Pacific Update, Summer 2012

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New ADA Fact Sheets Available

Fact Sheets on 2010 Regulations and Standards

The ADA National Network has produced a series of 9 fact sheets that provide an overview of the updated ADA regulations and accessibility standards for Title II and Title III entities. The fact sheet topics are:

  • Overview of the Revised Titles II & III Regulations
  • Effective Communication
  • Examinations and Courses
  • Transient Lodging
  • Ticketing
  • Wheelchairs & Other Power-driven Mobility Devices
  • Correctional Facilities
  • Overview of the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design

These fact sheets can be found on the ADA National Network's website

Current Court Cases

U.S. Supreme Court Rules on Religious Employees

The ministerial exception is based on the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom, and states that religious organizations are not subject to employment-related non-discrimination laws for employees who are members of the clergy and/or have significant ministerial duties. Because this case was so specific on its facts, however, future lower court decisions could find that employees of religious entities, like religious schools, are not covered by the ministerial exception, and therefore are not barred from bringing ADA or other employment discrimination claims.

More information on this case can be found on the Supreme Court website.

Court Rulings Differ on Title III Coverage of Online Videos

Plaintiff Don Cullen filed a suit against Netflix, Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleging that Netflix had failed to caption its streaming video library. In June 2012, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, in a separate but related case, ruled that Netflix’s video streaming website is a "place of public accommodation" covered under Title III of the ADA, even though the website has no nexus to a physical place.  One month after the Massachusetts decision, the federal court in California reached the opposite conclusion in Cullen v. Netflix, Inc.  Following Ninth Circuit precedent, the California court held that a "place of public accommodation" must be an "actual physical place."  It found that a video streaming website is not an actual physical place and therefore is not covered by the ADA.

For ADA training and technical assistance:

1-800-949-4232 (Voice/TTY), email

DOJ Issues Statement of Interest in Law School Admissions Testing Case

The United States Department of Justice issued a statement of interest in support of a plaintiff with a disability in a California federal court case against the Law School Admission Council (LSAC).  exam paper In the statement, DOJ explained that its Title III regulation on accommodations for examinations and courses is entitled to deference, and that LSAC’s policy of flagging test scores of individuals who receive disability-related testing accommodations violates the ADA.

Law School Admissions Testing Case

Bill Targeting ADA Lawsuits Passes California Legislature

A bill aimed at helping businesses deal with lawsuits brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed the California Legislature. Senate Bill 1186 would ban "demand for money" letters. In these letters, lawyers often order businesses to pay a set amount, plus high legal fees, in exchange for dropping the case. The bill was authored by Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Senator Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga.

A key element of SB 1186, opposed by most within the disability community, is that potential damages for disability access violations would drop from a minimum of $4,000 to much less, $2,000 in some cases, $1,000 in others, if the defendant corrected violations very quickly. This is a major change to the California Unruh Civil Rights Act.

SB 1186 would require attorneys to include their State Bar license numbers in a demand letter, would require that a construction-related claim state the alleged access violation, and would require that defendants be informed of their rights and obligations. The measure also would add $1 to business license fees to help pay for promoting and enhancing compliance with disability law through greater training and monitoring of the group known as California Access Specialists or CASps.

Business owners have complained that complex and inconsistent state and federal building standards and codes make it difficult for them to comply with the complicated and ever-changing regulations, and give people who file multiple lawsuits the chance to take advantage of the laws, Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, R-Rocklin, said, "The unfortunate reality is that there are individuals who are capitalizing on the complex access regulations enacted by the state and federal government for personal benefit," Gaines said in February, "Businesses can be sued for thousands of dollars for simple faults, such as a railing height being off by a centimeters or parking lot striping not being the right shade of a particular color. Many times, businesses want to correct the error to allow for more access to their place of business. These frivolous lawsuits are making it harder for the business to come into compliance, especially in this difficult economic environment."

People with disabilities are disturbed by the sweeping changes to California Unruh Act law that SB 1186 will make. Many believe that the problem of multiple lawsuits and unreasonable damages requests could have been remedied without such changes."

Bill Targeting ADA Lawsuits Passes California Senate

American Council of the Blind Lauds Accessible Prescription Drug Labeling Law

Blind and visually impaired citizens will gain independent and private access to the information contained on their prescription drug labels as the United States Congress passed S.3187, the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act, and the President signed it into law.

"We are grateful that the House of Representatives and Senate, through the staunch leadership of Representative Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Senators Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), have passed legislation that will allow for a greater level of privacy and independence for blind and visually impaired Americans of all ages who take prescription medications," said Mitch Pomerantz, president of the American Council of the Blind.

More than 21.5 million Americans experience vision loss that renders them unable to read prescription drug labels or other medication information independently. With the incidence of vision loss expected to increase with the rapidly aging American population, the consequences of being unable to read prescription information pose a significant public health challenge. People who are blind or visually impaired can mistakenly consume the wrong medication, the incorrect dose, or an expired drug because they are unable to read the label or to distinguish between medicine containers.

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