The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to take a floor vote [this Thursday] on HR 620 – the ADA Education and Reform Act – which could in practice weaken the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). We explain more below – we ask that you please take 5 minutes [today] to call your U.S. Representative to inform them that this bill could weaken the rights of the people we support. The Congressional Switchboard operators can help you identify your U.S. Representative – just dial (202) 224 3121 or (202) 224 3091 TTY and tell the operators your state and zip code.

The full Action Alert is included below to assist with your outreach, but we’ve included the following script for your quick reference:

“Hello, I am a constituent who cares deeply about people with disabilities. I am calling to ask the U.S. Representative to oppose H.R. 620 – the ADA Education and Reform Act, because it removes incentives for businesses to comply with the ADA. This weakens the ADA and people with disabilities’ civil rights because it puts the weight of enforcing the ADA on their shoulders. Thank you for your hard work answering the phones.” 

It’s particularly important that constituents reach out to the sole Democratic co-sponsor in NY:

-Kathleen Rice (D-NY)

229 7th Street, Suite 300 
Garden City, NY 11530P: (516) 739-3008F: (516) 739-2973

For your information, we are doing this as part of a national strategy in which the national organization has called on various States/sponsors to be targeted for calls:

Additional background – what does the bill do?

HR 620 would prevent a person with a disability from taking civil action if they could not access a business because of an architectural barrier (e.g., no access ramp, no elevator, no sidewalk cut-out) unless they met the requirements listed below.

  1. The person first sent the business a letter saying there is a barrier and that letter:
  • Gives the address of the property where the barrier is;
  • Explains what the barrier is and whether it is permanent or temporary;
  • States whether the person asked for help with the barrier; and
  • Cites which portions of the ADA have been violated by the barrier.
  1. The owners did not reply to the person to explain how they will solve the problem.

Why does this weaken the ADA?

Currently, businesses are responsible for making sure they comply with the ADA – and one reason they do that is to avoid civil action (litigation). HR 620 would place make the person with a disability responsible for enforcing the law instead. This makes things much more difficult for people with disabilities – without a lawyer, would you know how to find and explain which sections of the ADA require that there be access ramps to buildings? By preventing civil action unless a person with a disability first proved that they were deprived of access, businesses will have no incentives to comply with the law in advance. For example, if the law takes effect and a new mall is built in your neighborhood, the builders would not necessarily have incentives to include access ramps in the construction from day one. They could wait until someone wrote them a letter to start taking steps to add the ramps because there would not be a risk of a lawsuit until then. During that time, people with disabilities would not have access to the mall. This weakens the ADA in everyday life.

Additional talking points provided by our coalition partners:

Vote no on HR 620.

  1. H.R. 620 would weaken the civil rights of people with disabilities and make it harder for them to participate in the mainstream of society.
  2. This is a civil rights issue.  The ADA is a civil rights law and this bill would not only make parts of the ADA a dead letter, but would also pose risks for other civil rights laws as well (like Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, barring public accommodations from discriminating based on race; Title III of the ADA was based on Title II of the CRA).

H.R. 620 would not solve the problems it purports to address.  It would not stop fraudulent lawsuits or demand letters that try to extort money from businesses.  Courts and state bars are already equipped to deal with those problems in better ways, without taking away people’s civil rights.  They have been successfully shutting down those practices in many areas.