No American should be denied the right to access public accommodations because they have a disability or be forced to jump through bureaucratic hoops to secure their rights. While ADAPT works to ensure that the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is afforded to all Disabled Americans through efforts to pass the Disability Integration Act (S910/HR2427), there are those in Congress working to undercut the ADA through the ADA Education and Reform Act – HR620.
HR620 is ill-informed legislation that would require people with disabilities to jump through numerous procedural hoops before they can commence a lawsuit to secure their rights and removes any reason for businesses to proactively comply with the ADA. Instead of ensuring that people with disabilities have access, as the ADA requires, businesses will likely wait until a customer confronts an obstruction and has completed the detailed notification process. Even then, the only action the business is required to make is “substantial progress” in removing the barrier described in the notice. A business could wait years without actually removing barriers and face no penalty, as long as it can show “substantial progress” was made. There would be no incentive for a business to learn about ADA compliance and take steps prior to notification.
The House of Representatives is expected to vote on HR620 as soon as next week. Today, Disability Action for America issued a call to action for the Disability Community to hold incumbents accountable for their support of HR 620 and their attacks on our civil rights. “There must be consequences for elected officials who vote to rip away disabled people’s right to access public accommodations,” said Colleen Flanagan, DAA Co-founder & Executive Director who is also an ADAPT organizer in Massachusetts. “It’s our time to defeat and unseat elected officials who refuse to promote disability rights and repeatedly commit disability wrongs.”
“Members of Congress either support the Disability Community or are undercutting our rights as Americans,” said Laura Halvorson of Virginia who is an organizer with DC Metro ADAPT. “Support for DIA and opposition to HR620 are quickly developing into a litmus test for Congressional candidates; if they won’t use their vote to support us, they won’t get our vote!”
Incumbents and candidates running for Congress should take note, particularly Democrats who hope to retake the majorities in Congress. ADAPT members around the country have protested at the offices of Representatives who are supporting HR620 or refused to cosponsor the Disability Integration Act. “It won’t be a matter of just what we do in the privacy of the voting booth,” said Halvorson. “Candidates who undercut our rights or refuse to support us should expect some ADAPT protests during the campaigns.”