Phil Parker (tigertoy) wrote,
Phil Parker

ADA comment

Over on filkertom's journal, I made one of my lengthy comments that I want to preserve.

I have things I should be doing this afternoon, and if I don't do them, I'm gonna get back to reading the fiction I want to, so I'm not going to try to follow the links and see if any of them aren't video.

I just want to say a few things about the general topic.  Like every other big issue that people argue about, it's actually complicated, and nobody on either side has a simple right answer that can just make it go away.

I believe that the basic underlying idea of the ADA -- that society should make reasonable accommodations to let the disabled be part of society -- is good sense both ethically and pragmatically.  But I've had a couple of run-ins with its actual requirements.

Case 1: at a place where I worked several years ago, some of the employees would like to bicycle to work, but if they did, they'd really need a shower before associating with their coworkers.  There was a closet that in a former incarnation of the building had been part of a public bathroom, it actually had bathroom tile floor and water in it.  It would have cost a few hundred bucks to have a professional plumbing contractor put in a shower.  But when they tried to do it, they ran afoul of the ADA.  See, the ADA does not require that a workplace have a shower -- but it does say that if you put one in it has to meet accessibility standards.  And the standards would have meant doing a whole lot more work, and a cost well over $10,000.  Which meant that it went from being a no brainer to put in the shower to a no brainer to *not* put in a shower.

Case 2: a non-profit club I used to be involved with owned a crappy old building.  They wanted to build a new building, and through a lot of determined work and some very optimistic budgeting, it went from a pipe dream to an actual project.  In the course of putting up the building, they ran into the ADA parking requirements.  They weren't going to pave the parking lot (do you actually know how much that costs?) but they *had* to pour concrete for the handicapped parking spaces and the sidewalk from them to the building.  I think it added close to 10% to the total cost of the entire project of turning a cornfield into a facility where 100 people could gather comfortably.

These two cases have made me hypersensitive on the subject of the ADA.  In these two cases, the ADA requirements were excessive, well beyond the bounds of reasonable, and my close personal experience with them have made me a lot more sympathetic to complaints that I hear in other places about how the ADA goes too far.

My real point, though, is that the stereotype liberal solution to social problems -- "let's pass a law that makes specific rules you have to follow" -- tends to lead to a whole lot of stupid when the rules run into real people trying to do real things.  If we kept the laws simple, with wide enforcement discretion, we'd avoid mandating less stupid things, but we've spent the last several generations making a whole industry out of avoiding the spirit of the law, and responding by spelling things out in exacting detail.  But the more complex we make the law, the more it grinds up individual lives, and the more people become disillusioned.  And people who are disillusioned because they've been screwed over by one specific aspect of a law that was generally a good idea tend to overreact and hate the whole thing.

The libertarians are right:  big, intrusive government sucks.  Unfortunately, the liberals are also right:  what people get up to when they don't have a government looking over their shoulder sucks.
Tags: politics
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