Denise Payne, a Florida resident who has cerebral palsy, and her business partner, Robert Forlano, formed a 5013C charitable organization called the National Alliance for Accessibility. As in Virginia, all charitable organizations are required to register with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Ms. Payne’s organization, however, is not registered as required by law.
Ms. Payne and her organization filed six lawsuits in the Roanoke, Virginia federal court alleging many area establishments are not accessible. Included in the list of establishments are several shopping malls, two hotels and Radford University. The six cases target Virginia, but Ms. Payne has recently filed over 200 similar cases, all alleging a lack of accessibility.
While I am in full support of pursuing issues through legal means IF ALL OTHER ATTEMPTS TO RESOLVE ISSUES FAIL, I do not support this shotgun approach to demand change. I have to wonder what the real motivation is in all these cases.
As you know, I recently started a new website titled www.ustooplease.com . I purposely added the word ‘please’ to that web address. And as I mention on that website, I truly want to raise awareness about accessibility and inclusion. I share all my observations on that website with the businesses I review. I offer a list of resources to help those businesses become more accessible and inclusive.
I believe communities will begin to welcome everyone when everyone works together to realize true inclusion.
Like a dog that is beaten every time it urinates in its owner’s house, it will eventually become housebroken. But the dog will never truly be a part of that owner’s family – it will remain an animal that is continually beaten to achieve the owner’s goals.
I don’t want businesses to make changes for accessibility and inclusion because they are beaten into doing so. I want their decisions to be based on the realization that an inclusive community is a true community.