by Michelle Diament | April 4, 2018
Democrats in the U.S. Senate are pushing back against legislation that would impose a waiting period before lawsuits could be filed over violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Disability Scoop)
A letter signed by 43 Democratic senators urges Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., not to bring forward a bill known as the ADA Education and Reform Act, or H.R. 620.
The measure, which was approved by the House of Representatives in February, would require individuals who experience accessibility barriers at public businesses to submit written notice of the issues. Then, businesses would have up to 60 days to respond and another 60 days to start improvements.
Proponents of the legislation say that it would protect businesses from opportunistic lawsuits while giving proprietors time to correct problems.
Disability advocates counter, however, that businesses have had more than two decades to comply with the ADA and the proposed changes to the law would leave people with disabilities unable to access stores, restaurants, movie theaters and other spaces for months after flagging an accessibility violation.
“No American should be forced to endure discrimination for any length of time so that places of public accommodation may learn how to follow a seminal, bipartisan civil rights law that was enacted in 1990,” reads the Democrats’ letter sent to McConnell late last month. “Respectfully, we urge you to join us in supporting the rights of Americans with disabilities by making clear that H.R. 620, or similar legislation, will never receive a vote in the United States Senate during the 115th Congress.”
Since the bill passed the House, Senate leaders could choose to consider it at any moment. The Democrats say that if the bill is brought up, they will block it.
“We haven’t gotten any indications on timing, but since the Senate majority leader has the ability to bring it up for a vote anytime, Sen. Duckworth felt it was important to organize a filibuster-proof coalition of senators in opposition to the bill to make sure he understood it could not pass,” Sean Savett, a spokesman for the letter’s organizer, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., told Disability Scoop.
A representative for McConnell did not respond to questions about the letter or the bill.
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Derek Mortland, ADA and Community Outreach Coordinator