Washington, DC – Today, the House of Representatives passed HR 620, the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Education and Reform Act, a bill that would create additional requirements for filing lawsuits under the ADA. The Arc released the following statement in response to the passage of the bill:
“Individuals with disabilities have faced decades of discrimination, abuse, segregation, and neglect which the ADA was designed to help counter. This sham of a bill weakens the civil rights protections people with disabilities rely on and undermines the opportunities for inclusion made possible by the ADA. The disregard that the authors and supporters of this bill have shown for people with disabilities is an assault on civil rights and an attack on citizens with disabilities.
“Our nation leads the world in respecting and valuing the lives of people with disabilities, fighting tirelessly to promote their rights through landmark legislation like the ADA. This bill is the first step in a dangerous direction and it is unknown where it may lead us. To erase decades of progress is a shameful betrayal of our nation’s values. While there is not a Senate version of this bill yet, we call on our Senators to do the right thing and oppose any attempts to roll back the protections of the ADA. They are our last line of defense against this attack on the civil rights of individuals with disabilities in America,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.
If HR 620 becomes law, a person with a disability who is denied access to a business would have to send a letter notifying the business that it is inaccessible and out of compliance with the ADA. The business would then have 60 days to respond and 120 days to make “substantial progress” toward fixing the problem. Only if the business failed to acknowledge the notification or make substantial progress in fixing the violation, could the business be sued. This shift in responsibility for a law that has been on the books for more than 27 years is unacceptable. Complicating and lengthening the notification requirement, thereby restricting the rights of all people with disabilities to have the ADA enforced, further delays their access to and participation in their communities.
HR 620 was drafted in response to concerns about a small number of individuals who have filed ADA lawsuits for financial gain. It is important to note, however, that no monetary damages are available under the ADA; rather, damages are provided under state laws. Thus, HR 620 simply does not solve the problem it is intended to address. It’s only real impact is to dissuade and delay people with disabilities from enforcing their right to be free from discrimination. Excessive lawsuits filed for attorney fees should be addressed through other means aimed at the unscrupulous attorneys involved, not by diminishing the rights of people with disabilities.
The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 650 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.