Where There's a Wheelchair, There's a Way

Former love doctor Fred Shotz is determined to make every sports venue in South Florida handicapped-accessible

Fred Shotz keeps a tape measure in the bag dangling from the back of his wheelchair for precisely this kind of situation.

The long-haired 49-year-old reaches down and, with the tape sliding out, measures the distance from the floor to the bottom of a water fountain in the concourse at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter.

"This one is 33 inches," he says. "That's too high."
Chalk up another complaint for the federal lawsuit against Palm Beach County and the three baseball teams that play in the new $28 million stadium.

Shotz, a paraplegic himself, sued the stadium in March for failing to meet the standards of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The adult water fountain doesn't meet guidelines, he says, because it's so high that a blind person won't be able to detect it with his cane before he bumps into it. It's simple: The cane is waved low, the water fountain is high. Objects protruding from walls can't be higher than 27 inches from the floor.

He'd already checked the ashtrays fixed to the walls of the concourse, which were also once too high for cane-carrying blind folks. They'd been lowered by management after Shotz filed his federal complaint. The old drill holes are still visible, about a foot above the newly placed ashtrays.

Stadium management had also moved the toilet paper dispensers in the bathroom that blocked the disabled from using the rail to help them get on the john.

Small victories, yes, but Shotz isn't finished with the stadium yet. He is also suing over more serious problems, which could cost the county tens of thousands of dollars to fix: problems with parking, with access to seats for the disabled, and with the lines of sight from those seats to the action on the diamond.

Shotz doesn't come without credentials. As a man who makes his living consulting companies on how to meet ADA standards, he's already helped Pro Player Stadium, Miami Arena, Coral Sky Amphitheatre, and the City of Dania level the proverbial field for the disabled.

As a full-time rabble-rouser, he also sometimes sues companies that won't meet ADA standards. He admits he's even been accused of extortion by at least one company's officials who believed he had, in effect, threatened to sue them if they didn't hire him as a consultant.

"I gave them the phone number of [Florida Attorney General] Bob Butterworth and the state attorney and told them to go ahead and file charges of extortion against me, or quit dragging my name down," Shotz claims.

If it sounds like hardball, it is. Shotz, who grew up in Philadelphia, calls himself a born "social activist." In a wheelchair full-time for about five years, he's had serious physical problems since he broke his back in 1969 at Woodstock.

He was working as a "paramedic" in the "bummer tent" at that most famous of music festivals, helping those on bad LSD trips. After many, many hours of this, he took a walk along a local road to gather himself and was hit by a car. Hit and run. Three broken vertebrae. Major bummer.

After months of rehab, he was able to walk again, and in 1972, Shotz says, Abbie Hoffman called him down to Miami Beach for the Republican Convention, and he ended up in jail with Allen Ginsberg "chanting mantras and doing poetry readings."

He remained in Florida, got married, and he and his wife became "family therapists." Then, during the '80s, they became the "Love Doctors" in the growing sex-therapy market. The couple sold sexually explicit videos via Penthouse and Playgirl magazines. Touting themselves as doctors, they marketed the tapes to universities. Phil Donahue had them on his show, and they made a bundle.

Then, in 1991, both Fred and Linda Shotz were charged with lying about their educational backgrounds. Turned out neither one of one them was a bona fide doctor. They lost their business.

Not long after that, problems stemming from the old Woodstock injury began taking their toll on Shotz, and he was confined to a wheelchair. Now he has the ADA consulting firm and works as an advocate for various associations for the disabled. He lives in a 4000-square-foot house just outside Dania on a gorgeous acre-and-a-half plot of old oak-topped land. The home is full of Linda Shotz's lovely paintings and sculptures of nudes. Every Sunday, artists come to her house and paint a live nude model, while Fred Shotz makes them lunch.

In 1995, Shotz complained that he couldn't get to a nude beach in Dade County, prompting the county to cough up $40,000 to make the beach accessible to the disabled. The story was picked up by the Associated Press and ran all over the country.

Now he's trying to squeeze some justice from Roger Dean Stadium, the new spring training home of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Montreal Expos and the permanent digs for the minor league's Jupiter Hammerheads. The stadium, named for a car dealership owner whose family donated $1 million to the project, was designed by HOK, Inc., the same firm that masterminded the much-adored Camden Yards in Baltimore.

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