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ability of a business to provide the accommodations or accessibility necessary.
I also want to point out that there are some forms of exemptions in the public accommodation section that already exist. There is an exemption for elevators, so that a building that is three stories or less or has less than 3,000 square feet per floor, with the exception of particular categories of businesses, doesn't have to install an elevator. There is an undue burden exemption for business in providing auxiliary agent services.
don't think that it's reasonable just based on size alone to exempt a business from the provisions of the ADA, because we would lose the very grist of this bill, of this part of the bill, which is access, that's so critical.
Mr. EDWARDS. Thank you. Now, Ms. Cooper, what do owners of buildings have to do to provide you with service? What do you envision a building, an existing building-what changes should be made in an existing building to provide you with services?
Ms. COOPER. The existing building standard is that of being-the accommodations really are those that are going to be readily achievable. There is no
Mr. EDWARDS. What do you think “readily achievable” means?
Ms. COOPER. Well, “readily achievable" is a lower standard than “undue burden," which is in the employment section. It is my understanding that that standard was incorporated specifically in order to address the concerns of business. It is without significant, I think, I do not remember the language exactly-significant expense or-I forget the other term. But it is a much lower standard than "undue burden.
It seems to me that although it is not regulatorily defined because it has never been used in the 504 context, it is a significant compromise to the business community already. “Readily achievable" would be something that a business owner could do without a lot of trouble or cost. And the clipboard example that was given by the representative from the hotel-motel industry is the perfect example.
There is no requirement that there be, in fact, sign interpreters available or menus in braille. You can just have them, or, you know, all the price tags be braille, or that all of the high shelves be brought down. I mean it is very accommodating under the “readily achievable" standard to have somebody go and reach something for you if you cannot reach it because it is too high, or to have the waiter read the menu, or to have somebody working in the stores read the price tags for you. There are various ways to accommodate a disability that do not require lots of technology, lots of significant expense or cost.
I think it is really a misunderstanding of the availability of low cost options that causes a lot of people concern. I think the point that the gentleman who was sitting here earlier made that when they really started looking at the various options, that, you know, things do not have to be as expensive or as troublesome as originally believed
Has not that been the case in 504 compliance? That in fact costs of accommodations in 504 cases have been minimal. I do not perceive any reasoned basis for assuming that in existing facilities under a "readily achievable" standard, which is, in fact, lower than any of the other standards in the regulations, that this is going to be a significant expense or problem for small or large businesses.
Mr. EDWARDS. Thank you. Well, what experience do you have, we will say-you are from San Francisco—at the San Francisco airport at the snackbars? Are they accessible to you?
Ms. COOPER. In some respects they are. I mean there are State laws, as well as Federal laws, in California. I can use facilities where people are willing and able and understanding and help me. I can say that a lot of the counters are too high for me. But that does not really preclude me from using the services operated by the business, because I mean it is just a matter of courtesy for somebody to help you. You know, all you have to do is flag them down and get their attention, and they can come out from around behind the counter and do whatever you need to help. They can get things and they can come around and hand it to you.
They have not had to rebuild counters. They have not had to, you know, go through and make sure that everything was at a height that I could reach and that I could personally handle. I have not had really those kinds of problems in the San Francisco areain the airport or in public accommodations there.
I have had problems with architectural barriers that have been there a long time. But I do not recall any major problems in, you know, those kinds of situations.
Mr. EDWARDS. Well, one of the witnesses brought up the subject of a retail store where all of the shelves would have to be, or the aisles, would have to be changed. Have you had that experience where your wheelchair would not get down an aisle?
Ms. COOPER. I have, but I also have had the experience of being able to ask somebody to go get what it was that I could not reach. That was a perfectly acceptable means for me to shop in a retail store that had narrow aisles. In an existing facility, the "readily achievable” standard does not require anybody to rebuild all of the shelves and to eliminate a lot of floor space in any retail business. That just simply is not the only alternative available under this bill, and I think it is a real misapprehension of what the various standards are that causes somebody to come to that conclusion
Mr. EDWARDS. Well, I think I would like to have you hanging around when some of these questions come out.
The last question that I have before I ask if counsel has any questions, is about the public safety threat. When you are at a motion picture show, where is your wheelchair? In the aisle?
Ms. COOPER. It depends on the way the place is built. If it is built with those nice big old cushy seats, I like to jump in those instead. But if it is, you know, of the newer facilities and there is a relatively-the slope of the hill going down is not too bad, or there is a big space in the back and they have got the wonderful sound, then I would just as soon park in the back and that way I can come and go as I please.
Mr. EDWARDS. But you are not in the way in the case of a fire?
Ms. COOPER. Well, I cannot imagine somebody thinking that I am going to be any more in the way than the 20 people in front of them. My wheelchair moves, as do other bodies, and I find it difficult to believe that the fact that I use tires instead of toes to get in
and out of a building makes me somehow a threat. I have yet to see a situation where that, in fact, was the case.
Mr. EDWARDS. Well, in my family we have had the same kind of an experience with discrimination in employment. One of my sons has a disability because of spinabifida. He can walk, but with great difficulty, and he has lost a lot of his height, and so forth.
He is a good lawyer, a graduate of Stanford and of Santa Clara Law School. He cannot get a job.
Ms. COOPER. Sounds something like me.
Mr. EDWARDS. So he has to open his own law office, with his wife as his secretary, and get cases from the judges where the public defender is disqualified. It really is very difficult. Of course, being where there is a birth defect, it seems to me that it is easier to have or more likely to have a lack of confidence because the discrimination starts almost immediately upon birth.
Ms. COOPER. I think that is true.
Mr. EDWARDS. And I notice that men and women who get their disability later in life, it doesn't seem to diminish their self-confidence which is already built up.
Ms. COOPER. I think that we also have more of a sense of outrage because we have been on the other side, and we know what life is like for a nondisabled American. We were fortunate to get the same education while we were young and to have the same benefits that everybody else had.
I mean that sense of outrage generally propels people forward.
Ms. Cooper, you have shown us a segment of the rejection letters that you got. Why are you so convinced that you were discriminated against because of your disability?
Ms. COOPER. Well, I have some pretty explicit examples in here. Let me pull one out. This is probably the best. In this particular case, I am not going to name the law firm. I will just say that it is in the Palm Springs area in California. I interviewed with this particular law firm in early February 1985.
The secretary of this law firm did not see fit just to send me the rejection letter in the particular rejection letter envelope. She sent me the entire file that law firm had kept, including the draft rejection letter, the notes taken by the attorney with whom I interviewed, who wrote down the nature of my disability and questions about health and life insurance on the yellow pad.
I also have the interoffice memorandums that were created following that interview, one specifically asking about how my disability would interface with the insurance coverage at that office. Then the response from somebody else in the office showing how it would interface. That response was dated just a few days before the rejection letter I received.
The rejection letter I received does not mention any of that. It simply says that they decided they wanted somebody who was already admitted to the California Bar. But they flew me down there knowing that I was not admitted to the California Bar.
So I think this is a pretty explicit example of that.
Ms. Davis. It is too bad this law was not in effect at the time that could have established your prima facie case.
Ms. COOPER. Yes, although I am not sure I would want to work there anyway.
Ms. Davis. There have been some concerns raised about the cost of this legislation and comparing it to other civil rights laws where the argument has been there hasn't been a big cost involved. There are those who say that cost should never be a factor when considering the civil rights of an individual and others say it should be the deciding factor.
Certainly, we have heard that in certain instances with respect to this legislation. Do you have a sense of how the ADA deals with the cost factor? Do you feel that it's addressing it adequately?
Ms. COOPER. Absolutely. I don't know any other civil rights statute that even has any cost analysis or cost exemptions or cost justifications or cost anything in it. This is the only major civil rights bill I have ever seen that really attempts to address the needs of those who are going to be making the expenditures. I think it's extremely reasonable in that experience under 504 has shown that the cost of compliance generally has been exaggerated by the persons who thought they were going to have to spend the money to comply, that in fact, accommodations don't cost that much.
The provisions in the ADA for undue burden, undue hardship, the readily achievable standard, I think really do adequately address costs and the beauty of all of those standards is that with the exception of readily achievable, they're both flexible but they've also got 15 years of history behind them so you're not dealing with a total vacuum.
Now readily achievable, it's true, it doesn't have the regulatory history but it was inserted in order to appease the concern of the business community. Now if they would like to take it out so that we could put in the more rigorous standard, I'd be willing to do that, one that they already understand but I think that was done in order to address those concerns of cost. Anything that strips away any more of the protections of this bill by addressing cost, I think, puts too much emphasis on the fact that it historically has not been shown to be significant in the implementation of nondiscrimination based on disability law.
Ms. Davis. I have one final question. Many of us like the chairman have family members who are disabled. What would you say to persons in the disability community in terms of how the quality of life for them is going to change as a result of this law. What can they anticipate do you think?
Ms. COOPER. That's hard to predict exactly. I can say that in my case, I can only really speak from the standpoint of persons with mobility impairments. It's difficult for me to fully comprehend how this bill is going to change the lives particularly of persons with hearing impairments. The relay service is really I think going to have a major impact for them.
Persons with mobility impairments have been excluded from living normal lives, not just because they couldn't get out their front door but because of a whole combination of factors. We've had legislation that has in kind of a piecemeal way addressed some of those problems one at a time. This is the first time that somebody has recognized that in order to live a normal life, to hold a
job, to have a family, to survive in the community, you can't just have vocational rehabilitation.
You can't just put somebody through school. You can't just make sure they don't get discriminated against in the hiring decisions. It recognizes that transportation, public accommodations and all those concerns are part of that picture and it addresses them alto gether. So, I'm very hopeful that this is going to have a significant impact on persons 18 to 64 with disabilities who want to work, that after all the implementation period, after the regulatory process is finished, after the Attorney General is active in enforcement that in fact we will see a different landscape of opportunities for persons with disabilities in America and it won't be a sentence to unproductivity and life in an institution just because you happen to have a medical diagnosis that tells you that you're going to end up mobility impaired.
I think that's the biggest freedom. In fact, I kind of look forward to the day that somebody over at the Social Security office has to look at a mobility impaired claimant and say, so? I mean I think that that would really be a major step forward. Right now, our public just assumes that that's a cause for unproductivity and I would like to see that changed.
Ms. Kiko. Mr. Chairman, I just have one question and I will address it to either of you who would care to answer it. The definition of disabled includes a term called, being regarded as having a disability.
With respect to the definition, exclusion of homosexuality under the Senate-passed bill, I'm wondering if you believe that in fact, the exclusion of homosexuality from the definition of disabled is essentially usurped by the definition of disabled where it says, being regarded as, if an individual who is homosexual claims to be discriminated against on the basis of being regarded as having AIDS or HIV positive reactions of some sort, could anybody address and answer?
Mr. ALLEN. You may address more of the legal. I can address some of how crucial that phrase is in this legislation in that what we are looking at as I look in a community-based organization and trying to implement compassion and care and care teams out of churches for individuals that are infected that there is the potentiality of individuals who want to volunteer being discriminated against because of perceived impairment, that, if you touch some one who has AIDS then you're going to have AIDS, that kind of mentality.
I have a specific example of a seminary student who worked out of a Baptist church in Fort Worth and was a volunteer at the AIDS clinic at the public hospital. Her church in which she was employed found out and said, you either work here or you work there but you cannot do both. It was basically because of the AIDS and that's a perceived impairment, basically, and so she decided to quit her job at the church.
That happens. So, if we're going to be able to utilize the volunteerism across this Nation, we have to have protections of people who want to volunteer and this is just one instance of how that takes place. Being a homosexual does not mean you're HIV posi