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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Vincent Clement, May 27th, 2008 @ 7:06am

    The ADA is right up there with the DMCA and the Patriot Act as some of the most abused pieces of legislation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    www.custompcmax.com, May 27th, 2008 @ 7:37am

    Like the author said, the burden of proof should fall on the people making the claims. While one has to wonder what kind of effect these Wifi signals have on humans, there has been no proof that they affect us at all.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2008 @ 7:51am

    Good grief. With decades of various types of radiation passing right through us (radios, TV, cell phones, WiFi, etc.), it's amazing us humans aren't extinct yet! Will all you idiots please just go wrap your head in tinfoil and leave the rest of us alone please? Thank you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Pete Valle, May 27th, 2008 @ 7:55am

    They should ban all forms of radiation...oh wait, then we'd be back in the Middle Ages...nevermind...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Jake, May 27th, 2008 @ 7:55am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    Jeffry Houser (profile), May 27th, 2008 @ 8:04am

    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".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    some other guy, May 27th, 2008 @ 8:06am

    Re:

    If they banned all forms of radiation, wouldn't that be the dark ages? :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    MLS, May 27th, 2008 @ 8:07am

    ADA

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    slimcat (profile), May 27th, 2008 @ 8:07am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Wolfy, May 27th, 2008 @ 8:10am

    I second the tinfoil motion, and would like to amend it as such, gather all the foil-hat people, religious, people, and those with an IQ of turnip, and sterilize then, and give them a nice little chunk of land to live out their natural lives in peace, where they can harm no one but thmeselves.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2008 @ 8:12am

    Re:

    Putting forth the fact that there's no proof that WiFi causes these symptoms is not the same as saying these people do not experience symptoms. Claiming that symptoms are caused by X without any proof is just as unhelpful as claiming there are no symptopms.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    DigitalAngel, May 27th, 2008 @ 8:13am

    Re: Lots of air spectrum pollution...

    Kevin Trudeau has an extensive criminal history for making False Claims. It's all outlined on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_Trudeau

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2008 @ 8:14am

    Re:

    Can we lump in people who would sterilize people that disagree with them? That would make me extra happy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    known coward, May 27th, 2008 @ 8:27am

    hrrrmmm

    If my memory of ADA is correct I think MLS is right. ADA is about access, not causes and effects. Wi Fi may cause brain tumor's but that has nothing to do with the the ability of disabled folks to use the Wi Fi, which is the point of ADA.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    lizard, May 27th, 2008 @ 9:11am

    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?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Todd, May 27th, 2008 @ 9:13am

    Let's Waste More Resources

    Yep! Let's just waste more damn time and money on something that is not... and never was.... a problem. I think some people just have too much free friggin time!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2008 @ 9:24am

    Re: Re:

    It would be the VERY dark ages as the Sun provides a significant amount of radiation to the planet. Let's not forget the Earth's magnetism...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    ahh-chooo!, May 27th, 2008 @ 9:29am

    Ban all Plants as I have allergies

    If the ban on WiFI works, I plan to sue the city to ban all plants that are the cause of my allergies since they are detrimental to my health and productivity.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2008 @ 9:48am

    Re: Re: hrrrmmm

    Businesses must provide access to handicapped people, but those businesses are not required to provide suitable products for every person who "walks" through the door. A person who is allergic to, or just does not like, a restaurant's food, is not disabled.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Deb, May 27th, 2008 @ 9:51am

    Yeesh

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Jon kimball, May 27th, 2008 @ 9:59am

    @jake,

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Sean, May 27th, 2008 @ 10:27am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2008 @ 10:33am

    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..

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Chronno S. Trigger, May 27th, 2008 @ 10:46am

    Re: Ban all Plants as I have allergies

    I will push to have all coffee removed from grocery stores because I get physically ill when I smell coffee. And I can prove that unlike this WiFi thing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    ehrichweiss, May 27th, 2008 @ 10:52am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    ehrichweiss, May 27th, 2008 @ 11:10am

    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".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Overcast, May 27th, 2008 @ 11:29am

    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

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Bob K, May 27th, 2008 @ 11:48am

    It's TRUE!! EMF affects the brain!! Specially a certain group out there in New Mexcio! .. Don't believe me? Go back and read again how crazed it's made them!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    DKP, May 27th, 2008 @ 12:09pm

    Re: hrrrmmm

    correct

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    DKP, May 27th, 2008 @ 12:12pm

    give me a break

    I am all for the ADA it helps me nearly everyday but give me a break it about accessibility not effects from a wireless signal. there are thousands if not millions of wireless signals going around the planet every second of everyday.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    EVIL_BASTARD, May 27th, 2008 @ 12:19pm

    Re:

    They may have symptoms; but the imposition of will without proof is the issue at hand. Given that the symptoms are most likely not related to wifi at all, this becomes a more pointed issue.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Lion, May 27th, 2008 @ 12:23pm

    Re: Banning Radiation.

    Visible light is part of the electro-magnetic spectrum. What about background radiation? I think we would be a bit worse off than you expect.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2008 @ 12:35pm

    To: Chronno S. Trigger
    You will have much larger problems than getting physically ill if you take away my coffee. Much Larger. I'll send my hunter-seekers after you!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Nasch, May 27th, 2008 @ 12:46pm

    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?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Jake, May 27th, 2008 @ 12:53pm

    John Kimball: You have a point there, but unfortunately that doesn't make their symptoms any less real. Nor is dismissing them out of hand as attention-seeking whiners going to achieve anything but play into the hands of the quacks and cranks, as well as making a lot of people's problems needlessly worse.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2008 @ 1:10pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: 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)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Sean, May 27th, 2008 @ 1:14pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: hrrrmmm

    Forgot to add my name.

    Also its estimated that "5 percent of Americans have hypochondria" I wonder how many of those think WiFi makes them sick.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    icon
    Alias (profile), May 27th, 2008 @ 1:24pm

    Re:

    >>The ADA is right up there with the DMCA and the Patriot Act as some of the most abused pieces of legislation.

    The AMA may be burdensome, but as a person in a wheelchair, I do appreciate that it is there to provide NECCESSARY improvements to facilitate wheelchair access to all buildings. And, the parking rox. :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Coaster, May 27th, 2008 @ 3:01pm

    Stupid people make me sick...

    So if stupid people make me sick, and I am disabled, does that mean I can get them banned from places I frequent?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Nevada Bob, May 27th, 2008 @ 4:25pm

    Turning off all radaition.

    If we are going to turn off all radiation then we need a volunteer to go turn off the sun.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    Fil, May 27th, 2008 @ 4:56pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    Fil, May 27th, 2008 @ 4:59pm

    Re: Re:

    Let's not forget this all started in San Francisco. I saw an interesting documentary on South Park about that city once.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    Todd G Vaarwerk, May 27th, 2008 @ 5:31pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2008 @ 8:20pm

    Re: Effective Title in ADA

    Title III has possibly created more damage than good.

    I'm for a 'reasonable accomidation' but not at the expense of others' rights. Unfortunately, many liberal judges have taken interpreted the language of 504 and Title III to mean much more than it is.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    identicon
    Andreas Demetriou, Jun 1st, 2008 @ 1:03pm

    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!

    indigoed.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    identicon
    Bill, Jun 11th, 2008 @ 1:48pm

    Re: Ignorance kills!

    Here, here. Also, if you read the papers by Leitgeb, he's done experiments that prove that at least some significant fraction of electosensitive people can indeed detect a few microamps of current applied to their arms. The average person can only detect 100 times more.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    unknownsoundman, Jun 15th, 2008 @ 12:35am

    WHY FI

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This