Statement from Progress Center for Independent Living on HR 620

This originally posted in February of 2018

US House to vote on legislation that dismantles civil rights of disabled– HR 620 protects businesses at the expense of accessibility and inclusion

Forest Park, Illinois — The US House of Representatives is expected to vote soon on HR 620, the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017.  The harmful legislation would undermine the Americans with Disabilities Act, landmark civil rights legislation for people with disabilities in the United States.  “HR 620 is not about strengthening the Americans with Disabilities Act or supporting people with disabilities,” said Larry Biondi, Advocacy Coordinator for Progress Center for Independent Living.  “The bill strips away the civil rights of people with disabilities and protects businesses that violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

Far from education and reform, the legislation places significant burdens on people with disabilities, adding additional barriers for them to navigate in order to enforce their rights. As written, HR 620:

  • Removes the incentive for businesses to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Requires people with disabilities to file written notice specifying the exact ADA provision that is violated
  • Gives business owners 60 Days to acknowledge the notice and 120 additional days to begin to fix the violation

“The Americans with Disabilities was signed into law in 1990,” Biondi said.  “Businesses have had more than 25 years to comply with the law.

Rather than offer an additional tool for people with disabilities to enforce inclusion and accessibility, HR 620 forces people navigate a variety of hurdles to access rights that were enacted in 1990, and HR 620 rewards businesses that are breaking the law by giving them an additional 180 days to comply with the law.

One intent of HR 620 is to curb “drive-by lawsuits,” complaints filed with the intent of collecting monetary damages rather than improving accessibility.  Yet, under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, complainants are not entitled to monetary damages. In states where “drive-by” lawsuits are an issue, damages are triggered by state statutes, not the Americans with Disabilities Act.  “HR 620 will not fix the problem of ‘drive-by’ lawsuits, it supports businesses that discriminate against people with disabilities, and it takes away the civil rights of people with disabilities,” said Horacio Esparza, Executive Director of Progress Center for Independent Living. “The legislation is a disaster.”

US Representative Bill Foster (D) of the 11th District in Illinois is a co-sponsor of the legislation.  Foster met with representatives of the disability community about HR 620 in January.  After the meeting, Foster continued to support HR 620.  “It’s an embarrassment and an insult that Representative Foster is a co-sponsor of HR 620,” Esparza said.  “He has failed to listen to people with disabilities who explained to him that the bill will take away our civil rights.”

For more information and to take action, visit this link from the National Council on Independent Living.

Progress Center for Independent Living serves Suburban Cook County. Progress Center is one of 22 Centers for Independent Living in Illinois that equip people with disabilities with the tools and resources to be independent. For more information, contact Gary Arnold at 708-209-1500, orgarnold@progresscil.org