WASHINGTON — A bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would add new requirements for filing lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act is slated for a vote Thursday with strong support from the Republican majority.
The ADA prohibits discrimination of people with disabilities. Its requires places that are publicly accessible to comply with accessibility standards. Under the law, people who feel discriminated against for reasons related to access to facilities can sue.
The ADA Education Reform Act of 2017, introduced last year, would require that someone give property owners written notice before filing a ADA lawsuit.
Under the proposed law, a lawsuit can be avoided if property owners respond to a complaint by outlining plans for accessibility improvement. The bill would also require the Department of Justice to develop a program to educate local governments and property owners about promoting access for people with disabilities.
Proponents say the bill will protect small businesses, while opponents argue it will hinder legitimate ADA complaints.
Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which oversaw the bill, said it would protect small businesses that face the potentially onerous ADA lawsuits and help people with disabilities. The new law, he said, “encourages businesses to cure their access issues now to avoid costly litigation.”
“Unscrupulous attorneys prey on small business owners and file unnecessary lawsuits that abuse the spirit and purpose of the ADA,” said Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), the bill’s sponsor, in a September statement.
Democrats have vowed to oppose the legislation. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland), said the bill would shift the burden of ADA enforcement from businesses to the disabled at a Tuesday press conference.
The ACLU said in a press release that under this legislation “a business could wait years without actually removing barriers and face no penalty, as long as it can show ‘substantial progress’ was made.”
“If the civil rights of 57 million Americans can be eliminated, then the civil rights of other groups can as well,” said the American Association for People with Disabilities.
The bill has 108 cosponsors, 97 of whom are Republicans and 11 of whom are Democrats.