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Help! What are my rights in public places in the USA?

san diego
posts: 1
Help! What are my rights in public places in the USA?

I have been disabled for years but I am now going outside more and must always be with my canes or a wheelchair.

Often I get abused, harassed and swore at in public places when I use or ask to use disabled bathrooms, seating, etc...

I live in San Diego and most people are decent but many scream and swear and tell me they are fed up with accommodating the disabled. For instance...in the past week I went to the movie theater and was in disabled seating and was abused when I politely asked the healthy non-disabled seated patrons behind me to please remove their feet off of the disabled seating poles which were next to my head. I was repeatedly screamed at, told to get out of disabled seating because they didn't want to move their feet and had to get the manager to help me.

At a casino with my family I went to the women's bathroom 3 different times and politely asked if any women in line were disabled so I could take my turn after them and use the disabled bathroom. ALL 3 times I was swore at by healthy women in line and ORDERED to get back into line behind them! I was even told by a employee at the casino that disabled MUST wait in line with everyone else and CAN NOT go to the front of the line and use the disabled bathrooms! I thought disabled bathrooms were for the disabled before healthy people could use them...am I wrong???

I use a wheelchair and people swear or block me when I ask may I go through the aisle. I often get hit with purses and baggage...no apologies ever given to me. I am ready to go back into my shell.

Any suggestions? Do I have any rights?

11 replies to this topic
Sydney, Australia
posts: 18,758
reviews: 50
1. Re: Help! What are my rights in public places in the USA?

Jane, of course you have rights and your treatment is appalling.

<<In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act became law, and it provided comprehensive civil rights protection for people with disabilities. Closely modeled after the Civil Rights Act and Section 504, the law was the most sweeping disability rights legislation in American history. It mandated that local, state, and federal governments and programs be accessible, that employers with more than 15 employees make “reasonable accommodations” for workers with disabilities and not discriminate against otherwise qualified workers with disabilities, and that public accommodations such as restaurants and stores not discriminate against people with disabilities and that they make “reasonable modifications” to ensure access for disabled members of the public. The act also mandated access in public transportation, communication, and in other areas of public life.>>

What can't be policed easily is the reaction of individuals to people with disabilities and I really feel for you. May I suggest you look for an organisation that works with and supports people with disabilities in your area. This will help you with ideas for where is welcoming as well as providing ideas for various responses you can make and letting you know exactly what your rights are.

Take heart and don't retreat.

2. Re: Help! What are my rights in public places in the USA?

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Edinburgh, United...
Destination Expert
for Edinburgh
posts: 4,245
reviews: 205
3. Re: Help! What are my rights in public places in the USA?

I have a friend who uses a wheelchair. After getting thoroughly sick and tired of rude treatment when on trips or out and about in unfamiliar places, she had business cards printed (cheap to do off the Internet). The business cards said she was a 'Chief Contributor' for the accessibility and equality section of a well known travel company (she changed the name to avoid plagiarism). Anyway if she was maltreated by waiters or cinema ushers or shop attendants etc etc, she would smile sweetly and hand out a card, with a well timed comment along the lines of "your rude treatment towards me today will be helpful for when I write my review of your establishment". Things usually became more pleasant after that!

Sydney, Australia
posts: 18,758
reviews: 50
4. Re: Help! What are my rights in public places in the USA?

love it!

Pittsburgh...
posts: 14
reviews: 25
5. Re: Help! What are my rights in public places in the USA?

I agree, you do have rights, and this is appalling. I get so angry when I see young and obviously fully able-bodied people using the handicapped stalls, especially when there are plenty of others open.

If need be, don't hesitate to call the police if the management of the place you are in can't or won't help you. Seriously. It is illegal to discriminate against a disabled person, and behavior such as this is definite discrimination. And if they are actually threatening or hitting you deliberately, then you've also got normal assault and battery laws on your side in addition to the civil rights laws.

I've had to call the police when a restaurant refused to serve me with my service dog, and long story short, I was ushered in with great fanfare and profuse apologies and even comped my meal when the cops left. They can be a *huge* help for disabled people who are mistreated - and they will much more likely *remember* what they are told, which will help others who come after you as well.

Federal law is certainly on your side, and local law may also add teeth to it as well, as it does in California.

If you can't get satisfaction from the business itself, then also file a complaint with the DOJ and consider suing the business and any involved individuals whom you can identify.

It is, of course, going to be harder to deal with individuals who come and go, but if the business owner gets cited and/or sued for allowing such behavior, you can bet they will take steps to make sure it doesn't happen again. If you sue, you can also seek such specific relief as part of your suit, namely that they be *required* to take clear steps to stop this sort of thing in addition to any monetary compensation.

Abs140, I love the idea of those cards!

I would definitely encourage people who are mistreated in any establishment for any reason to post about it in online reviews, at least if you have been unable to get satisfaction by other means.

Mount Dora, Florida
Destination Expert
for Istanbul
posts: 12,826
reviews: 208
6. Re: Help! What are my rights in public places in the USA?

With the exception of the disabled bathroom stall I have few complaints about the treatment I receive in the US. I agree that I think disabled people should have bathroom priority, but I have given up expecting that. The most popular place in the bathroom is the disabled stall. I live with that.

I am almost always treated with exceptional kindness by total strangers. Today four different people in the grocery store wanted to help me reach items that were high on the shelf. Someone always helps put gas in my car. Restaurants go out of their way to provide space for my wheelchair.

No one has ever used a swear word directed at me, or complained about my disability. Laws in the US provide legal access, but every day citizens provide all kinds of assistance.

I do think it is important, regardless of your pain level, to treat others kindly. I try to smile, and I very rarely ask for any assistance. Your experience is vastly different from mine. We spend many weeks traveling and have been all over the US many times. People are unfailingly kind, compassionate and considerate.

Chepstow, United...
posts: 25
reviews: 11
7. Re: Help! What are my rights in public places in the USA?

'I get so angry when I see young and obviously fully able-bodied people using the handicapped stalls, especially when there are plenty of others open'

Whilst I agree with you on this to some extent, especially when there are plenty others available, you have assumed that these people are fully able-bodied. How it is obvious?

I have numerous Chronic and severely yet variable health conditions which I've had since my teens, none of which you can see. I look perfectly healthy and this in itself can be a curse. They can't see the immense pain I am in at all times, or me struggling with overwhelming fatigue, nor any of the other symptoms and ways my disabilities affect me. For example, you may not see weakness in my legs when I bend them, where a handicapped toilet with a bar would help me there, though I may be standing in line looking ok.

If I was to say I was disabled to anyone who asked, they wouldn't believe me and I would get lots of abuse.

You can't see everything. Just wanted to say this as I think it is important to speak out.

Mount Dora, Florida
Destination Expert
for Istanbul
posts: 12,826
reviews: 208
8. Re: Help! What are my rights in public places in the USA?

I quickly acknowledge that it is not always possible to visually identify a person with a disability. The use of the handicapped stall in airport restrooms is my "pet peeve". I often think that some people live in the airport, and they use the disabled stalls to change clothing. Two days ago I waited in a line of 5 people all waiting for the one disabeled stall. Each woman ahead of my entered the stall and changed clothing. The rest of the stalls in the restroom were empty. The day before that flight I waited for a mother to dress her three small children in the disabeled stall.

I don't think people are being deliberately rude. I think they believe that everyone should have the right to use a larger stall, and that people with disabilities should wait their turn in line. I'm not sure how I feel about this. I try to avoid expecting any special treatment, but I think these bathroom stalls were not designed as dressing rooms.

tucson, az
posts: 1,847
reviews: 6
9. Re: Help! What are my rights in public places in the USA?

>>The rest of the stalls in the restroom were empty. The day before that flight I waited for a mother to dress her three small children in the disabeled stall. <<

I completely blame this on architects. There have been stalls where I have had to straddle the toilet to shut the door. Also in this day and age in the US at least there is no excuse for not having family bathrooms (though I still wonder why that one family refused to use the perfectly clean empty one at a mall and instead took up all stalls at the small restroom.) Come to think of it I also blame dad for not taking boys into the men's room. I get very irritated when mom takes 2 or 3 kids including the baby into the bathroom while dad strides into his all alone then sits and waits and crabs at her when the finally emerge. ...Maybe I spend too much time at Disney.

Mount Dora, Florida
Destination Expert
for Istanbul
posts: 12,826
reviews: 208
10. Re: Help! What are my rights in public places in the USA?

I become annoyed when the men's restroom and the women's restroom are the same size. The line for the womens restroom reaches down the hall, while men just walk in and out. I estimate that it takes a woman about five times as long. It is, therefore, my opinion that womens restrooms in public places should be twice the size of restrooms for men.

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