In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the civil rights of people with autism and other disabilities.
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.
Business owners can spend years out of compliance and face no penalty even after they receive notice, so long as the owners claim “substantial progress.” By allowing a business an endless amount of time to become compliant with the ADA’s reasonable requirements, H.R. 620 removes any incentive for a business to proactively ensure that people with disabilities have access. Instead, the bill encourages businesses to just wait until an individual’s civil rights are violated before making any changes. national origin.
According to a letter to the House Judiciary Committee last week by 236 disability and civil rights organizations, “H.R. 620 was not written in consultation with representatives of the disability rights community and it would create barriers to the civil rights for persons with disabilities that do not exist in other civil rights laws.”
Despite this strong condemnation, however, the House Judiciary Committee held a markup hearing on Thursday where it voted HR 620 out of committee. The final vote was 15 to 9 along party lines; all of the amendments proposed by Democrats, including additional damages if a business fails to make progress after 120 days, were rejected.
The ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 will now move to a full House floor vote.Sara Luterman at NOS Magazine:
In response to this appalling vote, the National Disability Rights Network issued a statement on Friday: “More than 27 years after the passage of the ADA, the committee’s vote was not an attempt to reform or educate on the ADA, but a blatant attempt by Congress to say that it is ok to discriminate against people with disabilities by not making public accommodations accessible.”
Critics of the bill, such as Senior Policy Analyst Dara Baldwin of the National Disability Rights Network, assert that HR 620 would create significant obstacles for disabled people to enforce their rights to go about their business in the community. Susan Mizner, Disability Councel for the American Civil Liberties Union, told NOS Magazine that “HR 620 would make it virtually impossible for people with disabilities to assert their right to access. It creates even more burdens on the individual with disabilities to identify, educate, monitor and pursue access, and creates incentives for businesses to do nothing, until someone with a disability spends all of that time, money and effort to force them to comply with the law. This means too many in our community will remain segregated and stigmatized – unable to socialize with friends at a restaurant, go to the movies with their family, or even receive services at the nearest doctor or dentist office.”
Despite a packed agenda including tax reform, appropriations, the debt ceiling, and incoming midterm elections, multiple advocates indicated that the legislation may be moved to the House floor this month. You can still contact your congressional representative and share your feelings about this legislation before it goes up for a vote. There is still time to make your voice heard. Find out if your congressional representative is co-sponsoring the bill here.