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Coronavirus Sidewalk Dining Puts People with Disabilities at RiskOutdoor dining, delivery, curbside pickup – none of these phrases are new to anyone nowadays. They’re the most common adaptions we’ve made during this pandemic and allow us to continue living as much of our “normal” lives as possible. Especially in cities like Chicago, sidewalks are often crowded with elaborate dining setups, with big signs pointing to pick-up spots, and even AI robots delivering food. It’s entirely understandable; this pandemic has threatened thousands of businesses, and restaurants especially face bankruptcy if they do not adapt.

Blocked sidewalks and parking spots threaten the rights and safety of the disabled

But these workarounds are only effective in theory. In reality, solutions like sidewalk dining may not only alienate but actively harm those who aren’t able-bodied, and that isn’t acceptable. For example, those outdoor dining setups – whether set up as plastic domes or behind wooden barriers – often infringe on much of the sidewalk, leaving those with wheelchairs or other mobility aids less room to navigate. Paired with the newer trend of rentable scooters and bikes lined up near the curb, the public city sidewalk has become more of a dangerous obstacle course than a safe walkway.

Even without blocking sidewalks, some restaurants with the privilege of their own parking lots have set up their outdoor dining spaces blocking parking spots, and frequently, the spots blocked are the ones for disabled people. Not only are  these parking spots necessary for providing ease of access to the restaurant itself, but they also allow enough room for wheelchair loading and unloading, which means infringing on these spaces can, quite literally, prevent people from even leaving their own cars.

Delivery and pickup can pose their own challenges, specifically in cases of robots doing the delivering. This particular AI technology was not developed with disabled people in mind, which was made especially obvious in the disturbing story about a woman in a wheelchair trapped in the road with a green light after crossing the street because a delivery robot didn’t recognize her as a pedestrian, and therefore didn’t move out of her way from where it was blocking the curb.

So what happens when someone using a visual aid can’t navigate around the barriers of outdoor dining? Or when a person is trapped in their vehicle because people are eating lunch in the space they need to exit? And what happens when, as in the frightening case mentioned above, the technology being used to make life easier during the pandemic can’t even recognize life?

The answer is obvious – people get hurt. Especially as we enter the colder months, when sidewalks and disabled spaces are already routinely neglected during plowing and thawing efforts, people can, have, and will be at risk of injuries as long as restaurants neglect the reasonable accommodations they are legally required to provide.

Covid-19 compliance versus the ADA

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that businesses cannot discriminate against people with disabilities of any sort. As such, they must make reasonable modifications and accommodations to ensure they can still serve everyone. If private businesses are annexing public spaces like sidewalks, or blocking their own parking spots and accessibility ramps, they may be liable for injuries that take place on those premises. If you’ve suffered a slip and fall due to untreated, icy sidewalks or faced personal injury from decreased accessibility, you may be entitled to damages for your losses.

Title I of the ADA provides those same protections to the employees of a business or restaurant. If you’re a disabled employee and you’ve been prevented from doing your job by the negligence of your employer, you might have a case for discrimination.

In these uncertain times, it is more important than ever to protect your rights – and your job. If you’ve been injured on the extended premises of a business or restaurant, or discriminated against due to a disability in Chicago or anywhere in Illinois, you need qualified, trustworthy people on your side. The team at Gainsberg Law is here to help with your premises liability or employment case, and we won’t stop until you get the compensations you deserve. Call us at 312-900-9565 or contact us today.