Sometimes it goes south. Here are some tips on how to avoid that.
Absent authority or intent as legal advice.
ADA Advocacy clients need equal access. More often than not, when I have engaged with a client, there is a positive outcome to some degree. It may not be everything the client wanted, but there is a positive takeaway. At the very least, working with me gives the client access to my product, how I speak, write, interact, advocate for them, and unlike an attorney who writes a letter with little to no (usual) direction from a legal client, I seek input from my clients on the tone of my communications to the offending party(ies).
Since I am currently giving a course on ADA Advocacy, it will be helpful to the Advocates in training, and also to any potential client, to know what can easily de-rail a cause or eliminate any happy endings.
Give yourself permission to fight back against discrimination or inequality. One of the most tiring things I have experienced as an ADA Advocate is wrestling with a client’s mental ping-pong of being afraid of having their discrimination or inequality situation dealt with. I know that I am a bold and/or direct Advocate, being willing to take on the confrontation piece for the client.
In all fairness, Title I employment cases must be handled more delicately, because the employee (client) is already afraid of losing their job. Standing up to their boss, even if it is to confront discrimination, is an intimidating construct, even before it begins. In my intake sessions, I walk clients through finding out what is happening, explaining how the ADA provides rights to them and that this will have to be directly confronted. That a potential client is talking with me is evidence that the potential client has already had to muster an exceptional amount of courage. To take it to the next level, and actually address this in a confrontational manner with their employer takes a commitment.
The very first commitment is that the employee/disabled person is worthy of being heard and treated equally. If there is any wavering on this issue, the time to clarify that this self-permission exists is before engaging in relationship as aid and encouragement for the potential client.
Do you deserve to be heard?
Realize and acknowledge that reconciliation of discrimination and/or inequality is a journey, not a destination.
While I listen to what a potential client wants, and strive to bring about the desired solution, there are going to be many opportunities for negotiation along the way. Results and the timeline of results is going to be fluid in some cases.
Some clients choose to realize the gain of a result (such as having an abusive judge recuse themselves) and then go separate ways. Some clients want to sue the offenders, and realize that this will take considerably more investment of time and effort on their part and abort that path.
I would like to engage clients that want to go “all the way” to court and resolve their injuries due to discrimination. This is something that takes quite a bit of energy on the client’s part, and so, this is not a usual marathon clients engage with. They most often want something a little more instantly, and without much of a long-drawn battle.
Some results for a client, no matter how seemingly big or small, accomplishes increased visibility and voice for the rights held in the ADA, and also empowers the client to know that they do not have to take being abused on the basis of disability. Every client experience is an educational event for all involved. If the covered entities (employers, courts or businesses) learn that they have to be compliant, that’s another positive.
De-boarding the aircraft without a parachute is not advised.
Another variable that ends up in unhappy endings, or endings that fall extremely short of the potential positive outcomes that could be realized, is when a client just gets tired just before the finish line, or just decides to run the opposite direction on the path. This can present in fear, fatigue (“I just can’t do this any more”) or some other variable that just stops the process. Old belief systems are sometimes to blame. The imprints of childhood programming, and the voices of our first authority figures have cemented in the voices in our minds that say “I’m unworthy of equal access,” or “I’m causing a problem.” Judges and other legal industry players are more than happy to latch onto this psychological construct and echo that we are causing problems by demanding equal access.
I’ve had clients that were unable to hear (mentally, not physically) the protocol needed for their situation. For example, one couple that I had as clients would acknowledge that they were not being given ADA Access to court. Even though they acknowledged this in our calls, when they went to court, they would not follow the protocol of dealing with the administrative ADA access first, and instead proceeded to argue the subject matter of their case, entering into the at-law tribunal, and waiving their rights under ADA. They proceeded to blame me, but the responsibility fell in their laps. After this happening multiple times, I was unwilling to go forward any further with them. It’s an unfortunate part of ADA Advocacy that sometimes, a client will go through jump training, learn how to fold a parachute, get in the aircraft and remove their parachute just before jumping out.
I attempt to ensure that this doesn’t happen often or at all. The warning signs are (1) refusing to maintain the position of demanding their ADA Access before entering into agreement to proceed to subject matter and (2) bringing in a non-lawyer to help them write their paperwork for their case. I’m not saying that having a friend help write documents is always a bad thing, but it makes me pay attention to what kind of conflict this can create for me and the client.
I’ve only had this happen once, but I recently had a client that hired another ADA Advocate without letting me know, and when we got the court hearing, the other Advocate and I were on different pages of music.
When I’m engaged to be on a case, and all of a sudden another ADA Advocate appears (which is very rare) and there is a shift in the dynamic that I am unprepared for, and may directly conflict with my trained position, this is a problem.
I approached the client for an explanation of what was going on. This was one of those instances where the parachute (which in this case was my involvement) was discarded just before de-boarding the aircraft (which in this case was going into a hearing with an added Advocate without discussing protocol or boundaries first). They decided this was not worth communicating through to resolution. It happens. This same client had patriot-bullshit advisors helping with court legal paperwork, and while I spoke against it, I was there to pursue the administrative access under ADA. This type of activity causes me problems, because long ago, I studied many of the claims of those doing redemption process, or going after bonds, or some other alleged remedy, and while they have nothing to do with ADA access, sometimes they cause conflict with the Client/ADA Advocate relationship. I’m not the guy to Advocate for someone claiming that the oath of a judge takes away jurisdiction. That’s an at-law argument, and mixing it in with ADA Advocacy is not a position I’m going to put myself in knowingly.
If you’re a potential client reading this, COMMUNICATION with your Advocate (one or more) is paramount, and things not discussed are often wrenches in the gears that can damage the ability to continue forward in a healthy manner. This entire process is an educational field, and while the client will have boundaries, it is important for the Advocate to set boundaries as well, even if they have to be updated and augmented.
Bottom line, if you want to win, be in it to win it, and try to go the long-haul with communication, trust, honesty, and respect in place.
As Certified ADA Advocate, P.D., JAY V SHORE
adarights [at] protonmail [dot] com