We’ve seen many times that the employees of businesses can get quite adamant in their ignorance. Their excuses for tossing barefooters will shift from non-existent health code to non-existent corporate rules to non-existent insurance excuses. Then, if you get through all that, often some corporate weenie will make up a rule right on the spot. (I’ve had them tell me, no, it is not written down anywhere, but it’s a rule now.)
I wonder if you could use I am barefoot because of medical reasons to get in? And if not, could you sue them for that reason, or get the ADA after them? I’m partially disabled and its easier for me to move around barefoot.
Ward is not the only one for whom going barefoot has overt medical benefits. I have another friend who starts getting shooting pains when he wears shoes. And yet another friend has problems due to cartilage loss in his ankles that are alleviated (to the point that he can now run races) when he goes barefoot. There is also Barefoot Brian, who writes:
I used to explain all the health things I was dealing with seven years ago – hip bursitis that was nearly killing me, walking with a cane, shooting pain in my left leg.
My own story is not that bad, but I have a knee with shattered cartilage in it. It actually happened when a library that I really, really needed to use forced me to wear footwear. I went to make a turn, my footwear did not move on the carpeting the way I expected, and it twisted my knee. This was expensive, too, as my knee swelled up, stayed that way a long time, and I needed an MRI to find out what was going on. Afterwards I needed quite a bit of physical therapy.
My knee still bothers me after about 10 miles of hiking. That’s 10 miles if I do it barefoot. When I wear shoes, even not hiking, it bothers me pretty quickly.
So, what about the ADA (American with Disabilities Act)?
It’s worth a try. The problem is, you have to have the time and energy to follow through on it, because businesses will not make it easy.
Generally, businesses will blow you off. Again, I know of at least two barefooters with genuine mobility issues who have threatened businesses because they were not allowed access barefoot. The businesses were not accommodating, and were not about to make changes. In at least one of those instances, the barefooter even had and displayed a letter from their doctor.
Didn’t matter. The business was not about to make any sort of exception.
At that point, to go any farther, you have to want to follow through and most likely spend a lot of money to do so.
There is a nice summary of the Americans with Disabilities Act here. Here is how a disability is defined:
An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.
It sounds to me like a lot of us fall into that definition, though who knows how far “substantially” reaches.
There are a few different ways in which the Act can be enforced. You can simply sue on your own (lots of time and money required, including hiring expert witnesses). Or, you can try to get the Department of Justice involved. Their first step may be mediation, which a business might find burdensome enough to fold right then and there (dream on, the cynic in me says). If there is a pattern of discrimination, the Department of Justice might do the suing (saving you the money).
The trouble with the latter is that you have to convince the Department of Justice people that having to go barefoot is a genuine disability. In all likelihood, they’ll be just as ignorant about bare feet as the business and tell you that the (mostly non-existent) risk of injury outweighs the impairment. (“Just put on shoes for the few minutes you are in the store.”)
I am also cynical enough to suspect that if you sued a store under the ADA, a judge would rule the same way.
So, is it possible to use the ADA? Yes it is. Will it work? Maybe. Does any of us have the time and money (or are willing to risk them) to pursue it? Doubtful.
It would be nice, though. There is no good reason we should have to put up with the pain just because of some business’ ignorant insistence on believing myth.