Kristina Bergsten

Changes to the ADA could make life harder for people with disabilities

The ADA Education and Reform Act passed on a 225-to-192 vote in February of this year. Proponents of the bill say it is aimed at curbing unscrupulous lawyers who seek profit by threatening businesses with litigation without actually seeking to improve access for the disabled. Activists say the bill, if enacted, would essentially gut the ADA’s provisions dealing with public accommodations by removing any incentive that businesses have to comply with the law before a complaint is filed.

The bill still has to pass the Senate before it is passed to the President for ratification and becomes law.

Under the bill, those wishing to sue businesses in federal court over an ADA violation must first deliver written notice to that business detailing the barrier to access and give that business 60 days to come up with a plan to address the complaints and an additional 60 days to take action.

Unfortunately, the bill does little to actually produce results in real time for people with disabilities and access issues. The 120 day time frame is four (4) whole months before the access-issue will even be addressed, thus preventing more people from accessing the business and getting their needs met. The rationale behind the bill has nothing to do with increasing access or even to make it easier on business owners. Theoretically, under the bill, business owners could receive several written notices from many people with disabilities while the original written notice is being responded to.

In short, the bill is a sloppy and ill-conceived idea that fails to serve the people the Americans with Disabilities Act was designed to protect.

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