ADA-mandated access for the MCS-disabled

ADA is Americans with Disabilities Act. It was established in 1990 as a hard-won continuation and expansion of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, section 504, which banned discrimination on the basis of disability by recipients of federal funds. The people who fought so hard for these acts - and continue to do so - are disabled citizens who are generally the least able to expend the physical and financial resources to counteract the prejudices and lack of understanding from their fellow citizens and their elected and appointed officials. As an example, the Reagan-Bush White House sought to “de-regulate” section 504 as part of their overall de-regulation policies. But justice prevailed...

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was established. It defines a disability as: a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one of more major life activities; a record or past history of such an impairment; or being regarded as having a disability. It does not name any specific illness or impairment. The 2009 expansion of the ADA - the ADAAA  (ADA Amendments Act) - broadens the ADA definition of disability and directs the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) to amend its ADA regulations to reflect the changes made by the ADAAA.

The ADA has sections - called Titles - which mandate access in various public, private, and government entities and to federal programs. Titles I (workplace), II (state and local government venues), and III (public places) were established in 1992 and Title IV (loans, grants, federal work-study) was established in 1993. Other Title sections exist - such as Title vi of the EPA, which disallows grant and subsidy monies to government entities who violate federal law such as ADA access law. You have the right to file a formal complaint with the EPA or the DOJ if you experience access discrimination. The protections under these federal mandates are compulsory. They were conceived to provide equal opportunities, participation, and quality of life for disabled citizens of this country.

MCS and ADA Access

MCS is a so-called “invisible illness”. Invisible is not synonymous with invalid, imaginary, unfounded, or unsubstantiated. Remember, the benchmark for disease recognition is “reliable and reproducible tests”. We have that with MCS. Do not allow anyone - doctor, lawyer, judge, or politician - to attempt to convince you otherwise. As the MCS-disabled are rarely able to engage in social events or mainstream employment, the most significant applications of ADA access law for us involve insurance, workers compensation, disability, and potential court hearings. Can you believe that courts, judges, and city traffic bureaus regularly refuse to abide by ADA access law? Even when the facts are brought to ever-higher supervisory levels, the MCS-disabled are rarely accommodated without the eventual involvement of state disability rights agencies and other advocacy outlets. Out of ignorance and laziness, entities who are bound by ADA law and even trained in it will often require extensive and intrusive physician statements from the MCS-disabled which they would not dare require from people with other disabilities. Singling out the MCS-disabled for special treatment is illegal. It is also illegal for any entity required to abide by ADA access law to choose to accommodate only disabilities that are convenient for them. I have often advised ADA violators that MCS is not convenient for me, either. Claiming ignorance of a disability or its ramifications does not afford permission to violate ADA access law.

List of common physical access barriers for MCS

Every person, situation, and day! is different. But if you are required to provide a list of items and substances which prelude access, here is a jumping-off point:

No renovation in the building in the past ca. two years (paint, glues, adhesives, plasticizers, formaldehyde, pressure-treated wood, petrochemical lubricants, vinyl flooring or window casings, particleboard, synthetic carpeting) - and no recent repairs using these substances
No rubberized flooring materials
No recent exterior/interior painting or staining
No pesticide use in or around building (pesticides are added to many products such as carpeting)
No WiFi usage
No fluorescent lighting
No new parking lot asphalt
No contact with staff, patients, or customers who use scented products i.e., scented detergents, soaps, hair products, make-up, dry cleaning chemicals, hand lotions/sanitizers
No scented candles
No synthetic chemical cleaners being used in the building (assuming the building has recirculated air)
No scent dispersers, air freshening products, perfumed sanitizers, or chemical cleaners in offices or restrooms
No Scotchgard-type upholstery application - pre- or post-manufacture
No mold from water leaks/damage - and no cover-up chemical from mold/mildew mitigation
No contact with Sharpie-type markers or other petrochemical/hydrocarbon office supplies such as carbonless copy paper

It is incumbent upon those in charge of the physical plant to be familiar with the materials they use and how and when they use them - and to provide honest and accurate information when asked. They receive a paycheck for that. It is never the disabled person’s responsibility to educate a business, employer, or government entity as a condition of receiving ADA-mandated access.

You know your own specific triggers to add to the list. It is unlawful and unconscionable to force life-threatening chemical exposure on a disabled person who has spent years or decades in daily work to re-establish his health. In NYS, knowingly exposing a person to harmful substances can be a felony offense. Check the laws in your state. Access law is in place for YOU!

 

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