The World of Chronic Pain
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The World of
Chronic Pain

More than 125 million Amercians are suffering.

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These conditions can cause a world of pain.

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Finding help is not always simple for those in pain.

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Up-to-date news on pain-related issues.

Americans With Disabilities Act

800-514-0301

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990, and is enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The purpose of the ADA is to prohibit discrimination due to disability in employment and in programs and services provided by state and local governments, as well as goods and services provided by private companies, and in commercial facilities.

If you feel you have been discriminated against because of a disability, you need to call the ADA at the number shown above or the closest EEOC government office (which will represent you free), or an attorney specializing in Equal Employment Opportunity law.

True Story

A disabled, wheelchair-confined lady planned to attend a gathering for disabled people with the same disease. Confined to her home all the time, this was a big adventure for her and took a great deal of courage.

She carefully took care of all details in advance, checking and double-checking each one.

She told the airlines she would be taking her professional caretaker. The caretaker should have flown free under the ADA, but the airlines charged her full rate for the caretaker. Similarly service dogs fly free even if they require an additional seat.

At the hotel where she made the reservation, she emphasized to them her need for a handicapped room.

She must use a slide board or transfer to get from the wheelchair to the bed. She must physically transfer herself, with the help of bars, to a toilet seat equal in height to the wheelchair, such as is found in handicapped bathrooms. She was assured all would be in order.

Under ADA law, all hotels are required to provide at least one handicapped room in their facilities. This room must have doors wide enough for a wheelchair to easily enter and egress. The bathroom doors must be wide enough for the wheelchair, the bathrooms must be large enough for a person to maneuver with dignity, to use the facilities, have grab bars.

Any medium and larger store must also provide such a handicapped stall. Even cruise ships provide these rooms on a first-come, first-serve basis. They are twice the size of a normal cabin, but must cost no more.

This hotel assured the women they had measured the bed height, the doors, provided grab bars, and accommodated in all ways to the ADA requirements.

The day of the trip, it took a two-hour car ride to the airport, assistance getting on the airplane, a three and a half hour flight, riding an hour in a rental car she paid half the cost for. and the anticipation of several days stay in a hotel room large enough for her, the wheelchair her caretaker and a third roommate.

She knew the group of people through an online support group. The retreat had been held for a number of years and everything had gone smoothly although this hotel had not been used.

Upon arrival at the hotel, they checked in only to fine the door was the same size as regular rooms. In order to turn around, she had to back into the hall, turn around and back into the room. The bathroom was standard size and the grab bars were not permanent and dependable but had been "jerry-rigged. One of the bars came out of the walls under the weight of the "normal" roommate, making it completely useless for the disabled woman.

The toilet was standard height, which combined with the size of the bathroom, made it extremely difficult for her to use. She had no privacy in using it and fell trying to move from the wheelchair to the toilet using the rickety bars.

The bed, which was six inches lower than her wheelchair, rendering the slide board and transfer unit useless.

Although she complained to the management, in a desperate attempt to salvage her trip, all handicapped rooms in town were booked and they couldn't help her because the hotel manager was off for the weekend.

Due to these woefully and illegally inadequate facilities, she fell several times trying to get into bed or the bathroom and navigate the room.

Finally she and her caretaker finally went out to eat and discuss this mess. She had not met even one other of her online friends, but it was apparent she would never make it through a weekend there. Already her pain had increased dramatically from the falls and she was in tears from the pain and felt utterly defeated. They decided to cancel the trip and she and her caretaker flew back that very night, although it was standby and they didn't get home until late the next night, where they faced a two-hour drive exhauted and with her in great pain. The airline was "kind enough" not to charge them for the change in reservations.

She said it was the farthest the's ever traveled for a meal and with all the expenses averaged out, by far the most expensive meal.

In addition to the physical and emotional damage, she had spent over a thousand dollars she'd scraped together out of her meager income on what basically turned out to be a dinner 1500 miles from home. Once back home, she went to bed and cried all night and over the next days, unable to sleep from the increased pain and the feeling of failure. It was not her failure -- it was yet another system's failure -- but she took it personally because looking forward to this gathering had kept her going for several months and it had turned into a complete disaster.

How The ADA Applies In This Situation And How You Can Protect Yourself

Hotels and motels are required to have handicapped-accessible rooms on the first floor near emergency exits and handicapped parking. The doors must be widened for wheelchair access, the bathrooms must be wheelchair accessible with raised toilets and permanent grab bars. The room should allow easy navigation while seated in a wheelchair. The exit door to the room should have a peephole at wheelchair height.

If you run into a situation where this is not the case, you should demand to be moved. There are managers above managers and if clerks try to cop out by saying the manager isn't it, elevate to the owner of the hotel if you have to. If that doesn't work, call the police and report a violation of the ADA.

If they put you on any other floor than the first, they're really in trouble because obviously in case of a fire, the first rule is don't use the elevators so you are stuck in a burning building. You should demand to be moved to the first floor immediately.

If they don't have a handicapped room or one on the first floor, demand that they find you a handicapped room in another hotel and pay for it using the money you gave them and making up the difference if necessary. Again, if all else fails, call the police.

If you are taking a caretaker, tell the airline you are handicapped. Your caretaker should be flown free.

If you use a service dog, no hotel, restaurant, or amusement can deny access to your service dog.

Keep all receipts, for parking, airline tickets, rental car, hotel, meals, etc., any time you take a trip because you don't know when it will turn into such a nightmare.

If you make reservations, get confirmation in writing or at least get the name of the person making the guarantee of a handicapped-accessible room.

If you run into a problem, document and photograph everything, getting names whenever possible. Have anyone accompanying you do the same.

If a hotel is in violation, write down all the details . Get the name of everyone you deal with at the hotel regarding your need for a handicapped-accessible room.

The jerry-rigging of bars they did in this woman's room was of course ludicrous. The bars should have been permanent, the door to the bathroom wide enough for the wheelchair and the toilet handicapped height, with room for her to navigate and use the bathroom herself with dignity. Similarly the bed should have been wheelchair height, certainly not 6" off.

If you have falls, etc., as a result of violations, you should document them and see your doctor or go to an emergency room as soon as possible. You might also want to see a therapist to document the psychological and emotional damage if your trip is ruined.

The ADA will assign an attorney to you free. Call the 800 number at the top of this page. Generally you will get all your actual costs back, including airfare, parking, hotel, rental car, etc.

There are cases where damages for pain and suffering have been awarded in addition to actual costs.

The important elements are that you let the everyone know you are handicapped and the degree of your handicap so they are liable, document everything, and get as many confirmations in writing as possible.

Even if they do not confirm in writing, you obviously are going in good faith expecting such or you wouldn't go in the first place.

As people with disabilities, we have to become familiar with at least the basics of the ADA to protect ourselves.

The ADA prohibits employers from refusing to hire &a qualified individual with a disability.

An employer cannot require you to disclose an invisible disability or sign a form stating whether you are disabled or not.

An employer is also required to make reasonable accommodations to employ disabled or handicapped employees. These include special chairs, computers, access. If in doubt, talk to an attorney and your human services personnel. If reasonable accommodations are refused you, you have the right to seek compensation. A disability is defined as a condition that substantially limits a major life activity.

A qualified person is defined as someone who can do the job given reasonable accommodation. Included in the definition of "a qualified person," are those individuals regarded as having a disability.

ADA Documents

ADA statute, regulations, tech sheets, and more. ADA Technical Assistance Program. The DOJ provides free technical assistance and information to businesses, non-profit service providers, state and local governments, people with disabilities, and the general public.

Bobby Helps Web Access
This free program analyses web sites for their accessibility.

Certification of State and Local Building Codes
Title III of ADA provides building code certification process in order that specifications be met.

Civil Rights Department of DOJ
Frequently requested information you can download or order under the Freedom of Information Act.

Department of Justice (DOJ)
Explanation of ADA

New and Proposed Changes
Find out all the new and proposed changes to the ADA.

Publications Available
The Department of Justice will provide you with any documentation concerning the ADA.

Self-Serve Gas Stations
Even self-serve stations must provide assistance in pumping gas, post notice on how disabled people may obtain that assistance, and not charge more for this service.

Settlements under ADA
List of all ADA settlements and consent agreements since enactment.