Donald Trump’s War on People With Disabilities
The man who says he has given more to Americans with disabilities than anyone else has faced a slew of lawsuits over ADA compliance.
Donald Trump, truth-manipulator-in-chief, has again run afoul of reality—this time when he spoke about his relationship with Americans with disabilities.
“Nobody gives more money to Americans—you know, the Americans with Disabilities Act—big act,” Trump confusingly said at a rally in Sarasota, Florida, on Saturday. “I give tens and tens of millions of dollars and I’m proud of doing it. I don’t mock people that have problems.”
This was his defense after Trump maliciously imitated a New York Times reporter with a physical disability and followed it up by saying he had never met him and requested that the publication apologize to Trump.
“I was very expressive in saying it, and they said that I was mocking him,” Trump told the crowd in Sarasota over the weekend. “I would never mock a person that has difficulty. I would never do that. I’m telling you, I would never do it.”
He previously also made fun of columnist Charles Krauthammer, who is paralyzed from the waist down. “I went out, I made a fortune, a big fortune, a tremendous fortune… bigger than people even understand,” Trump said in July after Krauthammer referred to him as a “rodeo clown.”
“Then I get called by a guy that can’t buy a pair of pants, I get called names?”
Now, it is true that Trump has a pretty extensive track record with ADA.
His properties have been sued a number of times for violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act, including one instance where a man claimed that the buses to his Atlantic City casino were virtually impossible to access in a wheelchair.
James Conlon, the plaintiff in that 2003 case, alleged that he was told on two separate occasions that there were no “buses available for use by persons who use wheelchairs who choose to leave from the Long Beach, New York departure site.”
The case was later settled.
In the most egregious case, the U.S. Department of Justice had to intervene because the Trump Taj Mahal was nearly inaccessible for people with disabilities.
In 2011, the United States Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey conducted a compliance review of Trump’s Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City. They discovered an extensive list of problems.
There were no signs indicating handicapped parking in the self-park garage. A number of bathrooms lacked proper Braille for visually impaired people. The pipes in the bathroom were not insulated to prevent harm when contacted. The counter surfaces in the buffet were not at a proper height for individuals in wheelchairs. The list goes on, as these were only “some of the Department’s more significant findings.”
The terms of the settlement between the company and the federal government mandated that appropriate updates be made as soon as two weeks after the agreement in order to prevent further inspections thereafter. A representative for the Taj Mahal has not responded to a request for comment from The Daily Beast about the status of these updates.
According to its official website, ADA compliance is required for “commercial and public entities that have “places of public accommodation.” There are clear instructions for accessibility certification on the website, including updates to the original requirements from the act’s inception in 1990.
Trump’s problems went beyond his properties. In 2005, attorney James Schottel Jr. sued producers of The Apprentice for discrimination by requiring “excellent physical” health to appear on the show. Schottel, who is quadriplegic, took issue with this requirement at the time and eventually got the show to change the language on its casting call.
David F. Jacobs, a representative of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, told The Daily Beast he couldn’t speak on the record about any existing ADA complaints related to Trump properties, some of which are no longer owned by Trump himself. He instead provided a link to their website, which listed cases including the 2011 one involving Trump Taj Mahal.
These cases notwithstanding, Trump has earned the ire of American disability organizations for his recent mocking of a New York Times reporter, who challenged Trump’s claims that “thousands” of Muslim people in New Jersey were cheering after the 9/11 attacks.
"Considering there are 56 million Americans living with a disability, you would think a candidate for president would be looking for opportunities to highlight their remarkable contributions to society, not mock them,” former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge told The Daily Beast. Ridge serves as the chairman of the National Organization on Disability, working alongside former president George H.W. Bush.
“Just ask any of the companies NOD works with and they’ll tell you people with disabilities are their best workers,” Ridge added.
“Mr. Trump would be wise to remember the words of NOD’s longtime honorary chairman, President George H.W. Bush, who after signing the ADA into law 25 years ago said to those in attendance: ‘We embrace you for your abilities and for your disabilities, for our similarities and indeed for our differences.’ That is what I call presidential.”