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My Voice: H.R 620 Edition

By: Scott Burlingame, Executive Director

Sadly, today by a 225-192 vote, the House of Representatives passed the ADA Education and Reform Act, or H.R. 620.

Rep. Kevin Cramer (ND) voted in support of this bill.

H.R. 620 is a misguided effort to limit discrimination lawsuits by people with disabilities and make it harder for unscrupulous attorneys to file lawsuits. It will create a six month period of time, after a complaint is alleged by a person with a disability, before an ADA complaint can be filed against a business.

This bill was passed by a coalition of people who have never really liked the civil rights guaranteed by the Americans with Disabilities (ADA), people who come from states with state laws that allow for lawyers to collect damages on ADA Title III complaints (of which North Dakota is not one), and those who view civil rights protections for the over 50 million Americans with disabilities as barriers to business.

It is this final group I wish to talk with today. The ADA is good for business. According to the Association of People Supporting Employment-First, customers with disabilities and their families, friends and associates represent a $3 TRILLION market segment.

Studies have shown that business that are not accessible are less likely to be shopped at than business that are ADA compliant. In other words, even people who do not have a disability are less likely to spend their money in a business that is not accessible.

All people, regardless of if you have a disability or not have benefited from the Americans with Disabilities Act. Have you used an elevator rather than the stairs? Then thank the ADA. Have you picked the large stall in the restroom (we know you have)? Thank the ADA. Have you used a ramp rather than stairs when pushing strollers or carrying large packages? Thank the ADA.

The ADA is good for business.

For businesses who are not accessible, there are many supports available. On that note, next month, Independence, Inc. will be hosting the 2018 ADA Seminar. At this seminar, we are partnering with the Rocky Mountain ADA Center to provide a training on Title III overview for public accommodations, service animals and the ADA, and the 2010 ADA Standards.

There a multiple supports to business owners who are looking to get information to provide accessibility. I personally love working with businesses to develop plans to improve accessibility.

However, if you talk to people with disabilities who benefit from the ADA, you will find out we have a long way to go. We still have business without the proper parking spots, doors that are inaccessible, and restrooms that are impossible to use.

Twenty-eight years after the ADA was signed by President George H.W. Bush, inaccessibility still remains a major barrier to full community participation by people with disabilities.

We don’t need a law that gives inaccessible businesses another 6 months to come into compliance.

H.R. 620 is a bad bill, which begins to rip away a generations worth of improvement.

I hope those who support disability rights will reach out to Senators Hoeven and Heitkamp and ask them to vote no on HR 620.

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