It’s new podcast day!
I did a rough script this week so I have a rough transcript!
Opened by apologizing for cold, guinea pig noises, and listed upcoming events.
HR 620 – AKA the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 – passed the House last week. I’m pissed AF. So, let’s talk about it.
The Americans with Disability Act was passed on July 26, 1990. I was two and we had no idea that it was something I would come to rely on within a few years. In reality, though, the ADA started long before then. Nearly two decades earlier, 1973 Rehabilitation Act’s Section 504 banned discrimination because of disability from entities that received federal funding. Section 504 also was really the first piece of legislation acknowledging disability as one marginalized group.
Naturally, there is a lot of variation on how disability affects our lives. Still, we began to be seen as a group.
Section 504 took a long time to get enforcement rules around. It took sit-ins, legal filings, and more. Between the introduction of this legislation and the ADA, several pieces of legislation were championed or fought against by our peeps including the Civil Rights Restoration Act and the Fair Housing Act.
The first version of the ADA was introduced by Senator Weicker and Representative Coelho in April 1988 – my birth month! Activists and members of disability organizations went around trying to explain why the ADA was needed throughout the year. This wasn’t seen as something that needed to be accomplished during the 100th Congress, though, and it was reintroduced in May 1989 by Senators Harkin and Durrenberger and Representatives Coelho and Fish.
Again, disability activists from all over the country talked locally and in DC about what they faced – how they were banned from movie theaters because of their condition or turned away from other businesses. By September – after hearing from thousands of disabled people – the Senate voted to push the ADA forward. The House took its damn time, running the legislation through an unprecedented four committees.
The ADA was finally signed on July 26, 1990. Titles one through three – on employment, state/local government, and public accommodations – were deemed effective as of July 26, 1992. The fourth piece on telecommunications wouldn’t take effect until 1993. In 2008, President GW Bush signed the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA), counteracting the narrow interpretations on disability used in the past. Those became effective in 2009. The next few years saw improvements and updates to all parts of the ADA, including better transportation regulations.
The ADA turned 25 in 2015… but a lot remains to happen with it. Many businesses are grandfathered in, especially in housing, so they don’t have to consider making changes to bring old buildings up to code. They do, however, have to consider this for future builds (or they’re supposed to).
So, we have these regulations. What happens when there’s an issue? Well, there are two options. We can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which will investigate and decide if a violation has occurred. DOJ can enter into mediation with the person and the business. That’s supposed to be a quicker, lower cost approach to resolve violations. The DOJ may also sue the business on the person’s behalf. Alternatively, people with disabilities may file a lawsuit in court, bypassing DOJ altogether.
Representative and general douche bag Ted Poe from Texas thinks that what we disabled people do is get lawsuit happy. He has literally said the following: “There is now a whole industry made up of people who prey on small business owners and file unnecessary and abusive lawsuits. This bill will change that by requiring that the business owners have time to fix what is allegedly broken.” This is no doubt based on the same ideology that thinks we all do these ‘drive-by’ reports.
Y’all have had thirty FUCKING YEARS and a shit ton of notice to fix these issues. But sure, blame us. Ya shit.
Here’s the text of this bullshit [read text from https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/620/text?format=txt]
Here’s what HR 620 would do:
- Remove consequences for ADA violations, thus removing incentives to fix shit
- Puts it on disabled peeps to cite specific provisions of the ADA that are being violated in writing
- Businesses then have 60 days to acknowledge the problem exists, and then get 120 from that to fix the issue. That’s the better part of six months from start to finish.
- Oh yeah, plus, businesses can get six months to make what they call ‘substantial progress’ towards fixing the issue if it’s not an easy fix.
- On top of all that? Businesses, again, really face few (if any) consequences for these violations years down the line.
Part of why this bothers me? The current system is in place because it is supposed to resolve things fucking quickly. On top of that, I would say 99% of us would try to work on getting these issues fixed locally – talking to the business, organizing a protest, etc. – before even thinking about going through the legal process. Most of us don’t trust the same people who happily oppress us to work on helping us, especially with a severe lack of fundage and inability to add on monetary damages to these suits. There are also technical assistance hotlines to help businesses understand how to comply with the ADA. It’s not like they don’t have help.
Again, it’s also been nearly thirty fucking years. Hello.
Twelve Democrats voted for this bill: California’s Ami Bera, Jackie Speier, Pete Aguillar, Norma Torres, Luis Cornea, and Scott Peters; IL’s Bill Foster; MN’s Collin Peterson; NY’s Kathleen Rice; OR’s Kurt Schrader; TX’s Henry Cuellar.
The following reps gave a no vote answer: California’s Jim Costa and Karen Bass; CT’s Joe Courtney; Florida’s Theodore Deutch and Debbie Wasserman Schultz; Georgia’s Sanford Bishop; Illinois’ Luis Guitierrez; KY’s Hal Rogers; Maryland’s Elijah Cummings; New Jersey’s Frank LoBlondo; NM’s Steve Pierce; SC’s Jeff Duncan; WY’s Liz Cheney.
Happily, though, the following Republicans voted against the bill: Alaska’s Don Young; FL’s Mario Diaz-Balart; IL’s Peter Roskam; Kansas’ Kevin Yoder; Mississippi’s Gregg Harper; Nebraska’s Jeff Fortenberry; NJ’s Chris Smith, Leonard Lance, and Rodney Frelinghuysen; PN’s Glenn Thompson, Ryan Costello, Brian Fitzpatrick, and Lou Barletta; VA’s Barbara Comstock; WA’s Cathy McMorris Rodgers and David Reichert; and Wisconsin’s James Sensenbrenner.
Thankfully, there are some legislators who see the issue with this. Recently, Senator Patty Murray from Washington – the top ranking democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee – gave this quote: “It’s deeply concerning that at a time when we should be doing everything we can to guard against attacks on the rights of people with disabilities from this Administration, members of the House of Representatives are instead pushing to pass a bill that would severely weaken the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act and make it harder to enforce the rights of those with disabilities in our courts. I hope my House colleagues on both sides of the aisle will immediately reverse course and drop any further attempts to move this bill forward—but if they don’t, they should know that I will be working hard to ensure it is dead on arrival in the United States Senate, and to continue to stand up for the rights of all people with disabilities.”
Senator Bob Casey offered this: “Today, the House Judiciary Committee moved to gut the rights of people with disabilities to have equal access to restaurants, hotels, theaters, ball parks, web sites, and all places and services to which all non-disabled citizens have access. In 1990, Congress, through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), affirmed the civil rights of all people with disabilities to have access to all businesses and services offered to the public. Those offering services to the public have had 27 years to make their services accessible to all. H.R. 620 would further delay making services and settings accessible and remove the incentive to make businesses and other public entities accessible for people with disabilities. Good legislation would provide support to help businesses comply with the ADA. I stand with the over 250 disability groups that oppose this approach and will fight to protect the civil rights as enshrined in the ADA.”
One of my favorite legislators – Senator Tammy Duckworth – has been a staunch opponent of this bill. If you don’t know who Tammy is, she was the first Asian American woman and the first disabled woman elected to Congress. She’s currently preggers, too, which means Tammy will be the first sitting Senator to give birth (and she’s due this spring!). Before that, she was in the House from 2013-2017 in addition to other notable positions. She currently serves as the junior Senator from Illinois. Before her political career, though, Duckworth was a US Army helicopter pilot. When an RPG hit her cockpit, she lost both of her legs. In addition, she suffered damage to her right arm. Despite her wounds, she continued to serve until retiring from the National Guard in 2014. You can see why she’d be pissed. She has a great thread on Twitter about this. [read thread at https://twitter.com/SenDuckworth/status/964159619127042048] Tammy is an amazing person and someone people have to start listening to when it comes to disability-related legislature.
Another person to listen to is Representative Jim Langevin from Rhode Island. He is the first quadriplegic to serve in Congress. He was injured in 1980 – ten years before the ADA was passed – during an accidental shooting. He was 16 at the time. Langevin has been serving in the House since 2001 and is a staunch supporter of stem cell research for treatment of disabilities. His remarks during his monologue on this bill the day it was passed are something to note: “It will turn back the clock towards a more segregated society and it will unravel the core promise of the ADA that a disability – visible or otherwise – can never be grounds to justify or tolerate discrimination.” [insert full speech from YouTube video]
Do what you can to fight this. Write to your senators. Utilize ResistBot to help you.
- Senator Murray quote: https://www.help.senate.gov/ranking/newsroom/press/disability-rights-murray-statement-on-misguided-harmful-house-bill-ada-education-and-reform-act-of-2017
- http://www.newsweek.com/house-republicans-americans-disabilities-act-civil-rights-808106 (heads up for autoplay video)