National Down Syndrome Congress

Save the ADA! Urge your Representative to #VoteNo on HR 620

SAVE THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT! URGE YOUR LEGISLATORS TO #VOTENO TO STRIP AWAY CIVIL RIGHTS OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is under attack in the House of Representatives. Next week, legislators will vote on the ADA Education and Reform Act (H.R. 620), which would undermine protections of the ADA and take away rights of people with disabilities. We urge you to call your Representatives today to explain that this bill is detrimental to people with disabilities and ask them to #VoteNo to this dangerous piece of legislation.

Background
The Americans with Disabilities Act, which became law in 1990, is a civil rights law 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, and must take steps necessary to communicate effectively with people with vision, hearing and speech disabilities. If a person with a disability encounters an architectural barrier or discrimination that prevents that person from accessing the business, they currently 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.
 
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 bill would eliminate 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. It shifts the blame for frivolous lawsuits from attorneys who are "bad actors" onto the people who are being aggrieved by the failure of businesses to comply with a law that has been on the books for nearly three decades. Here is more information about the myths and truths of this bill: https://dredf.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/myths-and-truths-about-the-ada-education-and-reform-act.pdf
 
On January 30, 2018, this bill was passed out of the House Judiciary Committee. It has bipartisan support because many Representatives mistakenly believe that the bill will protect local businesses from frivolous lawsuits. These "protections" (which can be achieved through other means such as sanctions through state bar associations) will come at the expense of cutting back the rights of people with disabilities under the ADA and setting a dangerous precedent for weakening enforcement of civil rights. Hundreds of state and national disability organizations have already pushed back against this bill (see http://www.advocacymonitor.com/letter-opposing-the-ada-education-and-reform-act/ and http://www.c-c-d.org/fichiers/UPDATED-CCD-and-Allies-Letter-of-Opposition-for-The-ADA-Education-and-Reform-Act-of-2017-H.R.620-Sept-7-2017.pdf). We need constituents like you to make calls and send emails to oppose this bill!
 
We are hearing that this bill will come to the floor for a vote next week, so it is imperative that you call your Representatives to urge them to #VoteNo and #SavetheADA!
Call the main Capitol line at: (202) 224-3121 (voice) or (202) 224-3091 (TTY) and send an email to your Representative and Senators. They must hear that their constituents strongly oppose HR 620 and will NOT let them gut the ADA!
Thank you for your advocacy efforts!
The NDSC Policy & Advocacy Team

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