Lawsuits should be last resort in march to disability access

From Colorado Politics op-ed by CCJL executive director Mark Hillman:

State Rep. David Ortiz (D-Littleton) makes a compelling advocate for the rights and struggles of disabled Coloradans.

“I lived 30 years as an able-bodied leg-walker, a five-minute-mile running, hard-charging combat aviator – until a crash in Afghanistan left me paralyzed from the waist down,” he told the House Judiciary Committee.

His House Bill 1032 would change Colorado law to specifically allow lawsuits regarding disability access violations to seek “emotional distress” damages of up to $642,180 and to require defendants to pay attorney fees and costs for prevailing plaintiffs.

That’s where Coloradans who have defended against disability lawsuits cry foul.  HB 1032 doesn’t increase damages only in cases in which violations are “blatant” or “obvious.”  It creates a six-figure incentive to litigate accessibility problems rather than resolve them.  Even the bill’s supporters acknowledge that lawsuits typically take two years to resolve.

“In my experience, the best laws have both a carrot and a stick,” observed Rep. Marc Snyder (D-Manitou Springs).  “I see a lot of sticks here, but I don’t see any carrots.”

Except for a few bad actors, the most efficient means of resolving accessibility problems might be personal contact with the business.  Litigation should be a last resort.