House Republicans Attempt to Foist Burdens on People with Disabilities

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights warned that the bill could impose a "burdensome process” on people with disabilities to pursue legal action.

[Photo: A man walks with a walking aid during the Disability Pride Parade.]
The House voted 225-192 along largely party lines in favor of the so-called ADA Education and Reform Act (HR 620), with just 19 Republicans opposed to the bill. Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed their Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) “reform” bill that advocates say would undermine longstanding legal protections at the expense of people with disabilities.

The House voted 225-192 largely along party lines in favor of the so-called ADA Education and Reform Act (HR 620), with 19 Republicans opposed to the bill. Twelve Democrats voted for it, including six from California—Reps. Pete Aguilar, Ami Bera, Lou Correa, Scott Peters, Jackie Speier, and Norma Torres—as well as Reps. Jim Cooper (TN), Henry Cuellar (TX), Bill Foster (IL), Collin Peterson (MN), Kathleen Rice (NY), and Kurt Schrader (OR).

Republicans in the U.S. Senate haven’t yet introduced a companion bill.

“They’ve never considered the bill before, and hopefully it will not move, but we aren’t taking anything for granted,” an aide to House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), who helped lead the ADA to passage almost 30 years ago, told Rewire

“We will be working with Senate colleagues and advocates to ensure it would be defeated if it is taken up in the Senate.”

The legislation would likely face a chilly reception from some Senate Democrats. Already, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) expressed her own opposition to the legislation in a series of tweets.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, an advocacy group, had urged House lawmakers to vote against the bill, warning it imposed “a burdensome process before people with disabilities could file a civil action for an accessibility violation in a public accommodation case.”

That’s because, as disability rights attorney Robyn Powell explained in a commentary for Rewire, the process would become lengthy. It would require a person with a disability “to give a written notice to a business owner who has barriers to access.”

“The business owner would then have 60 days to even acknowledge that there is a problem—and then another 120 days to make substantial progress toward correcting the violation,” wrote Powell. “In other words, people with disabilities would be forced to wait 180 days to enforce their civil rights.”