Letter: Weakening Americans with Disabilities act

2/14/2018, 2:33 p.m.
Letter writer Pam Heavens, of Joliet, writes about the weakening of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the impact those ...

With the astronomical amount of problems facing our nation, Congress is, astonishingly, attempting to severely weaken the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. HR 640 would require a particular written notice and 180 day waiting period before anyone can file a complaint for a business’s failure to make itself architecturally accessible. People who support the bill state that a handful of attorneys and plaintiffs engage in "drive-by" ADA litigation in some states, in order to get money. "Drive-by" ADA litigation is never connected to actual increase in accessibility. It is only designed to get the business to pay money in exchange for not being sued.

This a not a problem in Illinois. In 2016, only 47 lawsuits were filed in Illinois addressing architectural barriers. That is similar to the record in all but two states. Only in Florida and California is there much litigation, and that litigation is driven by state law, not the ADA.

H.R. 620 hurts accessibility by taking away a business owner's obligation to make their business architecturally accessible unless the business owner gets the specific notice required in this bill. Even after the notice, the owner still gets an additional 180 days to make the improvement; despite the fact that business have already had 27 years to comply with the ADA. The disreputable lawyers threatening lawsuits with no regard for increased accessibility should be the targets for discipline.

No other civil rights law requires notice and a cure period before filing a discrimination complaint. This he bill proposes a drastic departure from the way our government has traditionally protected an individual's civil rights. Disabled Americans deserve equal civil rights protection.

Congressman Bill Foster, who supports the bill, know that HR 640 must be removed from even the slightest hint of consideration.

Pam Heavens

Joliet, Il