EHN [of California]
P.O. Box 1155
Larkspur, California, 94977-0074

Support and Information Line
(SAIL) 415.541.5075
A 501 (c) (3) non profit agency.

ATBCB Testimony
Monday, January 31, 2000
Los Angeles, CA

ADA promises persons with disabilities
an end to discrimination and inaccessible buildings

I am the Reverend David Gilmartin. I speak on behalf of the Environmental Health Network, a national organization which supports people with chemical and electrical sensitivities and fights for accessibility that will allow their equal participation in society.

The Americans with Disabilities Act promises persons with disabilities an end to discrimination and inaccessible buildings. In Section 504, the ATBCB is told to "establishÖ requirementsÖ to ensure that buildings, facilities, rail passenger cars, and vehicles are accessible, in terms of architecture and design, transportation, and communication, to individuals with disabilities." This means people with all kinds of disabilities.

Sadly, the implementing regulations and the ADA Accessibility Guidelines are seriously flawed. Some kinds of access needs are addressed while others have been ignored. Leaving large areas of accessibility to be accommodated on a case-by-case basis is totally inadequate when the barriers are architectural and so widespread. This case-by-case approach is not part of the ADA. The result of the proposed guidelines will continue to be accessibility for some and continuing inaccessibility for others.

People with chemical and electrical sensitivities and their supporters have been making proposals, making comments at ATBCB hearings, writing letters, and filing complaints. Asking for equivalent coverage. For ten years or more. Without noticeable effect.

I conclude that the ATBCB, the Department of Justice, and other agencies empowered to implement the ADA are themselves guilty of a pattern of discrimination against people with disabilities. This Board is guilty, and should be hauled into court.

What does it mean for people with chemical and electrical sensitivities to live without appropriate architectural access? It means never eating out. Never trying on clothes in a store; shopping only by catalog. Appointments with doctors, psychologists, and others out in the parking lot, not in an office. Including pelvic exams. It means being unable to go into hospitals or into court. Being unable to use public restrooms or elevators. It means getting sick every day at work, from breathing the polluted indoor air. Homelessness with no hope of public housing. It means not being able to participate in government.

It has been argued that what it takes to provide these accessibilities is outside of the purview of the ATBCB. Such things as pesticide spraying, special signage, perfume use, radio frequency transmissions, or copying machines are not structural elements and are outside of your area of responsibility.

Nonsense! The ATBCB can develop architectural guidelines that will significantly ameliorate problems with chemicals and electromagnetic fields in the indoor environment. Set standards for source reduction of toxic products, ventilation (to dilute airborne toxins), availability of non-fluorescent lighting, shielding of electrical wiring, and placement of strong EMF and RF sources like motors, electrical panels, and wireless transmission towers. There is plenty you can do within your purview.

It has been argued that we donít know enough about what causes these problems. Nonsense again! The ADA doesnít require a medical understanding of any disability. It defines disability in terms of functional limitation. It is quite clear and readily demonstrable that people lose functioning in the presence of, for example, poor quality air or modest-sized electrical fields. Sick Building Syndrome is not hypothetical. There are simply too many cases to sustain the "we donít know enough" argument.

The ADAAGís circular and presumptive definition of "accessible," at section 106.5, as "a site, building, facility, or portion thereof that complies with this part," is an open invitation to non-compliance. Future defendants could argue that these chemical and electro-magnetic needs are not accessibility issues. How dare you pretend that you have covered every kind of access that is needed by people with every kind of disability!

The recently proposed revisions demonstrate that accessibility can be dealt with architecturally, and they demonstrate that it is possible to refine the methods for doing so over time. BUT THEY DO NOT ADDRESS ACCESS FOR THE CHEMICALLY SENSITIVE OR THE ELECTRICALLY SENSITIVE PERSON WHATSOEVER.

You can do much to end the misery of people systematically shut out of society, and you have the responsibility to do it. You can address these accessibility needs if you only have the will to do so.

Find that will. Do your part. Do it as soon as possible. Do not perpetuate this injustice another day!

David Gilmartin

Environmental Health Network
PO Box 1155, Larkspur, CA 94977
(415) 541-5075

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The Environmental Health Network (EHN) [of California] is a 501 (c) (3) non profit agency and offers support and information for the chemically injured. HomePage is