Beginners Guide to HR620 And How It Impacts Disabled Individuals

You probably haven’t heard about the new proposed law, HR620. It’s barely gotten any media coverage which is frightening and disheartening, as it will disenfranchise so many Americans from their civil rights. I’ve compiled the basics of what you need to know about HR620.

Keywords to know:

ADA- Americans with Disabilities Act

Disabled- having a physical or mental condition that limits movements, senses, or activities

Able-Bodied- healthy; not physically disabled

Ableism- discrimination or social prejudice against individuals with disabilities

Background on the ADA:

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990 aiming to “provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities”. The main area of concentration is on Title III. Title III prohibits places of public accommodation (businesses not owned by the government) from discrimination against disabled individuals. It ensures public accommodations are free from architectural and communications barriers that would alienate a disabled person from enjoying the accommodations.

What this new bill is:

-ADA Education and Reform Act

-Aims to revise Title III of the ADA, dealing with private businesses, otherwise known as public accommodations.

-What do public accommodations include?

-facilities such hotels, restaurants, bars, theaters, grocery stores, hardware stores, dry-cleaners, banks, professional offices of healthcare providers, lawyers, and accountants, hospitals, private bus or train stations, museums, libraries, zoos, amusement parks, places of education, day care centers, senior citizen centers, homeless shelters, gymnasiums, health spas, bowling alleys, and golf courses to name a few.

What the proponents of HR620 say it will do:

HR 620 ensures protection of individuals with disabilities while providing business owners with the opportunity to remedy alleged ADA infractions before incurring litigation costs. More specifically, the bill requires “a notice and cure period before the commencement of a private civil action; require the Department of Justice to develop a program to educate state and local governments and property owners on strategies for promoting access to public accommodations for persons with a disability; and require the Judicial Conference of the United States to develop a model program to promote alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to resolve claims of architectural barriers for public accommodations.”

Proponents of HR 620 claim that the bill will help dampen what they see as an increase in individuals bringing unjustified lawsuits against small businesses.

What it actually does:

This legislation would require people with disabilities who encounter access barriers at a business or facility to become legal experts on the code, to provide “notice” to the business of what code they are violating, and to wait six months or longer. And this isn’t even for the business to actually fix the problem…just for the business to make “substantial progress” towards accessibility. Substantial progress is not clearly defined.

Only after all these steps and months of waiting, could a lawsuit be filed. Navigating the process would be both complicated and time-consuming, which is the point of the bill.

Susan Mizner, the Disability Counsel for the ACLU, says it best, “People with disabilities face barriers everyday: inaccessible restrooms, inaccessible medical equipment, inaccessible parking lots, inaccessible entrances, and inaccessible tables at restaurants. But instead of fixing those problems, HR 620 would force people who have historically faced the most marginalization and discrimination in society to become legal code experts and navigate a byzantine bureaucratic process before being able to assert their rights under the ADA. The specifics of this bill might look different in the final version, but no cosmetic modifications can change the fact that it’s predicated on a faulty premise. As a matter of law and justice, businesses owe it to people with disabilities to proactively ensure access—not the other way around.

Where HR620 is at in the legislative process:

-Introduced to committee on 1/24/2017

-Passed by the House on 2/15/2018

-To be considered by the Senate

Myths vs Facts:

  • Myth- HR620 strengthens the ADA
  • Fact- HR620 weakens the ADA by undermining a key goal of the law
  • Myth- HR620 only delays the ability to go to court
  • Fact- Delays businesses complying with the law and creates a loophole for compliance
  • Myth- ADA allows businesses to be sued for monetary gain
  • Fact- There are no monetary damages allowed under Title III of the ADA
  • Myth- It’s too much of a burden for small businesses to comply with the ADA regulations
  • Fact- It’s no more burdensome than complying with any other laws and regulations

 

What you can do to help:

Take a few minutes to compose a quick and easy message to your representatives (especially your Senators) to let them know to say NO to HR620. Resistbot will find your representatives, help you put together your message, and send it on its way. Resistbot

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