DENVER -- A woman who says she filed dozens of lawsuits hoping to advocate for people with disabilities now says she feels used by a money-making effort.
Alyssa Carton has filed 99 lawsuits against businesses in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the past three months. Carton has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair.
"I've endured a lot of challenges with accessibility and just, you know, struggling with everyday life," Carton said in an interview.
She says she began filing lawsuits after responding to a job opening on Craigslist for a group called Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities, or AID, which is based in Phoenix.
“I was just looking for things to get involved in,” Carton said in an interview. "My goal was to help, you know, move ADA along.”
Carton’s new job was to visit businesses and scope out any potential accessibility problems for people with disabilities. She earned $50 per audit. Carton says she was instructed to measure everything from the height of parking lot signs to the location of the toilet paper dispensers in the restrooms. When she found measurements she says didn’t meet the specifications spelled out in federal law, her attorney, provided by AID, would file suit.
Carton said at times she wanted to simply notify the businesses of the problems so they could fix them without going to court. But she says her employers wanted to move ahead with lawsuits.
"I went along with what they said and I, you know, just was trying to be a part of something that was getting something done and unfortunately it got buried," Carton said.
Denver7 Investigates has uncovered connections between AID and waves of similar lawsuits filed against dozens of Colorado businessesin recent months. Several of those businesses told Denver7 Investigates they were asked to pay thousands of dollars to make their case go away – without any requirement that they repair the ADA violations alleged in the lawsuit.
Carton says she probably would not have applied for the job if she had known what she knows now. She still considers herself an advocate for the ADA and says businesses need to take the standards seriously. But she says she also feels used by an organization that might be driven by profit.