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Bono's Pit Bar B Q, Wally's Gyros & Subs, Captain D's, Sheik The Restaurant, and Mr. Dragon Chinese Restaurant are just a few of the 40 Jacksonville, Florida-area establishments named in discrimination lawsuits by double-amputee Wanda Moore and her chiropractor/attorney Robert "The Law Doc" Gibson.
The lawsuits claim the businesses are not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, alleging violations from non-compliant handicap parking spots and improper ramps to missing handrails in bathrooms and countertops that are too high. While some of the small business owners see the litigation as little more than a shakedown, investigations did find legitimate ADA violations at some locations.
Cash or Compliance?
"Scam, fraud, however you want to word it," Beach Road Chicken co-owner Ken Ferger told Action News Jax. "It appears that they've gone to smaller operations that, oh, they'll more likely settle." Action News looked closer at Beach Road and found a few non-ADA-compliant things at the restaurant, including a paper towel dispenser in the women's handicap stall that was six inches higher than the ADA requires. Ferger is also making changes to his parking lot and ramp in response to Moore's lawsuit.
Title III of the ADA applies to businesses and nonprofit service providers that are "public accommodations," like restaurants, retail stores, hotels, and movie theaters. Public accommodations are prohibited from excluding or segregating disabled patrons, or treating them unequally. They must also comply with specific architectural and design specifications and make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures to ensure equal access. And there is no "grandfather clause" for old or small businesses.
"I am so glad that the news is finally helping to shed light on the issue of discrimination against the disabled community," Moore's attorney Gibson said in a statement. "Our law office is dedicated to fully fighting the injustice of discrimination of this protected class and encourage those that experience accessibility problems to contact our office."
It appears as though Jacksonville businesses that want to avoid Moore's wrath can update their facilities to comply with ADA requirements, or expect to be served.