A new bill, introduced in Congress on October 20, seeks to amend the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide new notice requirements and a cure period for businesses failing to comply with accessibility standards.
The measure, titled the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2015, would bar disability rights attorneys from bringing accessibility violations to business owners’ attention via demand letters, unless the demand letters include a variety of specific details.
Upon being placed on notice of the violations, the business owner would be given 60 days to respond with a written description, outlining how the barrier would be removed. After that, the business owner would have an additional 120-day period to either remove the barrier or make “substantial progress” in doing so, before plaintiffs could bring civil litigation to enforce their rights.
“There is a now whole industry made up of people who prey on small business owners and file unnecessary abusive lawsuits that abuse both the ADA and the business owners…,” Representative Ted Poe (R-TX), who is sponsoring the bill with Representatives David Jolly (R-FL) and Doug Collins (R-GA), in a news release.”This legislation restores the purpose of the ADA: to provide access and accommodation to disabled Americans, not to fatten the wallets of attorneys.”
The bill would also instruct the Judicial Conference of the United States, a national policy-making body for federal courts, to work with business owners and disability rights advocates to create a model alternative dispute resolution system for settling accessibility disputes. ADR refers to arbitration and mediation programs designed to avoid the costs of civil litigation.
The Department of Justice would also be instructed to develop new education programs for informing business owners of their ADA responsibilities.