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Congress Wants to Rewrite the Americans With Disabilities Act to Make Life Easier for…Businesses That Aren’t Accessible?

Accomplishing the opposite of the original ADA

Because going after America’s healthcare and transgender people’s civil rights just wasn’t enough for 2017, the House of Representatives has added another atrocity to their agenda: rewriting the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to place the burden on people with disabilities. The House Judiciary Committee has voted H.R. 620, which proposes eliminating the ADA requirement that businesses be “proactive” in making their facilities accessible, out of committee—meaning it will now be put to a full floor vote in the House.

As the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) summarizes, “H.R. 620 would completely change the way in which a business is required to comply with the ADA. Instead of requiring that a business comply proactively, the bill would place the burden on the individual who is being denied access. This bill proposes that after an individual with a disability is denied access she must first notify the business owner, with exacting specificity, that her civil rights were violated, and then wait for six months to see if the business will make ‘substantial progress’ toward access, before going to a court to order compliance.”

Proponents of the bill argue that it will prevent spurious lawsuits and allow businesses to spend their resources addressing the access issue instead of litigating in court or explaining themselves to the federal government. But I find the idea that people with disabilities are currently being too catered to a little … well, patently ridiculous. Just watch the below video of Zach Anner trying to navigate New York City in a wheelchair.

H.R. 620 is opposed by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), a coalition of approximately 100 disability organizations which includes the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), American Council of the Blind (ACB), Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), and Paralyzed Veterans Association (PVA). The CCD and its allies (236 organizations in total) sent a letter of opposition to Congress outlining their concerns, and they do not hold back in calling out this bill.

“The bill’s proponents purport to protect business owners from the burden of understanding and complying with rules designed to ensure that people with disabilities could access public accommodations,” reads the letter, “on the ground that this burden is too heavy for businesses. Yet people with disabilities are expected to shoulder this burden and to provide businesses with information about the specific legal obligations that they are violating – after those individuals have been denied the access rights that Congress gave them decades ago.”

“We know of no other law,” the letter continues, “that outlaws discrimination but permits entities to discriminate with impunity until victims experience that discrimination and educate the entities perpetrating it about their obligations not to discriminate. Such a regime is absurd, and would make people with disabilities second-class citizens.”

Now, the bill also has some supporters … like the International Council of Shopping Centers. Okay.

Let’s get to calling our Congresspeople. Disability rights organizations fought particularly hard to defend the Affordable Care Act, staging sit-ins and facing arrest in order to protect everyone’s access to affordable medical care. Let’s all protect their access to public spaces.

(Via ACLU and Rewire; image via Shutterstock)

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