My Twitter feed has been filled with tweets about HR 620 and ways to contact representatives. I noticed when talking to people around me about it, they figured that since the bill has the acronym ADA in it, it must be a good thing. This could not be farther from the truth, and today I will be sharing the who, what, when, where, and whys of HR 620- The ADA and Education Reform Act of 2017.
Whose idea is this?
Before I explain more about the bill, it’s important to understand whose idea this is, and it isn’t people with disabilities. A group of businesses, many whom own large shopping malls, heavily influenced the creation of the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017. The ADA is also known as the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, which is a civil rights act that helps to protect people with disabilities.
What is the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017?
The ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017, also referred to as HR 620, is a bill that would require people with disabilities to find, determine, and report buildings that are in violation of the ADA. This means that buildings wouldn’t have to be made accessible unless someone tells the business they are not accessible, and says exactly what the issue is, and only after doing these things can the person can take legal action.
When was it proposed?
The bill was originally proposed on January 24, 2017, over a year ago. It was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, and the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice. A House Report was published January 30, 2018- read the full text of the report here.
Where is it being debated?
UPDATE 2/16/18- HR 620 passed the House of Representatives with a vote of 225-192, and is now moving on to the Senate. To follow along on the bill’s status, check out the actions tab on the bill page here.
Why was this bill created?
This bill was created to help protect businesses, especially small ones, from lawsuits that are thought to be unreasonable or unjustified. However, ADA lawsuits are not as common as people think. After all, the ADA has been around for 27 years, so there has been plenty of time to make buildings accessible. Simply put, this bill excuses businesses from following federal law.
Who does it affect?
This bill would affect people that benefit from the accessibility standards that come from the Americans With Disabilities Act, specifically Section III. It’s not just people with disabilities though. While people who use mobility aids need accessible buildings, there are so many others who need situational accommodations. One example is someone who is using a wheelchair and someone else who is pushing a stroller both benefit from having a ramp to get inside a building. The aging population also benefits from easy ways to navigate buildings, as do people with short term disabilities such as a broken foot or those recovering from surgery. An awesome YouTuber named Annie Elainey, who uses mobility aids, talks about HR 620 in her video here.
What are people so upset about?
People with disabilities are expected to become legal and architectural experts and find what exactly makes a building accessible. Businesses can keep barriers that prevent people with disabilities from utilizing their services, and claim that no one with a disability goes to their business, when the reality is that people with disabilities can’t access the building, so don’t go inside. Since almost 20% of Americans are identified as having a disability, businesses are missing out on a huge group of customers by not being accessible.
When would issues be fixed?
Another problematic part of the bill is the waiting period. After giving the business notice of the accessibility violation, there is a minimum six month waiting period before any further legal action can be taken. While change can’t happen overnight, businesses may continue to stall the progress of fixing accessibility issues, taking years to solve an issue that they have had 27 years to fix already.
Where are the people supporting this bill?
The 108 elected officials that are supporting this bill in Congress are from both Democratic and Republican parties, and 33 different states. You can find the names of the co-signers here.
Why should I call my representatives?
If you think that businesses should follow federal law and be accessible for people with disabilities, I encourage you to call your representatives and raise your voice as a member or an ally of the disability community. If you aren’t sure what to say, read my post about talking to elected officials on the phone here. And if you’re lucky enough to talk directly to someone, use my guide for talking to politicians and elected officials in person here.
I thank you in advance for helping to protect people with disabilities from discrimination.