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"Senator Blocks Vote to Weaken the ADA and Makes History at Same Time"

Written By:

Mike Reynolds

Shortly after the Trump Administration took office, Representative Ted Poe, a Texas Republican in the state’s second congressional district, introduced the ADA Education and Reform Act, HR 620, into the House Judiciary Committee. This law mandates a “notice and cure” period of 180 days before any lawsuit related to accessibility could go forward. No other current civil rights legislation is subject to these types of delays. The idea and intent of this law is not new; in 2000, Clint Eastwood famously championed then Representative Mark Foley’s version of what was called the “ADA Notification Act”, which, beyond Eastwood’s testimony, did not move forward in Congress, possibly because it was the same year the American with Disabilities Act was celebrating its tenth anniversary. Representative Foley left Congress amid a sex scandal in late 2006. 


The path of HR 620 played out differently, receiving very little media coverage comparatively to the coverage Eastwood garnered in 2000, but with a vastly different makeup of Congress, including a Republican majority in the House of Representatives and a near majority in the Senate. With 108 co-sponsors, including 11 Democrats, the ADA Reform and Education Act passed the House on February 15th.


Before the final vote, Representative James Langevin, a Democrat from Rhode Island who is a quadriplegic due to a spinal cord injury sustained as a teen, offered an amendment to remove the 180-day wait period for lawsuits, but it failed, basically upon the same party lines that passed the bill in the House.


The ADA Education and Reform Act was inspired by the rise of so called “drive-by” lawsuits a very small percentage of lawyers are filing over small errors in compliance. This Act, however, does nothing to address these potentially frivolous lawsuits, and will negatively impact other lawsuits critical to individuals with disabilities who seek to have architectural barriers removed from frequented locations.  With the ADA reshaping and changing the ways people with disabilities work, travel and function in our country, it would seem like the last thing people with disabilities need is the passage of the ADA Education and Reform Act. The Americans with Disabilities Act enjoyed widespread and bi-partisan support when it was passed in 1990, and its implementation has led to the continued inclusion of people with disabilities for over a generation.


In Early April, Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat who is a veteran, a dual amputee, and someone who uses a wheelchair for mobility, submitted 42 signatures that would be enough to filibuster the ADA Reform and Education Act, effectively killing the legislation.


Senator Duckworth also gave birth to her second child on April 9, 2018, making her the first Senator to give birth while holding office, and helping to make it an April to remember. Duckworth also worked with Congress to change the formal rules of order so she can bring her newborn daughter onto the Senate floor to be able to cast votes while breastfeeding. At age 50, Duckworth is an iconoclastic politician and leader this country needs more of!

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