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Americans with Disabilities Act Threatened by New Bill

The House Judiciary Committee is currently considering the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017, a bill that directly attacks the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) by imposing limitations that would complicate and elongate the process to file complaints and lawsuits against businesses violating ADA regulations.

The ADA, signed into law in 1990, ensures that spaces open to the public such as restaurants, movie theaters, and hospitals are fully accessible to those with disabilities. The ADA also protects the disabled community from acts of discrimination based on disability. Currently, in cases in which a business is not following ADA regulations, individuals can either file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) or individuals can directly file a lawsuit against the business in court.

Under the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017, discriminated against individuals would be required to submit written notices to business owners alleged of violating ADA regulations before filing a complaint to the DOJ or directly filing a lawsuit against the business. The business owner would then have up to 180 days to make substantial progress toward correcting the violation. No other civil rights group is forced to wait 180 days to enforce their civil rights.

This new process would delay the enforcement of civil rights and would unfairly place much of the burden on those who are discriminated against. As stated in the coalition letter of opposition for ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 620), “[the bill] would create significant obstacles for people with disabilities to enforce their rights under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to access public accommodations, and would impede their ability to engage in daily activities and participate in the mainstream of society.”

The ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017, sponsored by Ted Poe (R-TX) and 18 other co-sponsors, is controversial and has received push back from outspoken advocates for civil and disability rights. Robyn Powell, a disability rights attorney and freelance writer states, “The disability community is not interested in more lawsuits; we simply want accessibility…I say this because I believe it is fairly safe to assume that there are far more ADA violations occurring than we will ever hear of. As a disabled woman, I encounter violations daily. ”

While substantial progress has been made in the last 27 years to ensure that the disabled community receives equal access and treatment in public spaces, with the passing of the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017, much of that hard fought progress could be stalled.

 

Media Resources: Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund 5/31/17; Rewire 5/31/17; ACLU 5/31/17

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