Seventeen major disability rights groups, led by the National Disability Rights Network, issued a series of letters to Congress on May 17, calling on Congress to oppose a trio of bills that seeks to limit the impact of Americans with Disabilities lawsuits on out-of-compliance businesses.
“The ADA has been law for almost 26 years, if a business has decided to not comply with the requirements of this legislation by this point, why should a person have to wait more time for enforcement of their civil rights?” the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities wrote in a statement. “Should an individual who is not allowed to enter a restaurant because of their race, gender or religion, have to wait before seeking to enforce their civil rights?
“The disability community already compromised with the passage of the ADA by not allowing individuals to seek damages from violations of their civil rights, but now legislation like H.R. 241 seeks to erode the civil rights of people with disabilities.”
Introduced by Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA), the Correcting Obstructions to Mediate, Prevent, and Limit Inaccessibility (COMPLI) Act would prohibit people from filing disability accessibility lawsuits against businesses without first providing a written notice, specifying the violations. The bill, introduced in March, would also give businesses a 90-day period to cure the alleged violations.
The ADA Education and Reform Act, sponsored by Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), would impose these dual requirements, as well as direct the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Department to create an education and model training program for property owners. The Judicial Conference of the United States would also be directed to create a model alternative dispute resolution system for settling ADA lawsuits.
People will be subjected to criminal fines if they send so-called “demand letters or other pre-suit notifications alleging a violation of ADA public accommodation requirements if the notification does not specify the circumstances under which an individual was actually denied access,” according to the bill summary.
The ADA Compliance for Customer Entry to Stores and Services (ACCESS) Act would also amend the ADA to add written notification and cure period requirements.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which also contains more than a dozen disability rights groups, released a separate statement on May 18, slamming the COMPLI Act.
“H.R. 4719 imposes several additional steps on plaintiffs before they can file a civil action for an accessibility violation in a public accommodation case,” the organization wrote in a statement. “Such restrictions and penalties on the ability of people to attempt to vindicate their rights fly in the face of the intent of civil rights statutes, which were enacted to ensure the protections of those marginalized in our society.”
Disability Rights Washington, the publisher of Rooted in Rights, is part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system, and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.