Just comply with ADA and he’ll ‘go away’
By Geoff Oldfather
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Lenny Wein is a pain in the neck. Some use another part of the anatomy to describe him. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
Wein has been accused of extortion and worse because he has taken on local governments, businesses and individuals over the issue of access for the handicapped. “I get no money. I ask for no damages. All I want them to do is fix it,” Wein said. He has filed 36 lawsuits in federal U.S. District Court for South Florida over handicap access.
Wein’s latest target is the Martin County Fairgrounds, where he says he has been trying for more than a decade to get officials to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, passed more than 18 years ago. He claims people in wheelchairs or using walkers or other aides can’t get to games, rides or food stands in the grassy midway, and bathrooms and other facilities are so antiquated they’re
almost impossible for the handicapped to use.
When Wein’s lawsuit was filed Feb. 7, the day before the fair opened, he immediately came under fire by critics who said he timed it that way just to make headlines. “I’ve been trying to get them to respond to my concerns for several years, and I tried to get
them to fix it months ago, before the Greek Festival or the fair, so it wouldn’t be a problem. Opening day of the fair had nothing to do with it,” said Wein, a Palm City resident.
That’s probably true. Wein’s been trying to get me to write about the issue since October, but I held off hoping something would be worked out before a lawsuit was filed.
In November 2006, the St. Lucie County Commission agreed to settle a lawsuit Wein filed over Tradition Field. At issue was a lack of ADA-required companion seating in wheelchair sections, and the county budgeted $475,000 for repairs. Wein didn’t ask for damages in that case, and while his attorney’s fees were paid, Wein didn’t receive any money.
That didn’t keep commission chairman Doug Coward from accusing Wein of “trying to extort money” by filing the lawsuit. Wein just laughs. “They fix it. I go away,” Wein said.
Wein doesn’t always win. He lost a non-ADA related case in the 19th Judicial Circuit which had to do with claims that Wein couldn’t get a complete copy of the minutes of a Stuart West Property Owners Association meeting and he dropped one over a claim he was being “harassed” by members of that group’s board of directors.
Wein, who uses a wheelchair, takes it all in stride. “What this is really about is discrimination,” Wein said. “I’m lucky because I’m somewhat ambulatory, I can get around. But there are plenty of people who can’t and they’re being discriminated against and after all, the Americans With Disabilities Act is the law, and people have to comply with the law,” Wein said. “I call it the ‘Anti-Discrimination Act,’ because that’s really what it is,” he said.
We need someone like Wein to keep things honest. Someone who’s willing to take the heat. Lenny, you’re a pain the neck. And worse.
Keep it up.
Columnist Geoff Oldfather can be reached at (772) 221-4217 or email@example.com.
(Our Note: We are proud to claim Lenny as one of our longtime members in Access Now !!!)