Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Education and Reform Act of 2017

February 2018 -  Introduced to the House of Representatives in January 2017, the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 [H.R.620] was passed by a vote of 225-192. On February 26, 2018, it was received by the Senate. H.R. 620 proposes to require a person or persons with a disability alleging ADA violations first to notify the entity in writing, allowing them the opportunity to remedy alleged ADA violations. Likewise, the business entity must respond in writing with details on how they intend to address the identified barrier to access. These steps are intended to precede and potentially prevent the need to file a complaint with Department of Justice (DoJ) or to pursue a private civil lawsuit. The legislation directs the Judicial Conference of the United States to create a program that encourages this “alternative dispute resolution” with mechanisms in place that shepherd involved parties through the process. Additionally, the bill proposes that the DoJ, property owners, and people with disabilities “develop a program to educate State and local governments and property owners on strategies for promoting access to public accommodations for a person with a disability.” There are proponents and detractors to H.R. 620.  Proponents assert that the legislation will decrease abuse of the ADA by attorneys filing frivolous lawsuits. Among those who disparage the legislation is Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). She stated, “This offensive legislation would undermine civil rights in our nation and reward businesses that fail to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Passing it would send a disgraceful message to Americans with disabilities: their civil rights are not worthy of strong enforcement and they can, once again, be treated like second-class citizens.” [Sources: Library of Congress; Patrick Sisson, Curbed; Carlos Ballesteros, Newsweek]


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