AUSTIN (KXAN) — Two Texas disability advocacy organizations are drawing attention to hundreds of Americans with Disability Act lawsuits that have been the focus of KXAN Investigations.
John Deutsch, who uses a wheelchair, and his attorney, Omar Weaver Rosales, have filed nearly 400 lawsuits in Austin. The pair’s suits, which checker South and East Austin, have hit everything from famed local restaurants to tattoo parlors, women’s clothing stores, self-storage lots and even an adult novel publishing company.
“The ADA has been law for almost 30 years. We’re here fighting these cases and without the work, nobody cares and the work won’t get done to make the buildings compliant,” Rosales told KXAN in a previous interview.
VSA Texas, the state organization on arts and disability, and the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities believe they need to draw attention to the lawsuits and draw a distinction between the lawsuits from Rosales and his client, and the efforts of their organizations. The organizations plan to hold a media conference on the topic Monday in front of city hall.
“We’re working on a project (called ATXGo!) to create a cultural access guide. So this will be something that will be an online resource for everybody, but it will be targeting accessibility, primarily for seniors and people with disabilities,” said Dolores Gonzalez, who is working with VSA Texas. “If you’re interested in going to one of the venues here in Austin you can just look it up and see what the parking is like, what the entrance is like, what exactly is the accessibility of that venue.”
KXAN INVESTIGATES | Demanding action: Austin’s ADA lawsuit industry
Gonzalez is also the former Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator for the city of Austin. While working on surveys for ATXGo! she started hearing about the lawsuits from Omar Rosales and his client John Deutsch.
“It seemed like a horrible thing for us. And we really thought it would have an impact on our ability to do these surveys,” said Gonzalez.
Now, VSA Texas and the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities are trying to let businesses know they’re here to help. The executive Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, Dennis Borel, says there is a place for ADA lawsuits. He believes in businesses collaborating with people with disabilities to solve ADA issues.
VSA Texas is willing to help businesses assess their properties and come up with plans to make fixes if needed, in some cases for free.
“The ADA is not about creating problems or financial distress to the businesses, it’s about being able to access the services for people with disabilities,” said Gonzalez.
Rosales is currently suing KXAN for previous reporting on the lawsuits. KXAN tried to speak to Rosales for this story but received a note from his lawyer telling us not to try to reach him.
On KXAN News on the CW Austin at 9 p.m., Investigator Kevin Schwaller explains why this has been an ongoing issue for some business owners.