Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that jeopardizes the rights of people with disabilities. The ADA Education and Reform Act (HR 620) passed by 33 votes on Thursday, February 15. The Senate has yet to vote on this bill. The Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired encourages you to learn more about how you can help to stop this bill from becoming law.
How Would This Impact You?
If this legislation were signed into law, it would eliminate the right to equal access put in place by the ADA. People who encountered access barriers, such as touch screen payment kiosks, ATMs that are not audio-enabled, or signage on elevator buttons that have no braille or raised print, would need to submit written objections to the companies in question. A company need not fully comply with the ADA unless they receive a detailed complaint letter. After receipt, a company only has to show it is making “substantial progress” to remove the access barrier. This term is not legally defined, nor does it create a permanent solution. Additionally, companies have up to six months to show progress, making timely resolutions unlikely.
Proponents of the bill proposed it to eliminate “drive-by litigation.” This term implies, for example, that lawyers drive by a building, see a stairway with no visible ramp going up to the door and sue the company based on only what they’ve seen. This argument has no data to back it up, and people who seek litigation, receive no monetary compensation if they win the case.
What Can You Do?
First, if your elected official voted against HR 620 – ADA Education and Reform Act, please take a few minutes to thank them. It is important for these representatives to know we appreciate their support. Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner, Mark Pocan, Ron Kind and Gwen Moore voted against the legislation. Representatives Glenn Grothman, Sean P. Duffy and Mike Gallagher voted in favor of HR 620. Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, did not vote. Click here for the voting results.
Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois has drafted a letter, with the support of additional senators, to tell Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer not to bring forward HR 620. As the leaders of the Senate, both McConnell and Schumer have the power to choose which bills are placed on the agenda. Duckworth and her ally senators are seeking at least 41 senators to sign on to their letter indicating that they will oppose this bill and any like it. Right now, 11 more senators need to sign on to the letter.
We encourage you to reach out to Senators Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson to both encourage them to sign Senator Duckworth’s letter and to help them understand the serious implications of having this bill become law.
Senator Tammy Baldwin:
Washington, DC Office
1 Russell Courtyard
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Ron Johnson:
328 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
What Should I Say?
If you need some talking points, please see the following websites:
American Council of the Blind’s Action Alert: http://acb.org/action-alert-hr620
American Foundation of the Blind: http://www.afb.org/info/programs-and-services/public-policy-center/directconnect-newsletter/ada-notification-bills/1235
National Federation of the Blind: https://nfb.org/oppose-hr620-fact-sheet
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund: https://dredf.org/hr620/
While each of these sources focus on the bill while it was in the House, the talking points are still useful when reaching out to senators. Pick one or two talking points that matter most to you personally, and give concrete examples of how this legislation would impact you.
Make a direct and personal impact by attending the Council’s annual Legislative Day on Tuesday, April 10. The day will focus on a number of statewide legislative and policy issues important to people who are blind and visually impaired. Call 800-783-5213 or email Adam Grassnickle at firstname.lastname@example.org for registrations or any questions.