Handicap this, November-December 2019

November 17, 2019

From the November-December 2019 issue of News & Letters

by Tim Finnigan

In a victory for disability rights, the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to review a lower court ruling allowing a blind plaintiff to sue Domino’s Pizza under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) over the company’s inaccessible website. The ruling held that the ADA applies to business websites as well as physical premises. This is an issue that goes far beyond just ordering pizza. As Chris Danielsen of the National Federation of the Blind stated, “Had Domino’s succeeded in getting a ruling that the ADA doesn’t cover the internet, the ability of blind people to participate in 21st-Century society would have been in jeopardy.”

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Disability rights advocate Marca Bristo passed away Sept. 8, at age 66, following a long battle with cancer. Paralyzed from the chest down after a diving accident at age 23, Bristo played a significant role in helping to pass the ADA in 1990. She was also a founder and CEO of Access Living in Chicago, an organization that works to promote independent living. Bristo was one of that generation of activists, influenced by the Black and women’s liberation movements, who “reframed the disability experience from a health issue into a civil rights issue,” as she said.

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A chain of Orange County, California, residential care homes for people with disabilities has been assessed over $1 million in back wages and penalties. The chain paid its workers, mostly immigrants from the Philippines, as little as $4 an hour for working up to 87 hours per week. This isn’t rare in California. Since 2016, U.S. labor officials assessed over $3 million in back wages owed to over 1,500 healthcare workers there. Since 2014, state officials have also issued citations for over $12.8 million in back wages and penalties.

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Jesse Dufton and climbing partner Molly
Thompson at the summit of Bamford

This June, British rock climber Jesse Dufton, who was born with rod-cone dystrophy, became the first blind climber to lead the ascent of the Old Man of Hoy, an intimidatingly sheer 450-foot sandstone rock formation in the Orkney Islands of northern Scotland. His feat is documented in a new film, “Climbing Blind,” which is being shown in the UK.


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