H.R. 620, ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017

From the bill: “This bill requires the Disability Rights Section of the Department of Justice to develop a program to educate state and local governments and property owners on strategies for promoting access to public accommodations for persons with a disability. … The bill prohibits civil actions based on the failure to remove an architectural barrier to access into an existing public accommodation unless: (1) the aggrieved person has provided to the owners or operators a written notice specific enough to identify the barrier, and (2) the owners or operators fail to provide the person with a written description outlining improvements that will be made to improve the barrier or they fail to remove the barrier or make substantial progress after providing such a description.The aggrieved person’s notice must specify the circumstances under which public accommodation access was denied.”

Why Jason Lewis’ vote against our values

“[This bill] undermines the civil rights of Americans with disabilities and would set a dangerous precedent for civil rights enforcement more generally. By weakening enforcement, it would undermine the Americans with Disabilities Act’s (ADA’s) goal of full inclusion and integration of persons with disabilities into the mainstream of American life. Specifically, H.R. 620 would amend title III of the ADA to bar victims of disability discrimination by places of public accommodations–such as hotels, restaurants, theaters, private schools, private day care centers, and health care providers–from filing suit to enforce their rights under the ADA unless the victim: (1) notifies a business of a violation of the ADA’s prohibition on access barriers to public accommodations; and (2) waits up to 180 days to allow the business to either remedy the violation or to simply make ‘substantial progress’ towards complying with the law. Additionally, the bill mandates that the required notice of a violation must provide detailed information about the alleged violation, including the specific provision of the ADA that has been violated, whether the victim made a request to the business about removing an access barrier, and whether an access barrier was temporary or permanent. By going far beyond requiring notice of a violation, the bill would effectively impose a standard more akin to the heightened pleading standard applicable to a legal complaint, thus potentially dissuading meritorious complaints from being pursued.” (Source: Dissenting Views, Committee on the Judiciary)

“This latest attempt to curtail the civil rights of people with disabilities was reignited by a popular ’60 Minutes’ segment alleging the widespread filing of frivolous Title III lawsuits by attorneys who spot ADA violations using, for example, Google Earth. The segment implies that people with disabilities have no complaints about the noncompliant establishments but that, because of these lawsuits, business owners end up with a bill that many of them cannot afford to foot. … So-called frivolous lawsuits, however, are nowhere near as pervasive as proponents of the ADA Education and Reform Act suggest. Proponents of the bill point to increases over the past several years in Title III filings, including a 37 percent uptick in 2016 compared with 2015. But a quick look at the numbers shows that this increase is easily explained by a small number of large-scale filers. In fact, just 12 individual attorneys and a single disability law firm were responsible for more than one-third of all Title III lawsuits filed in 2016, accounting for more than 100 cases each. Even in the unlikely event that all of these large-scale filers’ lawsuits were indeed frivolous—which is disproven by the fact that many of them have brought to light very real violations of the ADA—they would hardly present an issue systemic enough to warrant federal intervention, particularly when such an intervention would gut a decades-old civil rights law.” (Source: Center for American Progress

In a March 2017 letter to Congress, the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) and over 200 of its allies expressed their opposition to this bill. (Source: ACLU)

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