The Americans with Disabilities Act and
the ordinary citizen:
Enforcement is in our hands, says attorney
Steve Gold, by filing pro se lawsuits
Go to our pro-se forms page
Pro se. It's a legal term, in Latin, that means "on behalf of oneself."
A pro se lawsuit is one you file for yourself, without an attorney.
Philadelphia attorney Steve Gold worked with the Pennsylvania Coalition
of Citizens with Disabilities to develop a way for ordinary disabled people,
without help of an attorney, to file lawsuits under Title III of the Americans
with Disabilities Act, by means of a pro se lawsuit.
Pro se lawsuits are nothing new. Using them to enforce the ADA is a
way to get things to happen without the Department of Justice or an attorney.
All you need is a disabled person and a business with a barrier (And that's
not hard to find! says Gold.).
The best pro se suits are ones that are very simple cases. "There
are literally thousands of cases that could be brought in every city,"
he says. "Pick the ones that are simple to start with. Our experience
has been that if you have a photo of the entrance, and it's clear that
a ramp can easily be added, then you win the case," says Gold.
"As you get more confidence, you can try the trickier ones,"
"But do the easy ones with pro-se - and do it a lot - and that
will educate the judges better than anything else."
The point of pro se is to be able to file a suit without having to pay
an attorney," Gold says, but doesn't mean you can't bring "friends"
as expert witnesses.
And, he stresses, it's best for people on SSI to file the pro-se suits;
their financial status will enable them to avoid paying the $150 filing
fee. The pro-se kit on the following pages has a form for "waiving
filing fee"- if you can say you're on SSI, the fee will be waived.
Gold says that in every instance you should always negotiate with the
business first, in writing, to try to get your ramp - or whatever it is
you need. A lever door handle. A TTY. Or whatever. "Then attach the
letter you wrote, along with their response - or note that you never got
a response in writing - when you file your lawsuit."
Read about a pro-se victory
Go to our pro-se forms
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