Friday, August 23, 2013

ADA Access Complaint Wrap-Up: How to File an ADA Complaint.

See how we resolved our complaint here: Part 1 and Part 2

It was 23 years ago that President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilties Act into law. We're still trying to implement many of its provisions today.

If you live in the United States, when you find yourself impacted by what appears to be an ADA violation, the first step is not to lawyer up.  There are other steps to take before getting to that point.

As they say, the wheels of Justice turn slowly, so be prepared for resolution to take some time.

When you find a potential violation, the first step is to find out who is responsible. It could be a government agency, like a city, or a private business.  It could in our case...a private business using a government owned property.

After finding out who is responsible, the next step is to approach them and point out the violation, as politely as possible. A lot of the time, they just don't know and, if they're reasonable, will just fix it. If you don't think you can keep your cool in person, write a letter and send it certified with proof of delivery.

Keep a copy. In fact, keep a record of every step you take in this process. If litigation is required, that will be necessary. If you don't, you can kiss the complaint goodbye.

If you approach the person(s) responsible, tell them, and they still don't comply, write a letter as outlined above.

It would help at this point to be able to point out exactly what section of the law they violated. Be sure to verify that, in fact, what they did is not allowed by searching the relevant laws. The text of the Americans with Disabilities Act is online at Department of Justice's ADA Website.

Wait for an answer. If no answer is forthcoming after a reasonable time, say 6 weeks, or your complaint has been refused, now it the time to report it to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Department of Justice maitains a website, including a form you can use, explaning how to file a complaint. Send the complaint via a trackable method, such as certified mail, to make sure delivery was recieved.  The DOJ can take several months to answer your complaint but they will. The current administration has made enforcement of the ADA a priority. See How To File an ADA Complaint at the DOJ's website.

If the DOJ accepts your complaint, an attorney will contact you, probably from your local U.S. Attorney's Office, and explain the process. You may be called in to give a deposition, you may even be subpoenaed into court room testimony.

If the DOJ rejects your complain, they will say why. If you believe you still have a case, you can hire a private attorney to proceed with your claim.  You also have the right to hire a private attorney at any point in the complaint, if you so wish.

Be advised that damages are limited. You will not get a multi-million dollar settlement. Damages are usually limited to fixing the problem, your attorney fees, and maybe a small amount to account for your time and effort in the matter.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Zeroing Out the Zucchini

While my tomatoes were a bust, the zucchini this year was a success. My plan was to move their plot over by our bedroom window and winnow them down to two plants so we have just enough squash, not be swimming in it and getting sick and tired of it before the summer's over.

I have to say our plan worked just about perfect. The only flaw is that the two plants left were both zucchini. I had also planted some summer squash but none of those plants made it.

All summer long, we could go out and harvest just enough of it to last us until the next set of gourds ripened.

Great plants. Love them but after they're done, they become a bit of a mess.

I gave them three weeks since our last harvest. They were still flowering but producing no fruit. You can also see they were getting rangy and out of control.

It was with a heavy heart that I uprooted them.

The zucchini story is not over yet, however.

Last week, when I chopped some up for an omelet, I threw some seed here and there including in the whiskey barrel holding this plumeria.

Looks like we're in for some more zucchini treats soon.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Eliminating the Failure

Got a good workout in the garden this weekend. One thing was glaring at me, though...the tomatoes.

Or should I say the tomato plants. 

You see, it started like this. Last year, I bought those two heirloom beauties you see at the top of the page. Grown near me, I wanted some too. When I made salsa with them last year, I harvested the seeds.

Planting at the end of the cold spells, I got some good looking seedlings.

A couple of months later, I thinned it out to two of the best looking plants and got flowers.

Now, a little over six months later, I've still got two good-looking plants but have not see one fruit in that entire time. Nothing, not even a little, tiny orb.

Time's up...I'm giving them the ultimate punishment, uprooting.  I'll go by a local nursery when I get a chance to see if they have some 3 or 5 inch pots of seedlings to replace them with and hope I get some sort of tomato harvest this year.

At least the green waste bin is getting a workout this week.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Fightin' the Man: The Conclusion to Our ADA Fight

See the first chapter of this report here: Part 1

When people say I should file a legal complaint when someone denies access on our trips time and time again, I tell them that don't go on vacation to become a lawyer or to start a legal fight...I'm there to enjoy it. Small hassles are endured or avoided but sometimes you just can't avoid it.

That's especially true when you're at home. Now I do have the time to do something about it, but still, I don't go out of my way to pick a fight.

There are times when you just can't leave the status quo.

I'm not a litigative or combative person. I can count on my one hand...four...the times, in fifty years, that I've been bugged enough to actually carry through a fight to conclusion.  The fourth time is here at the Friday Night Family Festival in Monrovia.

When the manager of the festival decided they could squeeze in another couple of vendor booths by putting them on the corner curb ramps, blocking wheelchair access to some very popular eateries on Myrtle Avenue, I couldn't let it pass by.

It's funny...if you're in this situation you probably know...that when you complain to the people responsible for denying you access, many times the result is that they dig in their heels and dare you to do something about it.

Complaining to the vendors and the manager did nothing and after three weeks, the situation remained. Time to take it to the next level.

My next step was to find the relevant passage in the law. Although the entire text of the Americans with Disabilities Act is online, searching it was not easy. I searched on ramps and found specifications for building one. I searched on curb cuts and found specifications for installing those too.

I searched for a couple of days, off and on, until I hit upon "path of travel." Bingo! Section 12147 of the ADA specifies that publicly owned "paths of travel" can only be blocked temporarily when a repair is necessary.

I went to the City of Monrovia's website, found the e-mail address of the mayor, and fired off the most polite letter of complaint I could muster telling them that as owner of the curb cuts and streets, they were responsible for curing this situation.

That letter is as follows:

Dear Mayor ____

We work out at Movement Unlimited every Friday night with our son, and several other people, who use wheelchairs. After our workout, we go over to the Family Festival for dinner and to enjoy the fun and farmer's market.

Recently, we have noticed several times at the Friday night Family Festival that vendors have been directed to set up booths on curb cuts made for wheelchair access, particularly on the Southwest and Northwest corner of Myrtle and Colorado Boulevard.
I have complained to Festival staff and to Mr. ______, president of _____________ Productions, that blocking the wheelchair access is not ethical or legal. Both times, I was told that they just had to provide a narrow path on the side of the ramp for wheelchairs or that they didn't have to comply for a special event (even though an event that takes place every single Friday night does not seem to fit the definition of "special").
This is a picture of one of the booths:

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, public paths of travel are to be maintained, barrier free.  Since this is a violation of that regulation, I would like the City of Monrovia to make clear to Mr. ______ and ________________ Productions that the city does not approve or condone the placing of a barrier in the path of travel meant for people with disabilities.
I would hope you would join me in this campaign to maintain the best Family Festival in Southern California and to make sure all of its aspects are available to all citizens, not just those who are able to take a step onto a curb without the benefit of a ramp.

Thankfully, that's as far as this complaint would have to go. Three days later, I got this response from the mayor:

Hi Darryl 
Thank you for your email. I agree with you that we should not violate the Act and should not allow Family Festival to either. I will look into this situation. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

That was about three months ago. The two corners have been clear and barrier free ever since. 

Moral of the story, if you have the ability to take action, do so. Your fellow special needs citizens will be thankful.

Next time, I'll go over the steps to take if you need to invoke the ADA in your situation.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Fightin' the Man: A Tale of an ADA Dispute in Southern California

Monrovia is a pretty little town about 15 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles. It’s not on a lot of tourist’s radar, which is a shame, but should be. The city is known for its immaculate craftsman and Victorian style homes. Writer Upton Sinclair had a beautiful Mediterranean style villa.  Film companies flock here to shoot in the city’s downtown area on Myrtle Avenue that stands in for the typical “Main Street, America” look.

Upton Sinclair House
Image courtesey of Wikimedia
Doncam under CC BY-SA 3.0 License

That All-American, Main Street feel extends to the festival and farmer’s market that takes place here every Friday night along Myrtle Avenue.

We have to come here each Friday night for physical therapy for Tim. The adjacent festival makes it easy to step out afterward for dinner and browsing. 

There are three restaurants we rotate through on a weekly basis on each corner of the heart of the festival, the intersection of Myrtle Avenue and Colorado Boulevard. The fourth corner is a bank but we’d love someone to open a nice place to eat there so we can have a full rotation.  I digress…

One Friday night a few months ago, we finished our workout. As Tim does his therapy, Letty and I make use of the time to work out in the gym. Afterward, we make our way over to the corner to take advantage of T. Phillips’ 72 taps and Happy Hour appetizer prices for dinner only to encounter a dismal sight.

One of the vendor booths for the festival has set up shop directly on the wheelchair ramp and curb cut blocking the access to the entrance.

I asked the vendor why they were there, blocking our way. He told me that the people running the festival told him to set up there. The vendor moved some of their merchandise to create a wide enough path for Tim to get through while I found one of the security guards for the festival.

He told me I’d have to take it up with the festival manager who was nowhere to be found at this moment.

I left him with the message that this was illegal and the booth had better not be there next week.

Fast forward to the next week. After the workout, we again go to our dinner corner. This week there wasn’t one booth blocking the curb cut…now there were two booths blocking two corners.

Seething, we set down to eat but I kept an eye out the window. I know that the mayor and city council members are frequent visitors to the festival so I want to find one and complain.

No mayor or councilmembers showed but the manager of the festival was walking by.

I left our table and found him at one of the booths blocking the way.

I greeted him and introduced myself to him as nicely as I could and said “you can’t block the ramp like this, there are several people here in wheelchairs that need this access.”

His first response was “yes I can because I leave four feet on the side.”

My response was “no you can’t because that four feet is sloped sideways and a wheelchair user would feel like they’re tipping over.”

The next reason was “yes I can because we’re not a permanent fixture here, we’re only temporary.”

I admit it was a bit tough to debate without the law in hand or an expert grasp of it but I bluffed ahead anyway…”I don’t see how a festival that is here every single Friday night of the year is not permanent. I want you to clear these ramps and if I don’t see them clear next week I will take this to the mayor and city council.”

We left it when he told me not to worry and he’d take care of it.

Another week goes by, another session of therapy, and another workout.  Dinner afterward. 
Two corners blocked by the same vendor booths.

OK, now it’s time to follow through on my promise…

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

FIELDS OF DREAMS: Recreation Park, Visalia, California

Recreation Park is the home of the Rawhide. They are the single A minor league team affiliated with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The team, under one name or another, has played here for 65 years.  Currently, they sit in the cellar of the northern division of the California League.  Players that have gone on to the majors from the team include Barry Zito, Juan Uribe, Nick Swisher, Evan Longoria, Randy Johnson, and Aubrey Huff. Former player Kirby Puckett is in the Hall of Fame.

Here are the stats…
Year opened: 1946
Surface: Grass
Construction cost: ? (2009 renovation: $11 million)
Capacity:  1,888 seated, 2, 468 including grassy areas
Field dimensions: Left field – 320 ft.; left center – 365 ft.; Center field – 410 ft.; right center – 365 ft.;  Right field – 320 ft.
Home teams: Visalia Cubs (1946-1952, 1954-1956), Visalia Stars 1953, Visalia Redlegs (1957-1959), Visalia Athletics (1960-1961), Visalia White Sox 1962, Visalia Mets (1968-1975), Visalia Oaks (1977-1992, 1995-2008), Central Valley Rockies (1993-1994), Visalia Rawhide (2009-present)
Events attended: one game

Recreation Park sits south of downtown Visalia. Free parking is available in the small lot behind home plate and the larger lot across the street. Handicapped parking is just 4 or 5 spots.

The grandstand behind home plate is the oldest part of the park, dating back to the 1960’s when dirt from nearby freeway construction was used to create the present berm and grandstand.  The newer looking building going down the first base side was constructed in 2009.
Calling ahead, we had no problem getting a wheelchair ticket and two companion seats. Will Call is not located near home plate like it is at most parks, you need to walk half a block down the right field line to find the ticket offices and Will Call.

There is wheelchair accessible seating in this new area (where our tickets were located – right at first base), also in the group areas along the third base line, and just a couple of locations behind home plate. The seats behind home plate are also behind an aisle so people will be walking in front of you the entire game, not a desirable location and the accessible tickets the team will sell last.

According to the team, the best wheelchair accessible seats were where we were, about 15 feet behind first base. It’s positively Rube Goldbergian in how this accessible area was designed.  To get to the level where the seats are, you need to take a lift…one of those really slow, metal, one person lifts that you see as an afterthought at many businesses.  Tim could barely fit in it with his chair and then it wouldn’t work.  Maintenance had to be called to repair it before we could go up.
Once at our seats, we noticed that there were no restrooms or snack bars on this level. You would need to go back down that balky lift, go inside the adjacent building to take another lift to the concession level where the accessible bathrooms are located.

We did notice a nice ramp going up into the older grandstand area and a level bridge across from there to our seats but access was blocked there by a snack bar set up with a permanent fence between our seats and the ramp.  Mind you, this was all built just two years ago…someone really needs to school that architect in Universal Design.
Ticket prices run from $7 to $30, about a buck more than average for single A but it works out cheaper when you consider the free parking. You can also get a range of discounts by buying your ticket at leat 20 days in advance. Food ranged from an inedible Italian sausage, to decent hot dogs, to incredibly delicious bratwursts cooked at that snack bar that blocked our way to the ramp.  Beer selection is good, with large local microbrews (22 oz.) going for $7. 
Once in our seats, the view was excellent. We could hear every word the first base coach said to his runners and the interplay between players, coaches, and umpires. The entire seating bowl is behind a screen, usually something you only see behind home plate.  This is due to the fact that the seats here are among the closest to the action in any professional ball park…you are right in the middle of the action here.

Other unique features here include a barn where one of the walls is incorporated into the outfield wall.  The side of the barn is a double, the roof a home run.  We didn’t see any players who could hit the broadside of the barn during our visit, however.
The mascot is a cow named Tipper (cow tipping, get it?). If you watch the video from our Tulare County report, you can see where a batter let go of his bat and it came within an inch or so of hitting Tipper’s head.

The team pennants are painted on the concrete on the right field side of the original grandstand and the Major League teams that the team has been affiliated with are on the left field side.
All in all, not a bad stadium but, while the access is there and easy to get, the design of it is terrible.
Copyright 2011 – Darryl Musick
Updated for 2013

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Adios, Mr. Cornfield

This year's corn crop is done. We had two, sweet yellow varieties growing on eight stalks.

The final tally is 14 ears, compared to I think 6 last year, so that's a success.

We don't eat it every day so we still have some of the harvest in the fridge waiting to cook.

It's time to pull up the dried-up stalks, thank God for our harvest, and start eating.

I was going to pull up our two zucchini plants also but then I saw this.

They're not the prettiest looking specimens right now but since I picked this beautiful squash, I'll let them go another week or two to see if I get another one.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

FIELDS OF DREAMS: Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Citizen’s Bank Park is the home of the Philadelphia Phillies and replaces the now demolished Veteran’s Stadium, which they shared with the Eagles football team.  It sits south of downtown in the Sports Complex along with Lincoln Financial Field (football) and the Wells Fargo Center (hockey and basketball).

The Phillies have a long history.  The team has been here, in this incarnation, since 1883.  The name is short for the “Philadelphians.”  The team has had highs and lows.  It won the World Series in 1980 and 2008, most recently against the Joe Maddon led Tampa Bay Rays.   The team also holds the record for the most games lost by any MLB team.  Many baseball legends have played here; Steve Carlton, Larry Bowa, Mike Schmidt, Pete Rose, Casey Stengel, Sparky Anderson, Joe Morgan, and Ryne Sandberg are among the big names that have graced the rosters.  In 2012, you can watch such star players at Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels, Chase Utley and Cliff Lee play.

Right now, in August of 2013, the Phillies are in third place but it's a low third place, 15.5 games behind the Nationals and the Braves in the Nationals League's eastern division.
Here are the stats…

Year opened: 2004
Surface: Kentucky Blue Grass
Construction cost: $458 million
Capacity:  46,528
Field dimensions: Left field – 329 ft.; left center – 374 ft.; left center “angle” – 409 ft.; Center field – 401 ft.; right center – 369 ft.;  Right field – 330 ft.
Home teams: Philadelphia Phillies (National League, MLB) 2004 –present
Events attended: one game

Citzen’s Bank Park seems like a large stadium when you’re inside, a feature it shares with parks such as Los Angeles, St. Louis, and San Francisco.   This is not an intimate feeling stadium, yet the staff and fans are very welcoming and become temporary friends for a few hours.  It’s a hitter-friendly park, too, second only to Yankee Stadium for the number of home runs given up.
The seating bowl features three larger decks and a small level of suites.  It can get pretty hot here in the summer, so most fans like to sit in the upper reaches of the decks to take advantage of the shade…you’ll see a lot of people from the lower parts of the decks head to the open concourse on a hot day.

Seating in the outfield has several levels, from cheap bleacher seats to a private party deck filled with inflatable pools.  Ticket prices run from $14 to $80.  Decent prices for a lot of the seats but lacking in the truly “cheap seats.”  Call (215-463-1000) for accessible seating.

Handicapped seating is bountiful and spread throughout all levels.  No problems with buying extra companion seats. 
The stadium is well served by accessible subway and bus transit.  It is also surrounded by vast fields of parking lot.

Food is mainly regular ballpark fare with hot dogs, pizza and the like but it is high quality and tasty.  A few different foods are available, such as the Schmitter…a cheese steak with salami, tomatoes, special sauce, all on a Kaiser roll.  Pre-packaged vegan fare and sushi are available at the South Philadelphia Market convenience store locations scattered around the park.
There is a large selection of draft beers available at average ballpark prices.

The game experience is very good here.  The views are excellent with no obstructions.  Staff is very friendly and helpful.  It is also one of the few stadiums that do not allow fans to return to their seats during game play…you must wait for a dead ball to go back.  For wheelchair users, they enforce the clear area around the wheelchair seats so people don’t use your personal space as a “standing room only” zone like they do at many parks.

The local fans are also very friendly and are happy to talk baseball, the Phillies, your home team, and your trip. 
What is great about this stadium is decent food, great beer selection, friendly people, good views, and an exciting team to watch.  What could be better?  A more intimate feel, lower ticket prices in the nosebleeds and bleachers, and be closer to downtown.
All-in-all, a great stadium that leads the rest of the pack under our top three modern era stadiums.  .

Copyright 2010 – Darryl Musick

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Hot August Harvests

Harvest season is in full swing here at Cheapskate Farms. 

Today, I'm concentrating on our chile peppers. Those are our two Serrano plants at the top.

This is our unknown, but much hotter, variety next to the played-out cornfield.

With a pair of gardening gloves, it's a snap to pinch them off of the plants.

Here's today's harvest with the Serrano on the right, the unknown variety on the left, and a couple of clusters of grapes from our vine.

Coming up will be Bell peppers, just about my favorite thing to grow...

...the soon-to-be spectacular looking Dragon Fruit...

...and the onions are ready too.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, August 1, 2013

An Update on The Grape

Getting close to harvest time on our grape vine, pictured above.

I'm guessing about a week till these two bunches are ripe. Maybe another week or two of ripening for the rest of the plant.

I decided to pick a test cluster, just for gauging the ripeness of course...

Here is the test cluster.

After washing, the wife and I sat back with an adult beverage and sampled.

You might see a few split grapes on the bunch. That is the result of botrytis, a fungus that affects the grapes. I treat with sulfur, but it's hard to get 100% of the grapes not to split.

Oh, the test? Yeah, they passed...they were delicious!

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved