Disability Rights

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20th Anniversary Actions

Despite the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1991, countless local businesses and city and state governments continue to deny equal access for people with disabilities. The Texas Civil Rights Project’s annual disability campaign works with people in the disability community to enforce the ADA’s requirements.

“Every time I go by there, I feel a slap in the face of people with disabilities has been avenged — that there is hope against money, power & privilege & insider deals….” (from client in “Day in the Life” Americans with Disabilities Act campaign)

TCRP has worked with communities throughout Texas to bring legal assistance for people with disabilities. Together we have made numerous facilities and programs accessible, including:

  • city streets/sidewalks
  • courthouses
  • restaurants
  • hotels
  • retail stores
  • transportation providers
  • border facilities
  • city buildings
  • schools
  • prisons and jails

Notable Cases:

TCRP represented a young girl who has a life threatening disability requiring her to use a wheelchair and a feeding tube. When Santa Claus came to visit the Kell House in Wichita Falls, the young girl was not able to visit with him because there was no ramp providing wheelchair access. TCRP worked with this brave young girl to make the Wichita County Heritage Society install a ramp for her and other people with disabilities.

Elderly residents of a small island near Galveston were denied an accommodation to cross the bridge from the island to the mainland. The elderly residents suffered severe medical problems making it impossible to sustain long periods of time in a car. The Texas Department of Transportation revoked bridge passes that allowed these severely disabled residents to bypass two-hour waits to cross the bridge in order to make medical appointments. TCRP worked with these residents to reinstate their bridge passes.

A nationwide fitness chain refused to admit a service animal into its facility. The client, a military veteran, returned from active duty with a serious mental disorder. Although the fitness chain was fully informed about the service animal, its manager created an embarrassing scene when he threw out our client and his service animal. TCRP worked with the client to reinforce the law permitting the use of service animals for people with mental disabilities.

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Self Help:

The ADA is commonly mistaken for an entity that enforces rights for people with disabilities. However, the ADA is simply a set of laws that citizens can use to assert their own rights. The only way to enforce the ADA is with proactive people demanding compliance with the law.

The Department of Justice provides information on rights for people with disabilities, obligations of business owners, and ways to contact the DOJ to make a specific complaint. Click here to contact the DOJ. However the DOJ often does not have the resources to fully investigate complaints. Legal advocacy groups, like TCRP, are an important resource for people with disabilities who are denied their legal rights. TCRP works with people by providing the legal assistance necessary to enforce ADA requirements.

Local businesses often mistakenly believe they do not have to comply with the ADA. Usually it takes only a letter to cause a business to make changes to comply with the ADA.

Access for people with physical disabilities:

What to look for:

1. Is there an accessible entrance?

The first priority of a business is to provide access into its facility. If the entrance door has a step, a ramp that complies with ADA Standards for Accessible Design must be provided.

2. Is there access to the goods and services offered?

Once inside, a person must be able to access what the business is selling. The business must have an accessible route to all goods and services and signs to direct people to the accessible route.

3. Is there an accessible restroom?

A business must have an accessible restroom in compliance with ADA Standards for Accessible Design.

4. Are additional amenities accessible?

If the business provides additional amenities, they must be accessible. For example, if a business provides a water fountain, it must comply with ADA Standards for Accessible Design.

Need Help?

If you believe you are the victim of a civil rights violation, click here and follow TCRP’s intake policy to seek help.

To read more about TCRP’s Disability Rights Program, click here.