Tuesday, April 27, 1999

Isle mediation
training set for
disabilities cases

A private foundation will
provide instruction on
resolving disputes

By Russ Lynch


A private foundation will be coming to Hawaii next month to train mediators to help settle Americans with Disabilities Act disputes.

The mediation training by Keybridge Foundation, a U.S. Department of Justice-recognized trainer, is private and only those already qualified as mediators will be accepted.

Hundreds of ADA cases have been filed in Hawaii since the law went into effect in 1992 and almost all have been settled before going to court.

But restaurants, retail stores and other defendants have complained that the pressure of business in a tight economy forced them to make high-cost settlements and pay lawyers' fees because going to court would cost them more, even though they believe they are not discriminating.

Plaintiffs' lawyers say they are doing what they are supposed to do under the law and the settlements achieve what ADA set out to do -- remove physical barriers that make life harder for those with disabilities.

One way to avoid some disputes is the mediation system established in the ADA law. But Hawaii is one of six states that doesn't have U.S.-approved ADA mediation. The training is being funded, in part, by the Pacific Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center, a Berkeley, Calif.-based federal agency responsible for ADA matters in Western states.

Erica C. Jones, the center's director, said there will be an ADA mediation training session in Honolulu on May 7.

She said the session is to teach mediators the specifics required to oversee ADA cases.

Jones could not say how soon mediation might come to the islands but she expects it to be soon.

"I'm funding it (the training) because I realize that Hawaii has had some issues around ADA complaints and litigation," she said.

Honolulu ADA consultant Bruce M. Clark, said one of those issues is who pays expenses such as interisland travel.

Clark also noted that mediation is voluntary and by itself won't stop the flood of litigation. But "the concept is excellent, getting complainants and their attorneys to the mediation table," said Clark, president of Accessibility Planning & Consulting Inc.

Lunsford Dole Phillips, a wheelchair-bound Honolulu attorney who has pursued many ADA cases, contributed some of the funding for the training.

He sees nothing ironic in that, he said, because his goal is to get compliance with the law.

"In general, mediation works when the differences between the parties are based on a lack of information and understanding," Phillips said. It often is a dispute, he said, between two parties, "one of whom doesn't appreciate the demands on a small business in Hawaii in the 1990s and the other one who doesn't have a clue what it's like to be in a wheelchair, why he needs 36 inches."

Mediators who are interested in the training session can call 1-888-528-1609.

Experts to hold
ADA seminar

Two top federal experts on the Americans with Disabilities Act will be in Hawaii for a May 10 seminar to advise small businesses on how to comply with the law.

Erica C. Jones, director of the Pacific Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center, and John Wodatch, chief of the disability rights section of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, will be the featured presenters at the Hawaii Prince Hotel event. The May seminar is open to the public, at $55 a person for Hawaii Restaurant Association members and $65 for others, and will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and includes lunch.

The association is taking reservations by phone at 536-9105 or fax at 534-0117. For more information on ADA see the technical assistance center's Web page at

E-mail to Business Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin