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Ms. Wheelchair Suits Prompt Wisconsin Businesses To Address Access Problems
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 5, 2005

APPLETON, WISCONSIN--Efforts by a former Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin to make businesses in the Appleton area accessible to people with disabilities are paying off.

Last week, the Green Bay Press-Gazette reported that 13 businesses have agreed to make changes to their premises in order to avoid lengthy and costly legal battles.

Gina Hackel sued 26 local businesses in January, just as her Ms. Wheelchair reign ended. In the suits, Hackel claimed that she found 16 violations to the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act in just one floral shop.

Bob Shumaker, an attorney representing twelve of the businesses, said that the defendants agreed to choose their own qualified ADA consultant to advise them on how to comply with the federal laws. Instead of an out-of-state firm, they decided on Options for Independent Living, Inc., a Green Bay non-profit.

"Rather than choosing someone who might be favorable to them, (my clients) chose the best advocate for disabled people in northeast Wisconsin and they want him to give an honest and a fair and a complete evaluation of their facilities," Shumaker told the Press-Gazette.

Hackel's attorney, Gene Zweben, said his client was glad the businesses were going to take responsibility for improving the access problems, but was disappointed that it took a lawsuit for them to follow the federal anti-discrimination law.

"Ms. Hackel had been trying to contact local businesses for years and had gotten no relief," Zweben said. "Notice didn’t work in the past . . . and after we filed these lawsuits, they did become compliant very quickly."

Hackel will receive no money under the agreement, but businesses could be asked to pay her attorney's fees.

"Disability-access lawsuit settled" (Green Bay Press-Gazette)

Ms. Wheelchair Sues Businesses Over Access Barriers -- January 26, 2005 (Inclusion Daily Express)

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