PHOENIX, AZ--(Marketwired - October 27, 2016) - Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities - Foundation ("AID.org")
Just a few months ago AID learned about Jason Thomas and his caretaking brother, Danny Thomas, living on the streets due to Jason losing his leg in a tragic traffic accident, complications from diabetes and the resulting medical bills. After learning about the life restricting discrimination facing Jason from losing his leg and Danny from serving time in prison, AID felt compelled to help them get their lives back on track if they were dedicated and willing to help themselves.
Stabilizing the brothers medically was AID's first priority, and this has, to date, been credited with saving the life of Jason. Additionally, AID provided further assistance, so that they could again become employable, such as proper clothing, grooming, affordable lodging, food, transportation, valid driver's license, counseling, continuing education and a mentorship program.
In addition to Dave Ritzenthaler's fight to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities, Mr. Ritzenthaler founded and produced several years of the "Prison Living Magazine." Prison Living Magazine still circulates in prisons today and is primarily geared to assist and prepare those both in and those leaving prison for an easier transition to the free world, resulting in a much lower recidivism rate. As a result, thousands of prisoners' lives have been improved both while in prison as well as once they have paid their debt to society.
Mr. Ritzenthaler spent decades of work helping those in need which gives him extensive experience. "I have experienced that ex-prisoners and individuals with disabilities both face severe discrimination. Through over 30 years of counseling and ministering to hundreds of thousands of individuals, I have found that often those who have experienced life behind bars are now far more trustworthy than those who have never been to prison. They just need someone to give them a chance and not discriminate against them… working with Jason and Danny allowed AID to help both an individual with a disability and an individual facing discrimination from a criminal record who is also dedicated to helping an individual with a disability," stated Mr. Ritzenthaler.
Jason and Danny are both making progress and have become members of AID, just as many others have in an effort to fight discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Both brothers have a strong desire to improve their lives as well as the lives of others with disabilities who are afraid to stand up for their rights, especially in fear of demonizing media.
Having experienced discrimination and harassment of all kinds, including being often denied access to restrooms, shopping, food and other goods and services, as well as employment, both brothers have keen interest in stopping it. They asked if they could help in AID's efforts by performing internal and external facility inspections, just as other AID members, so that they could file their own cases. "I am tired of being told that I can use the restroom, but your brother in the wheelchair cannot because they don't want to move their stuff so he can enter or have access to the bathroom," said Danny.
The brothers also asked if adding either Jason or his caretaking brother Danny (who witnesses this discrimination daily) or both on AID's current cases as a co-plaintiff would help AID's position in its ADA enforcement efforts. With that in mind, AID asked the court a few days ago if such addition would be allowed.
"As a result of AID simply asking the judge a question in regards to adding the brothers, David Biscobing of Channel 15 is now viciously and publicly attacking, pressuring, intimidating and harassing Jason and Danny when they have not even filed even a single case. Biscobing appears to be so against civil rights and pro discrimination towards individuals with disabilities that just someone asking if they can enforce their civil rights causes him to attack viscously," stated Mr. Callan, AID's de facto representative. This harassment is the exact reason AID filed the majority of their ADA civil right enforcement cases in its own foundation name on behalf of its association members in order to protect their members from being attacked, harassed, pressured, and intimidated by salacious media and others. These types of attacks against those trying to enforce the ADA is illegal and in violation of 42 US.C. § 12203, but unscrupulous media outlets and their cohorts are ignoring this law.
While AID is willing to pick up where society has failed and take on and absorb the attacks and pressure from unscrupulous media and ADA civil rights violating businesses and their supporters, AID, after consulting with the brothers' mentors and counselors, feels that it is not in the best interest of the brothers for AID to accept their offer to be added as a co-plaintiff in AID's existing cases. The added pressure and media coverage may make it more difficult for them to seek and retain employment and AID is not willing to allow them to be exposed to such negative pressures in their current state.
To date, AID has spent over $1.7 Million to file nearly 2,000 ADA enforcement actions in the courts and over 9,000 documented ADA civil right discrimination cases with the Arizona Attorney General's ("AG") office. No other private entity in history has caused so many businesses to become ADA compliant both through litigation and through voluntary compliance because of fear of potential litigation, and now the AG is doing his best to stop AID's ADA compliance efforts.
The key to ADA compliance, especially voluntarily compliance, just like preventing speeding, theft, drunk driving and murder is the fear of penalties, repercussions and financial expense. The AG is fighting to eliminate all fears of any potential penalties or repercussions and to pay expenses for business who are not even willing to pay $25 to put up proper signage in order to comply with the ADA. "Why would they when no governmental agency cares and individuals with disabilities are afraid to complain for fear of being told that they are banned from that store or location," stated Mr. Callan.
If the AG gets his way, violating the ADA will even be less risky and penalty free. The AG is supporting a law to allow ADA violators 120 days from the time that someone complains to fix their violations without any potential penalty, even though the law has been in place for over 26 years. AID knows this is a pointless and discriminatory requirement; it mailed out over 40,000 notices and found tens of thousands of businesses still didn't take action. "Getting caught violating the ADA would effectively be the same as getting caught driving at 120 MPH though a school zone and the cop would have to ask you to slow down and agree to drive though that school zone again at the proper speed in the next 120 days or you'd risk getting a ticket. Or if you got caught driving drunk and the cop would be required to let you off if you drove your car sober sometime in the next 120 days," stated Mr. Callan.
"It is unsettling and common that AID hears about individuals with disabilities being denied equal use of facilities and bathrooms and even threatened, intimidated or banned from the location when they complain about ADA violations. It is extremely sad when we at AID hear of injuries and even death that have been caused by an ADA violation. But this is Arizona, the Wild West, and the AG, who is by law to act as the "Sheriff" to enforce the ADA laws, has apparently decided, on his own, that the civil rights of those with disabilities do not matter… and if you are willing to fight for and protect their rights the "Sheriff" will come after you to stop you," stated Mr. Callan.
AID's altruistic intentions remain pure and highly effective… To date AID's enforcement efforts have cost over $1.7 Million, with nearly $800,000 just in court fees. While ALL of AID's compliance settlement agreements require timely ADA violation correction guarantees, some settlement agreements also include a negotiated cash component averaging approximately $3,900 per case to cover legal, filing, operational and further compliance actions, etc. Never $10,000 per case and far less than media sources falsely portray. The reason it is necessary for AID to receive these proceeds as part of settlement (approx. $1.2M to date) is to subsidize the costs of identifying, documenting, bringing and managing widespread ADA enforcement actions. Doing so is very costly, and AID does not use any tax funds to investigate and enforce ADA laws. AID's altruistic efforts and results are made abundantly clear by the fact that AID always has, currently is and anticipates it continue to operate at a substantial loss reaching many hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is definitely clear that AID is NOT "enriching itself", "lining its pockets" or "just in it for the money" because AID has not and does not expect to make a profit. As the math shows… AID's expenses of $1,700,000 minus $1,200,000 collected settlement funds equals a current deficit of over $500,000.
AID is pleased with the growing understanding and support of its mission by not only its growing membership base, but also those who support AID's efforts privately or secretly because of their fears of repercussions or retaliation from those without disabilities. AID is not fearful of such retaliation and will not succumb to negative pressures.
Join AID.org's fight against discrimination by becoming a FREE member and/or civil rights activist at www.AID.org/Membership.html.
AID's Attorneys available for comment:
Dennis Wilenchik (602) 606-2810
Peter Strojnik (602) 524-6602
About Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities - Foundation
Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities - Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit company was formed in January 2016 as Civil Rights Champions in order to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities through charitable gifts, opportunities and the removal of equal access barriers for the over 43 million Americans who live with disabilities caused by one or more conditions.
AID.org sends warning notices to businesses and then acts as private attorneys general to ensure ADA compliance. AID.org's focus is on the most readily visible exterior equal access barriers which Federal, State and Attorney Generals have failed to enforce over the last 26 years. AID.org feels that these violations are a clear indicator of interior ADA violations, which we hope the violating business voluntarily correct.
"For the ADA to yield its promise of equal access for the disabled, it may indeed be necessary and desirable for committed individuals to bring serial litigation advancing the time when public accommodations will be compliant with the ADA." AID.org is committed to bring serial litigation and is primarily self-funded though litigation settlement agreements and private funding.
Those with disabilities and their associates can request assistance and grants online at www.AID.org. To schedule an interview with the AID.org Foundation, please email media@AID.org.