The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is in jeopardy and a current bill in the House of Representatives threatens to undermine the protections of the ADA.
We need all members of our Duchenne community to contact your Representative today by calling the main Capitol line at: 202-224-3121 (voice) or 202-224-3091 (TTY) and urge them to #VoteNo on the ADA Education and Reform Act (H.R. 620), which will take away rights of people with Duchenne and other disabilities.
What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a landmark civil rights law—first passed in 1990—that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.
The ADA is divided into five titles (or sections) that relate to different areas of public life. Under Title III, public accommodations must be accessible to people with disabilities. For example, businesses open to the public (i.e., grocery stores, doctors' offices, recreation facilities, private schools, homeless shelters) must remove barriers in existing buildings and make new construction accessible to people with physical disabilities. The ADA also requires that accomodations to communicate effectively with people with vision, hearing and speech disabilities.
Under current law, if a person with a disability encounters an architectural barrier or discrimination that prevents that person from accessing the business, they can speak with the business, file a complaint with the US Department of Justice, or file a lawsuit under state law. State laws treat these lawsuits differently, with some allowing for significant money damages against the noncompliant business.
What is the ADA Education & Reform Act (H.R. 620)?
Unfortunately, some attorneys have seized the opportunity to file frivolous lawsuits against business owners to force settlements for monetary payments for noncompliance with the ADA. The ADA Education and Reform Act was introduced as a way to discourage these lawsuits by preventing people with disabilities from immediately going to court to enforce their rights and to press for timely removal of the barrier that impedes access.
This proposed bill eliminates the need for businesses and other entities that offer services to the public to meet accessibility requirements until a complaint is filed against them. An individual with a disability would not be able to file such a complaint unless it is in writing, specifies the exact part of the law that is being violated, shows that the person complaining has made a direct complaint to the business, and specifies whether the barrier or lack of access is permanent or temporary. The bill would then require the person with a disability to wait 180 days for the business to "fix" the complaint; therefore denying the person with a disability access to the services for the waiting period. Also, a business could have more than 180 days to fix the complaint if they are making "substantial progress" to fix the complaint.
This bill will impose 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. HR 620 shifts the blame for frivolous lawsuits from attorneys who are "bad actors" onto the people with disabilities who are being aggrieved by the failure of businesses to comply with a law that has been on the books for nearly three decades.
Click here to learn more about the myths and truths of this bill.
Many good-intentioned Representatives have supported this bill because they believe they are protecting local businesses from frivilous lawsuits. What they do not realize is that these “protections” will be at the expense of people with disabilities under the ADA — and will set a dangerous precedent of weakening civil rights for the disability community.
The reduction of frivilous lawsuits can be achieved through other means such as through state bar associations — while leaving the ADA and the ability of people with disabilities to enforce access grievances when truly warranted, entact.
Please call your member of the House of Representatives and urge them to #VoteNo on HR 620 and #SavetheADA
Call the main Capitol line at: 202-224-3121 (voice) or 202-224-3091 (TTY).