Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Friday, August 29, 1997

Party hall tries to help
disabled with the stairs

I am a disabled woman who was invited to a party at the Catering Experience Hall. To my dismay, there was no accommodation for someone in a wheelchair. There is no front entrance except a steep and narrow stairway leading to the second floor. Some male guests lifted me up about 15 steps with difficulty. Because the stairs are narrow, there is no room for anyone to lift the wheels from both sides, which is done for safety reasons. Is this party hall in compliance with the law for the physically handicapped?

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 required most businesses, mainly those with public accommodations, to provide access for disabled customers, clients or workers.

It set standards for construction or alterations made after the law was enacted, while saying "for existing buildings, you should make changes that are readily achievable (given the financial resources available) or you must provide an alternate form of service delivery," explained Francine Wai, director of the state Commission on Persons with Disabilities.

So, just because a building was built before 1990 "doesn't mean it is exempt from the law or grandfathered in," Wai said.

A mitigating factor is that providing accessibility is "not a significant burden or undue expense," she said, and that is "based on the resources of the company and a lot of other factors as to whether or not there is an alternate way of delivering a service."

She noted a supermarket could just agree to take phone orders, get the groceries, then deliver it to a person at the door or at home.

Catering Experience Hall manager Gloria Kelly acknowledged that complaints like yours have "come up before."

The owners did look into installing an elevator, but found it would be too costly for the small business, she said. Asked about party-goers in wheelchairs, Kelly said, "We will assist as much as possible in carrying" them up and down the stairs. She noted that restrooms have been renovated to the act's standards.

Wai said she could not comment specifically on the Catering Experience Hall, since what is considered "readily achievable" has to be determined case by case.

If you wish to pursue your complaint, you can call Wai's office at 586-8121 for information on how to file a complaint. Then you would either have to go directly to the U.S. Department of Justice or hire an attorney to file a complaint in federal court, Wai said.

Can Oceanic Cable explain why, when the cable goes off, they will reimburse you only if you haven't had service for 24 hours? I think that is wrong. We had an outage of several hours recently.

First off, the 24 hours can be cumulative, said Oceanic spokesman Kit Beuret. So if you keep track of your outages, you can submit a request for reimbursement whenever they add up to 24 hours -- say one hour one day, 3 hours another day, etc.

But if you sit back and think of what you're paying for cable TV -- discounting the aggravation or inconvenience -- it may not be worth it to get reimbursed for anything less than one hour. At least that's the thinking of Oceanic and its government regulators, Beuret said.

If you consider what most subscribers pay, roughly $25 to $30 a month, that works out to about four or five cents an hour.

Then you figure, "what does it cost to mail the person the credit or even just to manually adjust the person's bill," Beuret said. Making adjustments four or five cents at a time "probably would be more expensive than it's worth."

"Because rates and policies are regulated either by state or fed government, we sat down and agreed that probably there should be a minimum outage period that would make sense and that was decided to be 24 hours," Beuret said.

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