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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Action Alert: Anderson Cooper’s ADA Attack on 60 Minutes

The National Council on Independent Living is alarmed and appalled by the December 4th segment on 60 Minutes addressing the Americans with Disabilities Act and “drive-by lawsuits.” The segment, hosted by Anderson Cooper, was one-sided, rife with inaccuracies, and glaringly dismissive of the disability community.

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Contact Anderson Cooper and 60 Minutes and ask that they air another segment that gives equal airtime to the struggle of the millions of Americans with disabilities who still lack basic access to our communities.

Instead of addressing the fact that 26 years after the passage of the ADA there are still so many businesses not complying with the law, Anderson Cooper and 60 Minutes chose to focus on the largely overblown issue of “drive-by lawsuits.” To be clear, NCIL condemns the actions of those attorneys who are abusing the ADA and making profits off of the civil rights of people with disabilities. While small in number, the actions of these attorneys are harmful to the nearly 57 million Americans with disabilities, and the repercussions of their actions risk increasing the access barriers that we already face. That is unacceptable, and we cannot stand for it.

That said, NCIL supports the right of people with disabilities who have faced discrimination to file complaints and lawsuits. Twenty-six years after the passage of the ADA, people with disabilities are still discriminated against by businesses that either don’t take our needs into account or openly exclude us. With no oversight mechanism, we have seen businesses around the country wait to comply with the law until they receive a complaint, meaning that not only is the onus on the disability community to ‘monitor’ compliance, but also that until we complain we are excluded from their places of business. We are appalled that Anderson Cooper used his platform to shine a light on an undeniably small problem while paying no attention to the access issues millions of us face every day in our own communities.

On top of that, the segment was full of inaccuracies. First, Anderson Cooper stated that most states and the District of Columbia allow for monetary damages for accessibility violations under the ADA. This is false. The reality is that monetary damages are based on state laws in only a handful of states, and several of these states – including California where some examples in the segment were based – have recently passed legislation disallowing damages in addition to making it harder to file a claim under the ADA in the first place. Second, the segment presented compliance with the ADA as overly burdensome and bordering on unnecessary. In reality, the ADA is just one of a multitude of laws, requirements, and codes that businesses have to comply with, and implying that it is unnecessary is wrong and offensive. The segment implied that ADA compliance should only be necessary if people with disabilities patronize a business, while the fact of the matter is the people with disabilities often don’t patronize businesses precisely because they aren’t accessible to us! People with disabilities are full-fledged members of our communities, and the intent of the ADA was to ensure that all public spaces are accessible to all people.

Lastly, NCIL has grave concerns with the fact that Anderson Cooper did not include any disability activists in the segment. The only people with disabilities shown in the segment were portrayed as pawns being used by the unethical attorneys, and this is incredibly offensive. Twenty-six years ago, the ADA was passed because of the hard work and dedication of disabled activists all over the country. Now, 26 years later, we continue to fight for our civil and human rights to be recognized. The 60 Minutes segment’s portrayal of people with disabilities was patronizing and inaccurate, and we demand better.

We strongly urge Anderson Cooper and 60 Minutes to air another segment that gives equal airtime to the struggle of the millions of Americans with disabilities who still lack basic access to our communities.


  1. It appears A.C.did not investigate/present a 360 degree perspective on the ADA. His vision was impaired, he was inarticulate and he was not reason able. Perhaps with enough education, he will do a 180.

  2. Carol Sutton says

    Haven’t watched 60 Minutes since they aired Kevorkian’s snuff film. Thus, didn’t see their latest ableist bigotry. Is there anywhere to see it myself before responding?

  3. Sharlene Kerelejza says

    Now, more than ever, we need fair and representative reporting!

  4. Kathleen Fulghum says

    Forever grateful to former President George H. W.Bush for signing this groundbreaking legislation into law. What does it say about our country that a “mainstream” media pundit is trying to whittle down the ADA?

  5. For 60 minutes to fully understand the issues people with disabilities face, please look at your own captioning. See:

    As the person who oversees captions for CBS will tell you, I filed numerous complaints and met with FCC Commissioners in DC over the poor quality captions offered by 60 Minutes. Rather than correct them, 60 Minutes ignored the issues. NBC did remedy their issues. See:

    Rectifying the captions for people who are deaf or hard of hearing can either be seen as a pain or wonderful depending on your perspective. So, if 60 Minutes wants to understand the challenges to fix access issues, you only have to look at your own show…

    Janice Schacter Lintz, CEO/Founder, Hearing Access & Innovations

  6. Wilson Hulley says

    As a senior citizen with disabilities and retired executive with the PCEPD……I am NOT SURPRISED at the network and Anderson Cooper’s program segment. Just think about the simple fact that people with disabilities are the “forgotten majority” when it comes to network programming………people with disabilities at the network level are a joke……Network executives are not prone to even consider people with disabilities at the network level. Look at the Trump network press coI have grave doubts that President Trump will alter his conversation because of another person’s disabilities. Our nearly 50 million Americans with disabilities are in for a difficult four years with a President who cares less about the large segment of our citizens….who vote, speak up and will not “just sit back” and do nothing……We need to GIVE A DAMN about our fellow friends with disabilities.