Let's form a committee!
Our government at work
8-Apr-06. Boondoggle alert! When action is needed, our government— forms a committee.
In 1996, a Tennessee man, confined to a wheelchair, was forced to crawl up two flights of stairs in the Polk County court house to reach the courtroom where his case was to be heard, because there was no elevator. Forced to return for a second hearing, he refused to suffer the same indignity and was punished for failure to appear. He sued on the basis that the county had failed to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disability Act. Eventually, the case made its way to the Supreme Court, where it was decided in 2004 that the ADA validly trumped the states' immunity from being sued. (Rehnquist, Kennedy, Thomas, and Scalia dissented.)
Common sense says that "liberty and justice for all" requires that all be able to access the court, but it took a decision of the Supreme Court to say it had to be so. At this point the government swung into action — not with a program to make courthouses accessible, but by forming a committee to study the matter. Thus was born the Courthouse Access Advisory Committee to advise the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board.
The committee meets quarterly, and the next meeting is coming up on May 18 and 19 at the Hyatt in Miami, Florida. Here's your chance: the meeting is open to the public, and non-members may even join subcommittees! Be advised, however, that "persons attending Committee meetings are requested to refrain from using perfume, cologne, and other fragrances."
If you still need to be convinced, you may want to look at the minutes of the February 2006 meeting in Washington, D.C.
Previous meetings have been held in prime destinations: Phoenix (February 2005), Washington, DC (May 2005), Chicago (August 2005), San Francisco (November 2005), and Washington, DC (February 2006). All the better for the committee's 31 members to enjoy an hospitable working environment, no doubt.
If the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board really wanted to make a difference, they'd have those 31 people go out for two days and check compliance with standards that undoubtedly already exist. Just think how many wheelchair ramps could be built for the cost of 31 sleeping rooms plus meeting rooms plus meals for two days at a Hyatt!