H.R. 620 “ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017” is currently a piece of legislation in the house. H.R. 620 could be voted on any day now, and I was not aware of it until Wednesday morning. This is a big deal and would very much hinder access to people with disabilities. So why did I not know this? Where is all the outrage?
Friends of both the online and in person variety, news, humor, celebrities, and science fill my original Twitter feed, but I did not see any mention of it there. It hadn’t come across on Facebook either.
On Wednesday my new Twitter feed, which I am taking care to fill with the best and most well informed voices of health care, disability, mental health, and wellness tweeters, was full of talk about H.R. 620.
Scratching my head (only figuratively because I am dealing with a hellish migraine) I took to Google to find out what this sudden(to me) fury over H.R. 620 was about. After a day of scouring news articles, reading Twitter feeds, and visiting the Congress website itself, this is what I learned.
In 1990 President George H.W. Bush signed the American with Disabilities Act. In short the ADA ensures the civil rights of people with disabilities. But some of the guarantees put in place by the ADA are at risk if H.R. 620 passes.
When a disabled person encounters a public business that has an architectural barrier that prevents access, that person has the option to file a lawsuit to have the barrier removed. What H.R. 620 seeks to do is give a business significantly more time to comply before a lawsuit can be filed.
Currently, it is mostly up to disabled people to enforce ADA and file complaints and lawsuits against businesses that are non-compliant. Being denied access affects disabled people’s education, shopping, entertainment, and often employment options. The time between when a lawsuit is filed and a resolution is reached is already lengthy. Meanwhile people with disabilities are being denied access.
Teen Vogue has a very informative article. I am not familiar with Teen Vogue’s demographic or regular content, but I like to think the magazine is teaching its readers to be well educated, articulate, and compassionate people. Also from what I understand the author may also be disabled themselves, so props to Teen Vogue for caring about equality and accessibility.
Frivolous lawsuits and financial burden on small businesses are cited as being concerns in favor of H.R. 620. According to the ACLU there is nothing in H.R. 620 that would stop frivolous lawsuits, and there are already ways to address this problem without burdening people with disabilities. As for the monetary aspect there are no damage fees awarded in ADA lawsuits, only legal fees and the cost of the business to remove the barrier to provide access.
So now I’m worked up too, along with my Twitter peeps. I used Resistbot to contact my Representative to tell her to vote No on H.R. 620, which would limit already sparse access. As far as I can tell there is not a set time for said vote, only that it will be coming soon.
It’s been awhile since I have been politically active, since my days of trying to save the environment. I feel that it takes up a whole lot more energy than it use to. Of course I don’t have as much energy as I once did. But I hope to make a difference where I can, and support my disabled friends along the way.
I totally want to encourage you to reach out to your Representatives in whatever way you feel comfortable with. Resistbot will help!