Wednesday, July 28

Government and/or legislative lunacy, part 3 million

Lifeguards are typically in great shape, right?

Reason, of course, is that they might have to, uh, swim out into the ocean and rescue someone in distress. Which, if I understand the thing correctly, is the whole point of paying folks to fill those positions.

So most people wouldn't think a lifeguard station--if not open to the public, as this one isn't--would need to be wheelchair-accessible, right?

Welcome to the wacky world of government, division of inevitable looney consequences.

The city of Clearwater, Florida, wanted to remodel their main lifeguard station on the beach. Their remodeling plans were examined by the state of Florida, which informed them that the building had to be handicapped-accessible.

The city--citing the seemingly impeccable logic above--applied for a waiver.

The Florida Building Commission rejected the city's request for a waiver because (said the FBC spokesman) the cost of making the building accessible to the disabled was less than 20 percent of the total cost of the project.

The "explanation" by the FBC totally avoids the hard problem of having to actually address the logic contained in the application for waiver. Instead, the FBC invoked a one-size-fits-all rule that they wouldn't grant a waiver if the extra construction cost to be wheelchair-accessible was less than 20 percent of total cost.

Now, I've searched the ADA--both the original and amended versions--and that 20 percent figure doesn't seem to be there. Instead, the act is absolutely totalitarian in its mandatory language: Everyone will comply or be subject to being sued by the U.S. Attorney's office.

The act contains no language providing for issuance of waivers for "cases in which forced compliance would produce obviously lunatic results." Indeed, the act doesn't even seem to contain the word "waiver."

Perhaps the "20 percent" figure comes from some court decision that has since become a standard. I don't know. But who can be surprised that using the reasoning, 'We don't use logic, we just do what the law says', gives wacko results?

Now, let me say that I believe that the ADA, as originally conceived, was intended to rectify a lot of clear wrongs, and in fact has done much good. I can only imagine how frustrating it would be to be confined to a wheelchair and not be able to negotiate barriers that could easily have been removed. So I'm not arguing with the intent of the act.

But the actual language of the act is harrowing, inasmuch as it shows yet again that members of congress (or their staffers, or lobbyists, or whoever drafts the actual language used in these acts) are either stupid, incompetent or malevolent in passing language that seems guaranteed to produce stupid consequences.

If this no-exceptions interpretation of the ADA stands, what would prevent disability advocates from insisting that a manned interplanetary rocket have an elevator instead of stairs?

Clearwater article here.


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