The liberal standing rules in the Ninth Circuit seems to benefit advocates for those with disabilities by allowing them to file suits that go far beyond any actual discrimination experienced by the plaintiff. However, this comes at a real cost because this kind of lawsuit encourages the courts and business owners to view “the disabled” as stereotypes rather than individuals. When the law treats everyone with a disability as an abstraction, it isn’t surprising if ordinary business people view the disabled in the same way.
The Ninth Circuit and some other circuits say that when a person with a mobility disability encounters a ramp that does not comply with the ADAAG standards he has suffered the discrimination that the ADA forbids, regardless of whether the steepness of the ramp actually interferes with his ability to use and enjoy the premises. Once he has encountered the non-compliant ramp it is presumed that any other failure to comply with the ADAAG in the same facility would also interfere with his use and enjoyment, at least if they violate guidelines related to mobility disabilities. The plaintiff is not treated as a person: He is treated as a “person with a mobility disability” whose relationship to architectural barriers is completely abstract. Is he proud of his strength and fitness, which makes a ramp that is slightly too steep irrelevant? It doesn’t matter. For purposes of the ADA the court will treat him as if he were weak. Has he developed strategies for overcoming things that might be barriers to others? It doesn’t matter. For purposes of the ADA the court will treat him as if he were completely helpless. More