A bill that slows the process of filing a non-compliant Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit passed the House on Thursday.
The ADA Education and Reform Act, or H.R. 620 was introduced by Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas).
Businesses will now have an additional 60 days to devise a plan to fix non-ADA compliant issues and another 120 days to implement the changes before being sued.
“These ‘drive-by’ lawsuits all too often create a negative impression about the goals of this important law. Suits of this kind saw a 14 percent increase in 2017,” Poe said in a statement on his website.
Supporters of the bill claim it will help both small businesses and people with disabilities.
“We’re very excited for H.R. 620, it’s long overdue for the business owners and for the disabled,” said Maryann Marino, the Southern California representative for Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA). This nonpartisan group focuses on fighting against lawsuit abuse in California.
“ADA lawsuit abuse has been explosive,” Marion said. “I can line you up with hundred of shakedown lawsuits that have wiped out or nearly wiped out a lot of family-run businesses.”
Opponents of the bill feel it discourages businesses from making their spaces ADA-compliant and could result in long delays.
“Obviously, we’re very disappointed,” said Curt Child, legislative director of Disability Right California. “The biggest problem with the bill is that it shifts the burden of obligation to the individual to get ADA compliance [and] equal access to facilities.”
Unlike Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) there are no ADA compliance inspectors, explained Patricia McConahay, communications director of Disability Right California.
“This law has been on the books for 27 years and businesses should be aware of it. We see access as a civil rights issue,” said McConahay.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) was put in place to eliminate discrimination against individuals with disabilities and includes provisions on employment, transportation, public accommodations, public services, and telecommunications
“The ADA was carefully crafted to take the needs of business owners into account,” Child said. “This seems to be a solution looking for a problem.”