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Nebraska residents file dozens of disability lawsuits

September 1, 2018

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Two people have filed federal lawsuits against 87 businesses in the Omaha area, alleging discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Zach Hillesheim and Melanie Davis have filed lawsuits against a variety of Omaha businesses, including motels, gas stations and fast food restaurants, the Omaha World-Herald reported . Many of the businesses named in the lawsuits declined to comment on the pending litigation.

“I don’t like the lawsuits, but it does command some attention,” Davis said.

The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act contains specific rules that require public accommodations and private businesses to be accessible.

The lawsuits address a variety of issues that people with disabilities have difficulty dealing with, such as sloped parking lots, narrow handicapped-accessible spots, high tables or hallways that are blocked.

Davis has cerebral palsy, which limits her ability to walk and stand. Hillesheim was paralyzed from the waist down when his spine was severed during heart surgery as an infant. They both rely on wheelchairs.

“When I go into a business and can’t use the bathroom, that’s not fair,” Davis said.

Hillesheim said they used to point out issues to workers and businesses owners, but that rarely made a difference. He said advocacy alone doesn’t work, and he’s “tired of feeling second-class.”

Hillesheim and Davis have filed 93 percent of federal ADA discrimination suits in Nebraska since April 2017.

The two were previously involved in the Minnesota nonprofit Disability Support Alliance, which filed dozens of ADA discrimination lawsuits in that state. The group disbanded amid disagreements among members and allegations that some members were taking advantage of the lawsuit settlements.

Hillesheim said most of the money they receive from settlements goes toward paying their lawyer.


Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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