When news arrived that the House passed legislation for the American with Disabilities Education and Reform Act Thursday, Feb. 15, numerous bouts of anxiety came to Democratic leaders and disability activists across the nation.
Ultimately, the decision of the House led to an amendment over the objections from disability rights activists and Democratic leaders.
Proponents declared that the act, which passed on a 225-192 vote, was aimed at curbing unscrupulous lawyers who seek profit by threatening businesses with litigation without truly seeking to improve lives of the disabled.
However, opposition of the act was significant, particularly among Democratic leaders who feared that if enacted, the bill would gut the ADA’s provisions dealing with public accommodations by essentially removing any incentive that businesses have to comply with the law before a complaint is filed.
“We know of no other law that outlaws discrimination but permits entities to discriminate with impunity until victims experience that discrimination and educate the entities perpetrating it about their obligations not to discriminate,” said a September letter from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities. The Consortium was signed by more than 200 disability rights groups who claim that the so-called “regime” would make people with disabilities second-class citizens.
The bill requires those wishing to sue businesses in federal court over an ADA public-accommodations violation must first deliver a written notice to that business detailing the illegal barrier to access and then give that business 60 days to come up with a plan to address the complaints and 60 days to take action.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) who serves the chairwoman of the House Republican Conference is also a mother of a son with Down syndrome and strongly opposed the bill.
“The ADA was enacted more than 25 years ago to protect the disability community, and as part of that community, I could not in good conscience vote for this bill,” Rodgers said.