Handicap Scam Returns – What You Can Do?

Residents and Businesses Beware!

From The SoHo Alliance comes this warning.:

Several years ago the SoHo Alliance warned of a wheelchair-bound man whose lawyer would approach SoHo shops lacking handicap accessible ramps and threaten to sue for millions in alleged emotional damage under the Americans with Disabilities Act unless the store settled for tens of thousands of dollars.  

High-minded crusade or shakedown racket? 

It is one thing if established advocacy groups sue to enforce the law. It is another thing when a serial complaint-filer and the attorney make a fortune off this well-intentioned law at the expenses of neighborhood businesses. Since many SoHo stores are owned by coops, condos or their shareholders, this racket affects many of us. In fact, under the law, not only the store but also the building can be sued.

Well, it seems the scam has returned.  A recent news story reports on another wheelchair-bound man who has approached several local stores ranging from women's retailers to Italian restaurants, seeking up to $50,000. Unable to comply, one restaurant was unfortunately forced to close. Tellingly, a subsequent undercover investigation by the reporter revealed that the litigant could actually walk.  So this is clearly a scam.

Our problem is that SoHo is an historic district, most stores have steps, and our sidewalks are narrow.  So installing an accessibility ramp can be very problematic and expensive.

 Lawyers the SoHo Alliance has consulted advised there is a simpler solution to avoid this shakedown and to assist legitimate disabled individuals at the same time. 

Namely, install a $20 wireless doorbell and a blue "ADA Accessibility" compliancy sign by the front door for the handicapped person to summon assistance.  That may suffice.  However, to be 100% safe, provide a portable folding ramp available online for less than $100.

We urge you to explore these solutions to avoid paying out a fortune to con men.  If you need further advice on this, email us or phone us at 212-353-8466 and we shall be happy to assist you.

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