Ann Redd of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has mixed emotions about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). While having advocated for its 1990 passage and currently recognizing the need, she now questions aspects of its implementation.
Redd knows firsthand the challenges some people with disabilities face. For one, in 1974, her step-brother became paralyzed from the shoulders down after a skiing accident. While a quadriplegic, he earned a Master’s degree and became a California county courthouse administrator.
“Also, my father died of cancer about the same time my step-brother broke his neck,” said 54-year-old Redd in a telephone interview. “He had his tongue, voice box, and about half his jaw removed. He couldn’t speak and was fed through a stomach tube.”
In addition, her first husband had Tourette syndrome, which a National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website defines as a “neurological disorder characterized by repetitive, stereotyped, involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics.” It was through this husband Redd became involved in a letter writing campaign urging ADA passage.
All that said, here was what happened to Redd herself. In 2007, she purchased a modest retail/rental property as an investment in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. She and her husband had been participating in Civil War re-enactments there and her husband was an Abraham Lincoln impersonator. Redd wasn’t wealthy by any measure: she was a newspaper reporter.
In 2008, an ADA advocate filed a lawsuit in federal court because Redd’s retail tenant had an inaccessible entrance. Redd ended up having to spend $18,000 constructing two ramps, $3,000 for architect fees, and more than $20,000 for attorney and permit fees. In addition, she has had to replace non-ADA related items, including an air conditioning system. The ramps were expensive because of the building’s weak 1854 foundation and the short space between curb and front door.
“It was one expensive thing after another,” said Redd. “It got to the point I couldn’t rent the store because I had to tell prospective tenants I would be tearing up the interior and I couldn’t tell them exactly when that would happen.’
Redd has taken a financial bath. Though an avid ADA supporter, she would like modifications in existing law. She said, “There were longstanding (Gettysburg) business seriously considering shutting down knowing if they had to go to federal court (over ADA compliance) it would completely ruin (them).”