A recent article in The Washington Post discusses the finer points of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as it applies to people with hearing loss in noisy restaurants. Several people profiled in the article said that, while dining out, they were unable to hear conversation because of excessively loud background noise. They described a range of responses to their requests for a quieter table including the music being turned down or off, being told the music couldn’t be changed as it was “set by corporate overseers,” or simply being ignored and/or treated rudely by wait staff.
According to the article, the ADA stipulates that restaurants must accommodate disabilities, however, there seems to be a grey area when it comes to hearing impaired individuals requesting a quieter environment, and the law has mainly been “silent.”

“Noise as a disability-rights issue is an ‘evolving area of law,’” said Ruth Colker, a law professor at Ohio State University, who specializes in disability law, and is quoted in the Post article. “If a restaurant refuses to accommodate a hearing disability, ‘you do not call the police,’ she said. ‘That’s not going to help. It is a civil problem, and you can file a lawsuit with the assistance of a lawyer, which is not an easy thing to do.’”

Most of the disability lawsuits, according to Colker, involve mobility issues involving parking, doors, and bathrooms. Though disabled people should be able to receive “reasonable modifications,” courts may grant an exception to a change that would “fundamentally alter the nature of the business.”

“I could imagine that a court would say the fundamental nature of a restaurant is serving food,” Colker said in the article. “Is it fundamental to the nature of a restaurant to offer background noise? That is an untested legal question.”

To read the story in its entirety, please click here.

Source: Washington Post