The PR Society of America has told this writer, who has a hearing disability, that he will not be allowed to cover sessions of the annual conference starting Sunday, Oct. 17, unless I pay the full fee of $1,275. The conference is at the Washington Hilton which says it takes ADA compliance “very seriously.”
Coverage of the Assembly Oct. 16 would be allowed by us and hearing assistance has been promised.
Scott Van Camp, editor of PR News, told us that he has accepted free registration to the full conference running from Oct. 17-19. Steve Barrett, editor of PR Week U.S., said PRW will not cover the conference if there are any charges. PRW does not pay to cover events, he said.
PRSA VP-PR Arthur Yann, said in an e-mail to us that media requests are considered on a “case by case basis” and if PRW asks for press credentials, it will be considered.
Lawyers familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act said that the law applies to an “entire conference” and that once hearing assistance is given to one part of a conference, it must be given to the rest of the meeting.
They also said it appears to be illegal for the PR Society to grant one trade press reporter credentials but to deny it to another with no good reason given.
Yann, in rejecting our request for press credentials, said we failed to cover last year’s conference. But we e-mailed him our extensive coverage.
Suddenly demanding payment after we requested hearing assistance might be considered “retaliation,” which is not allowed under ADA law, which is administered by the U.S. Justice Dept.
Complaints can be filed with Justice at no cost and without the assistance of a lawyer.
ADA law section C.F.R. #36.206 does not permit “retaliation” against someone who sought assistance under the ADA.
Section 42 U.S.C. #12182(b) (ii) requires that equal benefits be granted to everyone—with or without disabilities.
Granting one journalist free admission but refusing it to another could violate that section of the law, said those familiar with the statutes.
The ADA also bars any sort of surcharge for those with disabilities (Section 28, C.F.R. #301(c).
Gary McCormick, chair of the Society, is on the board of the Knoxville Center of the Deaf. We would think he would be sympathetic to us but he does not return calls or e-mails.