New Bill to Give Businesses More Leniency
Angela Page of UCO Disability Support Services guides a UCO student trying to use a wheelchair during a disability awareness event at Broncho Lake. (Vista Archives)
The United States House of Representatives passed a bill Feb. 15 that changes the Americans with Disabilities Act drastically, making it possible for businesses and companies to opt out of complying with certain current ADA regulations.
The bill, H.R. 620 – ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 was passed by the House with a 225-to- 192 vote.
Essentially, if the bill becomes law, it prevents lawyers from bringing lawsuits against ADA regulations. However, to do that, the bill is allowing businesses to have illegal barriers that go against ADA regulations until someone les a written complaint about them to the business owners.
“As far as for the community itself, that relies on the ADA, its [the bill] got some issues,” said Jody Wilham, Disability Support Services coordinator for the University of Central Oklahoma. “I understand where the legislators are coming from, but they’re not looking at the big picture. They’re looking at one small portion of trying to stop so many frivolous lawsuits.”
Under the new bill, written complaints will have to be submitted directly to a business in question. The business is then given 60 days to develop a plan to x the illegal barrier mentioned in the complaint, and an additional 60 days to follow through with the plan.
Detractors of the bill claim that if it passes Senate, it guts the ADA regulations that have been in place since 1990. Specifically, it could hinder public accommodations, which are in place for people with disabilities to have the same access to public places as people without disabilities.
“H.R. 620 would create signi cant obstacles for people with disabilities to enforce their rights under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act to access public accommodations, and would impede their ability to engage in daily activities and participate in the mainstream of society,” said the the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities in a letter written in September 2017. “The ADA has been law for almost 27 years. By this time, business owners have had ample notice of the ADA’s requirements and opportunity to remove barriers.”
H.R. 620 supporters claim it will prevent lawyers from taking advantage of businesses in ADA lawsuits. This stems from several business complaints that lawsuits do not give them enough time to x the illegal barrier.
“If they were willing to work with the ADA community, I believe that the bill could have some possibilities and bene ts to work, but the way it’s set up now, it’s basically telling a disabled person that [they are] making them pay the price for an inaccessible environment,” Wilham said.
Sec. 2, titled Compliance through Education, lays out a plan to develop a program to educate state government, local government and property owners on the correct ways to allow proper and legal access to public places for everyone.
The bill does not currently include a budget for the development of this program.
The Senate plans to review this bill, and once it is reviewed and voted upon, there will be a better idea as to whether or not the bill will be made law.