A time of celebration, but also of concern --RSS Feed

By Brian Peters, Community Access & Policy Specialist
 
Thursday, July 26, we celebrate the historic passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. The ADA is the civil rights act that guarantees access and inclusion for people with disabilities. The five titles of the ADA provide protection against discrimination for people with disabilities and give them tools to ask for reasonable accommodations or modifications when necessary to achieve equality. It also mandates that new construction be built to be accessible.
 
Passage of the ADA was a very historic accomplishment and books have been written about it. The ADA was amended in 2008 to reverse some efforts to narrow its scope in the courts and to clarify the regulatory authority of three federal agencies on the ADA.

 
Word inaccessible in the "in" crossed out to spell accessible

There’s no denying that the ADA has had a tremendous impact on people with disabilities and their communities, and on American life in general. Unfortunately, with change comes opposition. The ADA has been under attack ever since its passage through attempts to limit its scope in the courts and through “ADA notification” bills in Congress. ADA notification bills impose requirements for people to notify violators of their violations before filing a lawsuit, and these bills include an additional grace period for businesses to correct the violations.
 
Sounds harmless, right? Except the ADA is not a building code law. It’s a civil rights law, and those bills would make people with disabilities wait months before they can assert their rights. No other civil rights law does this. And remember when the ADA was passed—1990. That’s 28 years for businesses to be in compliance!
 
It’s not as if the ADA said every single building had to become accessible right away. The authors tried to be reasonable—they said, “Do what you can now (readily achievable barrier removal), and when you do remodeling or alterations, make it accessible.” The thinking was that over the years, buildings would become more and more accessible.
 
There are at least four bills in the House of Representatives that would limit the scope of the ADA, taking away people’s rights. Some representatives in Congress have introduced and re-introduced similar bills for the past few congressional sessions. Unfortunately, in this session, one bill, H.R. 620, “ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017” actually passed 225-192, with 13 not voting. Fortunately, it appears to be dead in the Senate. But this is the first time that a bill limiting the ADA successfully passed the House. What’s puzzling about this particular bill is that boosters claim that it’s designed to curb “drive-by” lawsuits. Yet the vast majority of those lawsuits are based not on the ADA, but on state accessibility laws, and they take place only in a few states. Those states have already taken steps to remove the incentive for drive-by lawsuits. Furthermore, the “education” already exists with the ADA Network, the ADA Centers and Department of Justice programs. Congress only has to allocate more funding to those existing programs. This bill does not allocate additional funding.
 
The Americans with Disabilities Act is a landmark law that protects the rights of people with disabilities, but it is under attack. Do you know your federal legislators’ positions on the ADA? How did your representative vote on H.R. 620? How would your senators vote on it or similar bills? Let them know that you value the ADA and want them to protect it.
 
Interested in doing more advocacy? Join the ADA Advocacy Team, which meets every third Wednesday from 10 a.m.-noon at IndependenceFirst, 540 S. 1st St. in Milwaukee, or contact me for more information.

| Thursday, 7/26/2018 - 9:20 AM | 0 comments
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