BASF’s Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS) recently was awarded the American Bar Association’s Cindy A. Raisch Award for its program to better educate San Francisco merchants about their obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act and acquaint them with resources for assistance with compliance. LRIS won the award for having “developed and implemented a major program innovation that increases the public’s access to appropriate legal and non-legal services” and for exemplifying “a superior lawyer referral and information program worthy of emulation”.
Three years ago LRIS established the ADA Compliance and Education Program for Business when then City Supervisor Carmen Chu reached out to LRIS to understand how it could assist small business owners who had been sued for accessibility violations under the ADA. Corridors of “mom and pop” business owners in San Francisco neighborhoods, many of whom were non-English speaking, didn’t understand why they were being sued. In additionthey didn’t know where they could find affordable legal assistance, much less from somone who spoke their language;and what resources were available to help them comply with the ADA.
LRIS commercial tenant and landlord panel attorneys were specially trained and met qualification standards to be eligible for ADA litigation referrals. Collaborative partnerships were forged to enrich the scope of the information and education provided to small businesses. LRIS attorneys continue to present on the ADA in partnership with the San Francisco Office of Small Business and Certified Accessibility Specialists (CASp). Collaborations have included the Mayor’s Office on Disability, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, Chuck Finney’s “Your Legal Rights” KALW radio program and merchant associations to broaden the reach of needed services and education for small business owners regarding compliance with the ADA.
Throughout the State of California but particularly in cities like Sacramento, San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles, ADA enforcement of has been litigated in the courts against businesses. Since 2005, there have been more than 7,100 lawsuits statewide. Important relationships continue between city officials, legislative representatives and organizations within the persons with disabilities community to achieve proper balance of the issues with ADA litigation.