My knee was jerking the other day. It wasn’t my MS, it was my knee-jerk reaction to the passage in the U.S. House of Representatives of a bill called the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 (HR 620).
Before the vote, people with disabilities demonstrated inside the Capitol against a bill that seeks to modify the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA. Some were arrested. The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund called the bill “exceptionally harmful” and wrote on its website that it “would turn people with disabilities into second-class citizens, and its priorities are profoundly skewed. This bill goes against the very principles of an inclusive society that America is all about.”
A headline on Newsweek‘s website screamed: “HOUSE VOTES TO GUT THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT TO NIP ‘ABUSIVE LAWSUITS.'”
The American Civil Liberties Union put out a “Myths and Truths” list about the proposal, saying, “this bill undermines the very purpose of the landmark civil rights law, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and harms people with disabilities.”
Last September, more than 200 disability rights organizations sent a letter to the measure’s sponsors, claiming:
“…the burden of protecting the right to access a public place is shifted to the person with the disability, who first has to be denied access; then must determine that violations of the law have occurred; then must provide the business with specific notice of which provisions of the law were violated and when; and finally, the aggrieved person with the disability must afford the business a lengthy period to correct the problem.”
Join the protests?
- The bill only modifies the section of the ADA that involves barriers to access in areas of businesses and to public accommodations, such as hotels, restaurants, and swimming pools.
- If someone discovers a barrier at a business, before bringing a lawsuit under the ADA the person would now have to give the owner of that business written notice of the problem, including its specific location, the section of the ADA that was violated, whether the barrier was temporary or permanent, and whether anyone was asked to request to remove the barrier.
- The business owner will be given 60 days to respond and 120 days to remove, or “make substantial progress” at removing, the barrier.
The modifications would also require the Justice Department to develop a program to educate state and local governments and property owners about the ADA’s accessibility requirements. It would also require the development of a program to promote the use of mechanisms such as mediation to try to resolve ADA complaints before they’re brought to court.
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