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AMC – hard to believe

by Dr. E. Faye Williams
Dr. E. Faye Williams

<TriceEdneyWire.com> — If you were asked to point out Bishop William Barber in a crowd of thousands of people, I don’t know anybody who would hesitate to point him out correctly.  Even though it shouldn’t have to be that way, I mention that way of pointing him out is that everyone who knows him would know Bishop Barber has a serious disability! Nearly everyone would know he is one of the most powerful preachers in the world and they would have been happy to give up their seat to make a space for him. With all of his public appearances in the Greenville, N.C. area everyone should’ve known he has a disability that required special seating. Who runs AMC Theater?

Let’s dial back just in case you were one of the few who didn’t know Bishop Barber, but you saw that he was a man with a disability, and you saw police escorting him out of the AMC Theater in Greenville where Bishop Barber had gone like so many others to see a screening of The Color Purple. Did you come to his aid when police arrived to escort him out of the theater Surely, most adults present knew he was entitled to the Americans with Disabilities Act protection and knew it protects people with disabilities from discrimination. From voting to parking, the ADA protects people with disabilities in many areas of public life.

It’s a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in everyday activities. The ADA prohibits discrimination based on a disability just as other civil rights laws prohibit discrimination based on race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion.  The ADA guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to enjoy employment opportunities, purchase goods and services, and participate in state and local government programs. Did anyone try to help Bishop Barber by mentioning his ADA rights? Nobody wanted to get involved?

His disability is physical and is very noticeable. He has a history or record of a noticeable impairment. Didn’t anybody in the theater know about the ADA? I am concerned about people who just walk on by. Bishop Barber is worth more than that.

Everyone, especially those working in a public place should read the law and know it well. There is a long list of disabilities, so we all need to learn that list. If you have a business open to the public, you definitely need to know the law to keep your business from violating it. Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to an employee (as well as the duty it had to Bishop Barber.) AMC is a public place with a duty to make its space accessible without going to an unreasonable expense. The area to accommodate Bishop Barber was already in the theater and he brought his own chair. The police should have known the law, too.

One cannot deny a person with a disability a job based on a disability if the person is qualified by education, experience, and skills for the job—and please do not post a notice saying ‘Persons with disabilities may not enter this theater.’ What happened to Bishop Barber is shameful.

Management of the AMC Theater violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. I’ve kept an eye on how AMC would handle the matter. Typically, they apologized, but what do they do about the injury for preventing Bishop Barber from seeing the film he’d come to see? He just wanted to see The Color Purple and needed to use his own chair in the disabled section. What should be the penalty for violation of the ADA? The penalty should be more than just an apology.

 (Dr. E. Faye Williams is president of the Dick Gregory Society.)

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