“It’s too good to be true” summarizes the decision in Childress v. Fox Associates, LLC. The Childress court admirably aimed to create a more accessible society for individuals with disabilities but may have unintentionally created the exact opposite. Courts require public accommodations to provide “meaningful access” to individuals with disabilities in order to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). However, “meaningful access” is an unclear, evolving standard. The Childress decision strayed from precedent by heightening the standard for meaningful access to a level equal to identical access. While this heightened standard strives for the goal of true equality, it consequently shifts the focus of courts’ decisions to the sufficiency of a claimed affirmative defense – that is, the requested accommodation would pose an undue buden. Analyzing a case based on the sufficiency of an affirmative defense – especially in the context of ADA Accommodations – is detrimental because it forces courts to determine whether an accommodation must be provided at all, instead of deciding what degree satisfies meaningful access. The framework for analyzing meaningful access set forth by the Childress decision may create detrimental impacts long into the future.

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