Disabilities advocacy attorney weighs in on Weiss Lake Lodge discrimination controversy

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) – An attorney with the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program shed light on the legal options for people who feel they have been discriminated against because of their disability.

Senior trial counsel, Larry Canada, with ADAP said because we don’t know what happened before or after customer Scott East began recording the incident at Weiss Lake Lodge in Centre, AL, he said he could not say it was a clear case of discrimination; but Canada said he does find issues in the way the motel handled the situation.

“If there was no room available, they should’ve just said that,” Canada said.

East accused the motel of refusing to book him a room because he’s in a wheelchair.

Canada said it appeared East would’ve taken any room, but the video didn’t show that being offered as an option.

In general, Canada said discrimination against a person because of a disability is against the law.

“There are a lot of business owners that wrongfully believe they can deny service to anybody at any time for any reason. That is not the case,” Canada said. “That is a violation of title three of the Americans With Disabilities Act.”

Motel manager, James McDonald, said the incident was because of a language barrier and not bias.

“People stay here all the time that are handicapped. We have dogs here,” James McDonald, Weiss Lake Lodge Manager said.

East said he was considering his legal options.

According to Canada, a person who feels they have been discriminated against because of their disability can file a claim with the Department of Justice seeking monetary damages.

“The Department of Justice could then file an action against the hotel owner or operator seeking damages and other remedies like an injunction from treating others with disabilities a certain way in the future,” Canada explained.

A person could also file a personal lawsuit, Canada advised.

“You’re not entitled to money damages if you file a suit on your own. But you can get injunctive relief and the reason it can be bad for the owners it’s because it is a civil rights action and the gentleman would be entitled to attorneys fees,” said Canada.

East said he had been in contact with several attorneys.

The Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program is a resource available to everyone. Visit https://adap.ua.edu/ to get in contact with them.

Copyright 2021 WBRC. All rights reserved.

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