The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) allows people with disabilities the right to go to court if they can’t find satisfaction regarding their civil rights under this law and other disability rights laws.
However, a new Congressional Bill, H.R. 620, seeks to change the way people with disabilities may seek redress, or resolutions, to the inaccessible world they encounter. You can read the bill here.
According to a newsletter from the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, the bill will take away some rights that now exist under the ADA.
According to bill H.R. 620, it is designed “to amend the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 to promote compliance through education, to clarify the requirements for demand letters, to provide for a notice and cure period before the commencement of a private civil action, and for other purposes.”
The fund opposes the bill. “We must counter the business lobby, which wants to make it much more difficult to attain accessibility when businesses such as stores, restaurants, hotels, etc. disregard their ADA responsibilities,” according to the fund’s newsletter.
Two problems in particular will affect people whose rights are violated under the ADA under H.R. 620, and according to the newsletter, it:
“Requires a person with a disability who encounters an access barrier to send a letter detailing the exact ADA provisions that are being violated;” and
“Rewards non-compliance by allowing businesses generous additional timelines, even though the ADA’s reasonable requirements are already over 25 years old!”
If a person with a disability encounters an architectural barrier, according to the bill, they must do three things before they can take civil action:
“Provide to the owner or operator of the accommodation a written notice specific enough to allow such owner or operator to identify the barrier;” and
“Specify in detail the circumstances under which an individual was actually denied access to a public accommodation, including the address of property, the specific sections of the Americans with Disabilities Act alleged to have been violated, whether a request for assistance in removing an architectural barrier to access was made,” and
Specify “whether the barrier to access was a permanent or temporary barrier.”
The amendment language also calls for the creation of a “model program with … an expedited method for determining the relevant facts related to such barriers to access and steps taken before the commencement of litigation to resolve any issues related to access.”
H.R. 620 seems to contradict the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution, which states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Since lawsuits allow U.S. citizens to “petition the government for a redress of grievances,” or for a remedy for their problems, then requiring people with disabilities to take additional steps before they can bring a lawsuit would hinder that freedom and cause them to have an additional burden unlike other U.S. citizens.
The fund recommends that individuals let their representatives in Congress know if they don’t wish the ADA to be limited by the amendments that H.R. 620 brings.
To find out who your state’s representatives are, you can type your Zip Code in at https://contactingcongress.org. Contacts include phone numbers, emails, and social media of your representatives.
You may also contact your legislators via phone by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. You may ask them to help you locate your representatives if you don’t know them.