including the disabled and then you’ve “thrown the bay out with the bathwater”. The current ADA law allows for a disabled person to go bounty hunting with the goal of profiting from the monetary recovery of their suit even though they never intend to make use of the accommodation sued for in the first place.

  • Gitar

    Simple answer to all of your questions. Look up the word “reasonable” in the phrase “reasonable accommodations.” Undue burden is also a useful term.

  • Aaron,

    Of course, the problem is that “reasonable” has no concrete definition. What is “reasonable” to you may not be “reasonable” to me. I am sure there are lots of examples your significant other can cite where they believe your are being unreasonable while you believe you are being reasonable. (And vice versa.)

    Businesses and people cannot operate under some nebulous concept of “reasonable.”

    They shouldn’t have to.

  • A group of folks on motorized wheelchairs lobbied for ADA. Who could be against people in wheelchairs. There was a chicken @ egg argument at the time. General accommodation was required for any real help to the disadvantaged group. There was a call for elevators at all Subway stops to make the system available, but Mayor Koch said no to that.

    I did see a person in a wheelchair in a restaurant last year, but such an occurrence is rare. Wheelchair ramps, accessible bathrooms are available in large numbers and at great costs. These accommodations just aren’t used enough to make sense.

  • People in wheelchairs really go to restaurants? That’s not the argument, right?

  • Oops. I meant “rarely” in the comment above, not really.

  • Oops, just noticed an extra ‘not” in my comment it should read:

    “then no one is accommodated including the disabled”