Disability Advocates Slam ADA Reform Measure

family eating at restaurant, little girl smiling.

by Andy Jones
March 20, 2017

In a letter to the House Judiciary Committee [PDF] dated March 13, the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities voiced strong opposition to a proposed bill that it argues would create “significant obstacles” for people with disabilities pursuing lawsuits against businesses and other places of public accommodation.

Introduced January 24, the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 would impose a variety of prerequisites that people would have to comply with prior to filing ADA lawsuits.

First, they would have to provide a written demand to the business owner, which would have to be acknowledged within 60 days. This letter would have to detail when the individual was denied access to the place in the question and the specific provision of the ADA alleged to have been violated.

The owner would then have a 120-day cure period to remove, or make “substantial progress,” in removing the alleged barrier.

In the letter, the CCD argues the bill would essentially make people with disabilities “second-class citizens” by forcing the burden on them to enforce their civil rights, rather than business owners.

Disability Rights Washington, the National Disability Rights Network and 215 other members of the CCD signed onto the letter.

“The ADA has been law for almost 27 years. By this time, business owners have had ample notice of the ADA’s requirements and opportunity to remove barriers,” the letter states. “If, after 27 years, a business has continued to not comply with the requirements of this legislation, why should a person have to wait more time for enforcement of their civil rights? Should an individual who is not allowed to enter a restaurant because of their race, gender or religion, have to wait before seeking to enforce their civil rights?

“Title III of the ADA already reflects a compromise that takes into account the concerns of businesses; it does not allow individuals to seek damages for violations of their civil rights. Now legislation like H.R. 620 seeks to further erode the civil rights of people with disabilities.”

The bill also requires the Department of Justice to “in consultation with property owners and representatives of the disability rights community, develop a program to educate State and local governments and property owners on effective and efficient strategies for promoting access to public accommodations for persons with a disability.”

Disability Rights Washington is the designated protection and advocacy agency in Washington and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.