This article was originally posted on OT Connections on February 13th, 2018. It has been updated with new information by our policy staff.
In February of 2018, HR 620, the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 passed the House. With only a few weeks left in Congress, there is new momentum to get this bill passed in the Senate before the end of the year.
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HR 620 would change Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by removing certain protections that allow people with disabilities to access public accommodations. Title III of the ADA currently requires equal access in all areas of public life; this includes accessibility measures in work settings, in educational settings, transportation, and public and private places open to the public. If any building lacked the proper accommodations to allow the use of that building by people with disabilities, this title provides options that would quickly address the inequality. The person with a disability is able to lodge a complaint with the Department of Justice or file a civil lawsuit, in addition to discussing the issue with the business, to remedy the situation.
HR 620 would prevent people with disabilities from being able to enforce their rights and to press for timely removal of the barrier that impedes access. This bill would require that, in order to pursue any legal action, the person affected would first need to exhaust a lengthy process.
First, the individual with the disability would have to provide a written notice to the business identifying the barrier to their access. Then, within 60 days, the owner would have to provide a written response outlining how they will remove the barrier. The owner would then have another 120 days to make “significant progress” on the removal. This means that up to 180 days, or up to 6 months, could pass before any legal action could occur. At this point, the business owner is only required to make significant progress in removing the barrier, not completion. This means the barrier could still exist.
Additionally, the initial written notice must include a detailed description on how the person submitting the written notice was personally denied access. This, coupled with the time allowed to remedy any infractions, would allow businesses to wait and see if there will be a complaint instead of being proactive and ensuring access for all.
Occupational therapy practitioners work first hand with people with disabilities by helping them achieve independence through meaningful everyday activities. Those meaningful everyday activities often occur in a public or community settings. Those meaningful everyday activities often occur in a public or community settings. If those settings are not accessible, citizens with disabilities won’t be able to participate in important day-to-day life experiences. As this bill progresses and votes occur, it is important your Representative hear from you on how this bill would affect you, and those who rely on OT services. You can take action from our legislative action center.
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