Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit frustrates Valley business owners

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Dozens of local businesses owners are upset over lawsuits filed against them by a San Jose attorney, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The attorney says -- despite death threats -- he and his clients will continue fighting for disabled rights.Daniel Delgado's dream is to open a business in Madera providing wheelchairs to disabled people who can't afford them. He says mobility is essential -- he too is wheelchair bound: "You're walking but the day something happens to you you're gonna realize how difficult it is to go to the restroom, go to the handicap parking where you can't even park."

Delgado was so frustrated with the lack of disabled access at local businesses, he and four other plaintiffs-- with the help of attorney Randy Moore -- recently filed more than 50 lawsuits against central valley businesses: From large corporation like Carrows, to locally owned ones like Yosemite Falls Café, to entire shopping centers like Sierra Pavilions in Clovis.

They're alleging discrimination in the form of a lack of signs, improperly configured handicap parking spaces, and illegal ramps. Delgado explains, "They knew about the laws, but they just want to hush hush so they won't do it."

Each violation carries fines of as much as four thousand dollars. For some businesses struggling in these tough times, multiple violations can get too expensive. El Gallo Mexican Restaurant in Clovis shut down last month -- its owners left a sign that the restaurant was closed pending ADA repairs.

Foster's Freeze in Sanger was also sued. Scott Karl is the owner: "I was stunned, to say the least. It is accessible, and to have a comfortable eating experience when you're disabled." Karl believes so many lawsuits filed by the same group of people is an abuse of the law: "So they're catching us off guard, using the federal law against us to make just a windfall of money off of small business owners." Something the plaintiffs and their attorney deny.

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