Excellent Article on Current Attack on the ADA


Ardis
 

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-----Original Message-----
From: Christopher Gray via leadership [mailto:leadership@acblists.org]
Sent: Monday, September 25, 2017 8:29 AM
Subject: Article on Current Attack on the jADA

Hello:

Below is an excellent article on the current attack against the ADA with several facts of significant interest. About the only thing it doesn't mention is that website accessibility is, more and more, becoming a part of this discussion.
Below is a link and below that is the text of the article.


Graham Cassidy Bill isn't Congress's only attack on #PWD:
https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/disability/news/2017/09/22/439464/quiet-attack-ada-making-way-congress/

The Quiet Attack on the ADA Making Its Way Through Congress By Eliza Schultz, Rebecca Cokley, and Rebecca Vallas

Posted on September 22, 2017, 1:12 pm

Protesters supporting people with disabilities gather outside the White House in Washington, May 15, 2017.
AP/Susan Walsh Protesters supporting people with disabilities gather outside the White House in Washington, May 15, 2017.

In the current political climate, the assault on Americans with disabilities is no longer limited to attempts to strip them of health care, take away the services millions need to live independently and to work, or make deep cuts to programs that help many make ends meet.
Now a bill making its way through Congress threatens to roll back the civil rights of people with disabilities by exactly 27 years. The bill, misleadingly titled the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017, would hack away at the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, the landmark civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and mandates that people with disabilities have “equal opportunity” to participate in American life. The bill would roll back disability rights and inclusion Prior to the Americans with Disabilities Act, it was far more arduous for Americans with disabilities to participate in mainstream society. Public places such as hospitals and restaurants were often inaccessible to people with disabilities, and these individuals had no recourse against the owners of these establishments who, in effect, barred them from entry. After the passage of the ADA, places of public accommodation —that is, privately owned, leased, or operated facilities—were required to take proactive steps to be reasonably accessible to people with disabilities. Although the ADA has enabled people with disabilities to participate far more fully in public life, some businesses remain inaccessible because of architectural obstacles, such as inaccessible entrances, bathrooms too small to accommodate someone in a wheelchair, and lack of curb cuts, to name just a few. Fortunately, under Title III of the ADA, people with disabilities have the right to file lawsuits against proprietors of businesses that lack reasonable accommodations. Indeed, despite businesses’
obligation to
take proactive steps towards accessibility, litigation has been the mechanism through which many gains for people with disabilities have been achieved since 1990. But the ADA Education and Reform Act, which has been met with deep opposition from the disability community, would fundamentally weaken this process in ways that would make it prohibitively burdensome for many people with disabilities to enforce their long-standing civil rights.

What the bill would do

The ADA Education and Reform Act would create onerous red tape for people with
disabilities
attempting to enforce their rights under the ADA. Specifically, the bill
requires anyone
seeking to file a lawsuit under Title III to first provide written notice to the
business
owners in violation of the law, citing very specific details regarding the
provisions of the
statute that apply to their particular case. Business owners would then have 60
days to
acknowledge the violation and another 120 days to at least make “substantial
progress”
towards rectifying it. This means that under the bill, places of public
accommodation—which
have had nearly three decades to comply with the ADA—would have yet another six
months just
to begin to rectify their violations of the law. As the American Civil Liberties
Union
points out, under this bill, “Business owners can spend years out of compliance
and face no
penalty even after they receive notice, so long as the owners claim ‘substantial
progress.’”
People with disabilities, in turn, would have to wait at least that long to
access justice.

The bill is based on exaggerated claims

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. It’s important to note that under Title III,
those in
violation of the ADA do not have to pay any monetary damages, only attorney’s
fees and
injunctive relief, meaning business owners must remedy the violation.

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. Additionally, protections against the filing of frivolous lawsuits are
enshrined in
existing ethics rules. As disability rights lawyer Robyn Powell notes, frivolous
lawsuits
can already be addressed through district courts, as well as by state bar
associations.

What proponents of the ADA Education and Reform Act also seem to ignore is that
Title III of
the ADA was, in many respects, the product of a compromise between the
disability community
and business interests. As a result, businesses are only required to provide
accommodations
when doing so doesn’t present an “ undue burden ” and when they are “ readily
achievable
”—that is, technically feasible and affordable. What’s more, there have long
been in place
federally funded resources to help businesses comply with the law, including ten
regional
centers that provide technical assistance and trainings in every state. And
again, under the
ADA, plaintiffs are unable to obtain monetary damages from businesses. Any
settlements or
court orders involving monetary damages are based on state laws, not the ADA.

Conclusion

Places of public accommodation have had a full 27 years to comply with Title III
of the ADA.

Yet, despite substantial gains since 1990 when the ADA was signed into law,
American society
is still rife with architectural barriers that prevent people with disabilities
from fully
participating in public life. The ADA Education and Reform Act all but condones
the
businesses that, nearly three decades after the ADA was enacted, have yet to
comply. As the
Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities has noted, there exists “no other law
that outlaws
discrimination but permits entities to discriminate with impunity” until after
victims of
that discrimination inform business owners that they’re breaking the law.


Eliza Schultz is the research assistant for the Poverty to Prosperity Program at
the Center for American Progress. Rebecca Cokley is a senior fellow working on
disability policy at the Center. Rebecca Vallas is the managing director of the
Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center.