UPDATE: 2/15/18: This bill passed in the federal House of Representatives. Contact your senators! Find their contact info here.
Whatever your opinion on this bill, please call your legislators and make your voice heard. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is important, and any changes to it need to be made with the participation of as many citizens as possible. The federal House of Representatives may vote as early as February 14, 2018.
The bill is H.R. 620, “ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017.” It was introduced on January 24, 2017, sponsored by Rep. Ted Poe (a Republican) of Texas. Representatives from both political parties have cosponsored it. Over 200 disability rights organizations, including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, have spoken out against it; over 18 trade organizations have spoken out in favor of it.
Some information is below. Please come to your own conclusions and share your opinion with your legislators, as soon and as often as possible.
At the bottom of this blog entry is a link to a site that will help you find your representatives’ contact information.
Proponents say H.R. 620 would decrease “drive-by lawsuits,” in which businesses are sued and sometimes forced to close due to minor alleged violations of the ADA. Ken Barnes, Executive Director of California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, elaborates on this position in an article in Forbes Magazine here.
Many opponents say the bill would not in fact decrease any such lawsuits. They also say it would be a step backwards for the rights of people with disabilities, allowing businesses in violation of the ADA to “make substantial progress” (as the bill puts it) for what may be years without penalty—not an opportunity usually given to businesses denying rights to other groups. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) provides a “Myths and Truths” page here.
The bill is summarized on Congress’s website as follows:
This bill requires the Disability Rights Section of the Department of Justice to develop a program to educate state and local governments and property owners on strategies for promoting access to public accommodations for persons with a disability. The program may include training for professionals to provide a guidance of remediation for potential violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).
The bill prohibits civil actions based on the failure to remove an architectural barrier to access into an existing public accommodation unless: (1) the aggrieved person has provided to the owners or operators a written notice specific enough to identify the barrier, and (2) the owners or operators fail to provide the person with a written description outlining improvements that will be made to improve the barrier or they fail to remove the barrier or make substantial progress after providing such a description. The aggrieved person’s notice must specify: (1) the address of the property, (2) the specific ADA sections alleged to have been violated, (3) whether a request for assistance in removing an architectural barrier was made, and (4) whether the barrier was permanent or temporary.
The Judicial Conference of the United States must develop a model program to promote alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to resolve such claims. The model program should include an expedited method for determining relevant facts related to such barriers and steps to resolve accessibility issues before litigation.
Find a list of links to many statements against H.R. 620, posted on the web site of the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, here.
Find letters and articles written by proponents of H.R. 620 here.
The federal House of Representatives may vote on H.R. 620 as early as February 14, 2018. Email, call; make your voice heard!
Find your representatives’ contact information here.