If You're Going To Claim That WiFi Violates The ADA, Shouldn't You Need To Prove It Actually Hurts People?

from the just-saying... dept

Hot on the heels of yet another silly bogus WiFi health scare, Broadband Reports points us to a story of some folks in Santa Fe, New Mexico who aren’t just worried about the health effects of WiFi, but are insisting that putting WiFi in public places is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Having once taken an entire college class on the ADA (admittedly many years ago), I’m having trouble recalling which section would apply. Given that double-blind studies and various tests have shown no evidence of WiFi having an impact on people, you would think that those worried about it would have the burden of proof in demonstrating a real health problem. And, given those double-blind studies, it should need to go beyond random people insisting that WiFi makes them feel ill.

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Comments on “If You're Going To Claim That WiFi Violates The ADA, Shouldn't You Need To Prove It Actually Hurts People?”

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Jake says:

This is a hell of a grey area, unfortunately; ‘electro-magnetic hypersensitivity’ is currently occupying the same limbo as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, with no observable physical cause but a significant number of people presenting with real and distressing symptoms. The matter is discussed in some detail here: http://www.badscience.net/?cat=65

In fact, I shall take my last word on this subject from Dr Benjamin Goldacre, author of the above blog:

The symptoms that people are currently attributing to electromagnetic hypersensitivity are unpleasant and often disabling, even if the electromagnetic fields are not the cause of them. Calling people who believe they experience symptoms because of electromagnetic fields “hypochondriacs”, weak-minded, or oversensitive: is offensive, unhelpful, and most damnably of all, untrue. Denying the reality of people’s symptoms is similarly offensive and unhelpful. I will give no quarter on this.

ehrichweiss says:

Re: Re: Re:

I would add: claiming that one should ban X because symptoms are caused by X without any proof does make one deserve the title of weak-minded, at least, because of the massive lack of evidence.

The real problems start arising when one has realized that we’ve been using those bandwidths for ages before wifi was even thought of. Start with microwave ovens and work your way up through satellite and telephone-based technologies and you will find 2.4-5.8 GHz, and more, frequency use in much, much higher levels than wifi will ever provide so I call bullshit on this demonization of technology.

Fil says:

Re: Re:

The thing that really stands out when thinking about this scientifically is that WiFi is simply radio waves at the 2.4ghz frequency. Why is WiFi different from all the other 2.4ghz consumer devices that have been around for the last 10 years.

Also why would these low power radio waves be more disturbing than the massive emanations from TV and radio stations that would completely saturate your field of vision if you could see them.

This makes about as much sense as someone outside in the desert sun complaining about the light coming off of a pocket flash light being too bright.

Jeffry Houser (profile) says:

Lots of air spectrum pollution...

There are a lot more things floating through the air today than 10-15 or so years ago. ( Cell Phones, satellite TV, WiFi, BlueTooth devices, etc.. ). It seems logical to me that all these could have an affect on humans (and other living things).

I have no idea what that affect may be, but would be interested in long term studies.

Kevin Trudeau wrote about how such things are bad in his book. Kevin is an Infomercial King who is either highly enlightened or a crazy conspiracy theorist. He wrote “Natural Cures They Don’t Want You to Know About”.

MLS (profile) says:


Note in the article that the city commission has asked its lawyer to look into the matter and provide it with a legal opinion if the ADA even applies. In all likelihood it does not. The ADA was crafted for the purpose of people with disabilities not being discriminated against because of their disabilities. Even assuming a health issue exists, the ADA is not a statute designed for the purpose of dealing with health issues applicable to the public at large.

slimcat (profile) says:

Get Slimcat's WiFi Lotion!

Patents Pending. Some customers may experience dropped connections, agitation, nausea, vomiting, hemorrhaging, sudden death or other minor annoyances (hey, it works for the big pharmcos).

Last I heard, a large part of the Santa Fe community was made up of wealthy, vocal, former Californians who probably had, at least, something to do with the ubiquitous ‘In the state of California, (product/ingredient) is known to cause cancer’. Not saying that’s ‘bad’, just saying.

ehrichweiss says:

Re: Re: Re:

I dunno, sterilizing a lot of extremely dumb people would make great sense considering that rarely do 2 dumb people have a kid that’s a genius because, even if genetics had something to do with it, the environment they’d be put in is not likely to be conducive to bringing that genius out in the kid. I pick my kids up from school every day and see all the parents and it gets really obvious whose kids are going to struggle. Besides, we could simply derive DNA from them these days if we really thought that they had been wronged and they wanted a child.

Here, let me paraphrase a bit of George Carlin to put this in perspective:

“Think about how dumb the average person is that you meet on the street and then realize that 50% of the population is even dumber than that”.

lizard (user link) says:

Re: hrrrmmm

well technically if a person did suffer from ‘electro-magnetic hypersensitivity’ they would then have barriers to entering a Starbucks, for instance, since doing so would theoretically exacerbate their symptoms.

the disabled folks aren’t complaining about the ability to access the wi-fi, that’s not the issue here. they are complaining that public wi-fi prevents them being able to access public places. but to me, that’s the grey area — it’s a given that peanut-allergic people can’t go into Thai restaurants, so can they bring an ADA case about this? That would effectively wipe out Thai food from being sold in public.

i’d tend to think of this electro-magnetic sensitivity to be in the same category with an allergy. and people with severe allergies are, by nature, going to have some lifestyle restrictions. i seriously don’t think ADA was written with the intent that we do away with every possible source of irritation for every possible affliction. i’m sure the multiple chemical sensitivities folks would like to ban perfume, fabric softener and room freshener too. where do we stop?

Sean says:

Re: Re: hrrrmmm

A business has the right to refuse service to any person so the ADA will not apply if it meets the other requirements of the ADA. It must suck for these people if they ever have to go to a hospital since most if not all major hospitals have some forms of electronic records. How do the doctors get the records you may ask. The answer is WiFi all four hospitals in the Northern Kentucky area have wall to wall WiFi.
If this “illness” is ruled under the ADA it will have horrid effects because in accordance with Section 6.1.1 of the ADA “Hospitals – general purpose hospitals, psychiatric facilities, detoxification facilities – At least 10 percent of patient bedrooms and toilets, and all public use and common use areas are required to be designed and constructed to be accessible.”. That will result in a minimum or 10% of the building not having access to the medical records at any instant. This would prevent all hospitals from ever going paperless. If they did and a patient who did not have this problem was put in to a room with out WiFi and needed emergent care they might not have upto date info and give a patient a double dose of a med or improper care putting the patients life at risk and leaving the facility doctors and staff in a liable situation.

Anyway the easiest way to test if the symptoms are valid is it get a large group of these people and drive them out to an area with no wifi signal cell service ect. Then have in the field several boxes about 200yards away. Some boxes will have a router running in it communicating with a laptop that is also in the box on a loop. Others will have just a light on in the box others will have nothing in them at all. Send the people out one by one starting with a different box none of the pertinents can communicate to another until the study has been completed. After all have finished and told what boxes have WiFi repeat with people that do not claim this problem. Then use statistical analysis to see if there is any major variance in the results to verify that it is real and not just guessing.

Nasch says:

Re: Re: Re: hrrrmmm

That will result in a minimum or 10% of the building not having access to the medical records at any instant. This would prevent all hospitals from ever going paperless. If they did and a patient who did not have this problem was put in to a room with out WiFi and needed emergent care they might not have upto date info and give a patient a double dose of a med or improper care putting the patients life at risk and leaving the facility doctors and staff in a liable situation.

Yeah, because wifi is the ONLY WAY to transmit data. Now that wireless networking is so ubiquitous, wires don’t work any more. You all knew that, right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 hrrrmmm

If you are a doctor useing a PDA or tablet PC to get medical records would you want to have to plug the item in to update the info every time before seeing the patient or when you enter in to the room. Also it is much cheaper and offers more options to be wireless than running miles or wire in a building and adding more switches to handle each physical cable.

Spending millions on a network that could have had a larger span more access and easier to connect to for a small percentage of people calming they have this problem is a dumb business move. (3.4% of the population in the US, 4% in England, and 8% in Germany)

Deb (profile) says:


The ADA guarantees my rights to equal access that a non-disabled patron has at restaurants, movie theaters and places of public accommodation.

It does not guarantee my rights to an irritant free life, or to be protected from things that may or may not exacerbate my condition.

It promises and secures my access. Not my enjoyment, not my safety, nothing beyond my ability to go places and see things non-disabled people can do. It guarantees I have access. Period.

I have seizures. It it therefore my responsibility to stay clear of places that harbor known triggers, such as certain scents, strobe lights, certain volumes or frequencies of sound, the list goes on.

I hate people who abuse the law. It makes things harder for all of us in the long run, makes business owners wary of anyone with disabilities, makes it harder for the disabled to have the access they deserve.

People suck.

Jon kimball says:


The problem with Dr Godlacres stance is that the people affected will NOT *EVER* consider an alternate source of their problems. Not amount of studies, debunkings, tin hats will convince these ‘victims’ that something else might, just might, be causing their problems. They are not looking for the cause of their problem, they are looking for way to blame EM. There is a difference.

Anonymous Coward says:

if they can list the polar bears on the endangered species list when there hasnt been a single year of population drop since 1974. Then they can rule that just about anything does anything because they are the government. they will protect you and hold you and cuddle you and tax you and do what is best for you because they are all smarter than you..

Overcast says:

Not sure why he should have to prove anything!! It’s not like most of the other hype about this and that causing cancer, this and that causing supposed Global Warming – can be backed up by any more fact than WiFi causing your head to explode, or whatever.

Heck – even Evolution can be discounted – as we clearly see – for the most part, humans don’t seem to get smarter over time, lol

Todd G Vaarwerk (user link) says:

Effective Title in ADA

The problem here, is first that the plaintiffs in question need to prove themselves as “qualified individuals with a disability” .. The definition of which is supposed to be a “substantial impairment in a major life activity.” Based on the limited information here, I think they would find that rather difficult to prove.

Even if they could do that, there would be a problem in proving a violation of ADA in either Titles II (which covers local goverment) or III (which covers public businesses). Title II only requires state and local government to assure “program access” for persons with disabilities, that is, if as a result of the wi-fi signals in a goverment building someones disability prevents them from accessing a service, the ADA would require that the goverment find another way to provide the service for those persons, not take out the wi-fi signal.

The Standard for Title III is “Resonable Accommodation” to access a service, and even those things are subject to an “undue burden” test, only covering things that are “easily accomplishable without much difficulty or expense.” Neither case would apply here.

You can get up to date infomation on the ADA by contacting your local independent living center or Disabilty and Business Technical Assistance Center.

Andreas Demetriou (user link) says:

Ignorance kills!

Will prove it hurts people straight after you prove it doesn’t!
People thought smoking was good for you at one point. Then how long did it take to prove of its harm? All im ssaying is what is the point of taking the risk?
This is called ignorance.
Please tell me the inner workings of a wi-fi system and the inner workings of the human brain, then you may have some credibility to your argument!


unknownsoundman says:


New Mexico?…MMM… maybe just some bleed over from Los Alamos… you know… that nuclear powered test facility,
that tests things like tesla arrays and ultra-low frequency sub radar(that can penetrate the earth and cause earthquakes in china)…oops…I’ve said too much already. Yep, we got reactor powered Wi-Fi over there too. With so much power at our fingertips, it’s kinda hard to control it…Directional…Hell it goes everywhere.I would’nt stand over there.
P.S.:Would’nt want to loose track of where the kids are.

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