Rep. Peters’ Bipartisan Bill to Curb Abuse of the Americans with Disabilities Act Passes the House
Today, U.S. Congressman Scott Peters (CA-52) passed the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 in the U.S. House of Representatives, a bipartisan bill he helped introduce to increase compliance with the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA), improve access to public and private spaces for disabled Americans, and to stop bad actors who are abusing the law for their own personal gain. The final bill also incorporated several important amendments adopted today to improve the legislation by addressing concerns that disability advocates had raised.
“The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is critical to protecting every American’s right to accessing public and private spaces. That’s why we must stop bad actors who are abusing this landmark civil rights law for their own personal financial gain and standing in the way of real improvements to access,” said Rep. Peters. “This bipartisan bill allows business owners to spend their money to fix problems and improve accessibility, rather than paying off lawyers to settle cookie cutter lawsuits.”
Click HERE to watch Rep. Peters speak in support of the bill on the House floor.
Peters continued, “Notice-and-cure provisions like the ones in this bill are common prerequisites for private right of action lawsuits, including in federal civil rights laws. It makes sense to give small business owners a chance to fix problems before they are dragged into court. I am open to other solutions that simultaneously eliminate this abuse and safeguard access. However, doing nothing is not the right answer.”
The California legislature has already identified these lawsuits as a serious issue and took action in 2016 when Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law introduced by a Democratic State Senator and passed by the Democratic majority California State Legislature. However, even with the legislature’s attempted reform, California still accounts for 36% of all ADA lawsuits across the United States.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) established critical rights to equal access for disabled Americans; however, under the current framework, businesses that are unintentionally out of compliance with a section (Title III) of the ADA are treated the same way as bad actors who willfully break the rules. The ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 requires the Department of Justice to establish a program to educate state and local governments and property owners on how to ensure access to public accommodations for persons with disabilities. It also amends Title III to implement a “notice-and-cure” period that allows business owners 120 days to fix the parts of their property that are in violation of the ADA before facing lawsuits and legal fees.
After hearing concerns from disability advocates, Peters helped negotiate three amendments that were accepted into the final version of the bill. The first amendment clarifies that the “cure” period is a maximum of 120 days, rather than 180 days. The second amendment clearly defines that a business can only claim “substantial progress” toward addressing a barrier to access when the business can prove it is unable to comply through no fault of its own. Finally, the third amendment allows the notice to business owners to be provided in plain language, without requiring specific citations which might prove challenging for non-lawyers.
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