Under Pennsylvania Commonwealth law, the obligation to meet the ADA’s public accommodations objective were satisfied when Cafe Verve made the bathroom wheel chair accessible but not the restaurant.
End State College’s unconscionable discrimination against the disabled
& elderly by demonstrating on Valentine’s Day
Time and place:
Cafe Verve, E Beaver Ave, State College, Pa 16801.
Valentine’s Day 2018
Hours of Demonstration: 11 am-2 pm.
From Noon to 2 PM: Special speakers including representatives of the African-American community, feminists (including the #Me Too Movement), the gay and transgender community, the labor union movement, and the religious community. As a member of Congregation Brit Shalom I am mindful of the special obligation we Jews have to pursue social justice in the tradition of the great Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Professor of Mysticism and Theology at the Jewish Theological Seminary, who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Please join me in my demonstration against segregation of the elderly and disabled in State College, PA on Valentine’s Day. For reasons that astonish me–I am a paraplegic–discrimination against those of us who cannot walk, see, or hear is regarded as not equivalent to discrimination against the African-American community which caused Phil Ochs to sing, “Here’s to the State of Mississippi.”
Lyric relevant to State College 2018. “The calender is lyin’ when it reads the present time/”
Regarding the bizarre loophole in Pennsylvania Commonwealth law limiting enforcement of the disability access provisions for the disabled under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act:
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was the only major piece of legislation signed by President George H. W. Bush. The ADA represented a bipartisan commitment to the idea that those of us who cannot walk, see, or hear had the same right to public accommodations as those who do not have disabilities. Previously, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 corrected basic inequities which allowed–in my lifetime–shameful and overt discrimination against African-Americans, Hispanics, and women
A shameful lack of responsibility by the then seven members of State College Borough Council–all of whom were “liberal” Democrats [see Phil Ochs] made it possible for Cafe Verve, a new restaurant which opened up across the street from my apartment, to receive an operating license. The loophole made it possible for Cafe Verve’s owners to make the restaurant’s bathroom wheel chair accessible, but not the entrance. I have requested Rep. Scott Conklin to seek bipartisan support in the Commonwealth legislature to ensure that no new restaurant in PA receive an operating license unless its entrance is wheel chair accessible.
Here in the U.S. over 90 percent of the housing is not wheel chair accessible. The same is the case in the U.K. Over 90 percent of new housing in the U.S. does not have even one accessible entrance.
For the past 24 years, I have been a paraplegic. I live in an “independent living facility” for 90 elderly and disabled residents in Downtown, State College, PA. My ability to live an independent life is severely restricted. I cannot earn too much money—too much being enough to pay for my dental bills—otherwise I would be evicted from the government subsidized apartment where I live.
I am planning to force the issue when I finally complete a series of papers for the CATO Institute, a Washington, D.C. based Libertarian think tank. My thesis is the free market may be a better tool for ensuring disability access than government legislation modeled on the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. However, as I told David Boez, my editor, one reason for the delay in completion is I do not know where I will be able to live when evicted. Accessible housing is not easy to come by here.
My capitalist perspective comes as a surprise even to me who has been a lifelong Democrat and who served as a political appointee in the Carter Administration. Such a perspective is especially applicable to affluent State College and its immediate environs which include wealthy retirement housing for the elderly. For example, at the Foxdale retirement community in the Borough of State College, entry to a modest apartment and then an excellent nursing home (“living in place” is the bumper sticker euphemism) costs $750,000.
Yet the merchants here in Downtown—indifferent to their financial future—continue to operate public facilities that are not wheel chair accessible. In October, I wanted to celebrate my seventieth birthday at Café Verve, a vegetarian restaurant across the street from my apartment. The restaurant had received an operating license as complying with Commonwealth law which requires disability accommodations.
Each of my two daughters is a vegetarian so the choice of restaurant was especially appropriate. From February to October of 2017, I attempted to find out how it was possible for Café Verve to comply with Pennsylvania legislation on disability access and yet not be accessible. The answer is the restaurant spent—as required—the portion of its renovation cost to make the bathroom wheel chair accessible. The cost includes a sign announcing to patrons the bathroom is accessible. However, the restaurant was not required to make the entrance accessible.
On my birthday, I drove my mobility device (in effect an electric wheel chair) across the street, put on knee and arm pads and crawled into the restaurant. Happy birthday.
I applaud John Harris’s column critiquing the comprehensive way the U.K., as does the U.S.—and most especially my hometown of State College–, fails to treat the elderly and disabled as individuals. Rabbi Hillel and Jesus, among other religious leaders, recommend: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. The elderly and disabled are impatient for society in the developed world to pay attention to our basic human needs. The chief among these is respect.
Here is Guardian columnist John Harris’ perspective on elderly and disability discrimination in the U.K.