S2E4: The ADA and HR 620

S2E4: The ADA and HR 620

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It’s new podcast day!

I did a rough script this week so I have a rough transcript!

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.

Further reading

CHIP Needs Our Help

CHIP Needs Our Help

white background with a stethoscope featuring a red heart; black text at top middle "CHIP Needs Our Help" and at bottom middle "Not Standing Still's Disease"

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was passed in August 1997, taking effect the next month. What this program does is give states funds (that they must match) that help to cover children living in low-income households that don’t qualify for Medicaid. It’s undergone expansion, adding protection for a couple million more children thanks to President Obama.

Today, CHIP covers approximately 9 million children from low-income families. These children are at risk of losing their healthcare. See, funding for CHIP ends at the end of this month – so, Saturday. The Senate has refused to discuss renewing funding for CHIP since early this year, focusing on repeal-and-replace efforts instead. Without immediate renewal, over a million of these children would lose insurance and the remaining 8 million would see reduced benefits.

The Senate Finance Committee, led by Ron Wyden and Orrin Hatch, have introduced a bill – S 1827 – that extends funding for another five years. However, the Senate has failed to act on this.

Do what you can today to reach out to your Senators and ask them to discuss this bill NOW.

  • Contact your Senators
  • Protest and picket (if able)
  • Get loud on social media
    • Use tags like #saveCHIP
  • Send letters to the editors or reach out to your local news to explain your concerns

Let’s come together to ensure that these children aren’t left behind.

911! Fight Against the Cassidy-Graham Plan

911! Fight Against the Cassidy-Graham Plan

white background with red vertical lines on either side; black text "911!" and red text "Fight Against the Cassidy-Graham Plan" and black text "#savetheACA #ACAsavedmylife Not Standing Still's Disease"

I posted this earlier in the week on my other site, Not Standing Still’s Diseasebut wanted to repost here.

Update: public comments are due by 9 AM Eastern Time Monday morning (25th). You can email your comments to GCHcomments@finance.senate.gov or visit willtrumpcarehurtme.com‘s email assist.

Not only do we have to fight to protect the ADA, we still have to fight for healthcare.

I’m starting to worry that this is going to be every fucking quarter, but I digress.

You can read the 141-paged plan (referred to as Cassidy-Graham, Graham-Cassidy, Graham-Cassidy-Heller, and Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson) but here’s the scoop on what this bill would do:

  • Eliminates subsidies for private insurance
  • Ends Medicaid expansion
  • Caps Medicaid money, leaving millions of people uninsured
  • Allows waivers to charge sick/ill/disabled patients more (fucking high-risk pools)
  • Stops requirements on ACA-required benefits
  • Repeals tax credits for middle class
  • Puts up barriers to health insurance for low-income people (and removes subsidies)

Cassidy and others have said this block grant program would simply give money to the states for them to decide. It’s essentially shifting ACA-type stuff to states rights type stuff, acting as though states could then keep ACA programs in place. Without the support at the federal level – and with a large number of anti-ACA governors – this won’t be the case.

One scary thing to note is that the Congressional Budget Office won’t have enough time to evaluate the bill before September 30th. This is the last day this bill could be passed with 50 votes (or 51 with VPence). Otherwise, filibuster could prevent the bill from being passed.

Graham-Cassidy-Heller (ACA Repeal) Simple Summary - Repeal and Replace is back. Take it seriously. Here's what it does: *Estimated 32 million will lose coverage within 10 years (not yet scored) *Ends Medicaid expansion. Health care for 11 million low-income adults. *Ends all subsidies for the exchange, replaced by a smaller and declining "block grant" *Block grant doesn't have to be spent on same population *Cuts coverage for low income seniors, children and people w disabilities by 7% by 2026 with a "per capita cap" (Yes, that's right -- a block grant AND a Lee capita cap) *Ends Federal protections on pre-existing conditions, life time caps and essential benefits. 50% of states expected to do so. *Ends all cost sharing payments to low income Americans *Ends all funding for coverage by 2026; 100% afterwards *Averages would be dramatically different: 20 states estimated to lose 35-60% of funding to move money to rural, red states *CBO has not estimated impact on premiums, but likely 20% spike next year *Would likely be presented to the House as "take it or leave it" if passes Senate *Provide no funding for recessions, natural disasters, public health emergencies, or price spikes *Targets women's health/family planning *Uses the same "50 votes" only partisan technique to pass; upends all bipartisan progress of the last two weeks - Source: Centers for Budget and Policy, prior estimates
Source: Andy Slavitt’s Twitter; see alt-text for description

This is a more radical version of repeal-and-replace efforts so far.

I’m tired of fighting, so I’m sure you are, too. If we don’t fight this one, though, we lose any progress we’ve made up to now.

What to do now:

  • Contact your Senators (especially if you live in South Carolina, Louisiana, Nevada, or Wisconsin)
  • Protest and picket (if able)
  • Get loud on social media
  • Send letters to the editors or reach out to your local news to explain your concerns

Some organizations opposed to this bill:

  • AARP
  • Adult Congenital Heart Association
  • ALS Association
  • Alzheimer’s Association
  • America’s Essential Hospitals
  • America’s Health Insurance Plans
  • American Academy of Family Physicians
  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • American Cancer Society Action Network
  • American College of Physicians
  • American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)
  • American Diabetes Association
  • American Foundation for the Blind
  • American Heart Association
  • American Hospital Association
  • American Lung Association
  • American Medical Association
  • American Nurses Association
  • American Osteopathic Association
  • American Psychiatric Association
  • American Psychological Association
  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
  • Amputee Coalition
  • Arthritis Foundation
  • Association of American Medical Colleges
  • Autistic Self-Advocacy Network
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield Association
  • Center for Medicare Advocacy
  • Children’s Hospital Association
  • COPD Foundation
  • Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
  • Family Voices
  • Federation of American Hospitals
  • Infectious Diseases Society of America
  • JDRF
  • Los Angeles LGBT Center
  • Lutheran Services America
  • March of Dimes
  • Nationa Association of Medicaid Directors
  • National Health Council
  • National Institute for Reproductive Health
  • National Multiple Sclerosis Society
  • National Organization for Rare Diseases
  • Planned Parenthood
  • Public Health Institute
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
  • Volunteers of America
  • WomenHeart

Further reading:

Updated Sept 24


#IAmAPreExistingCondition – it’s a hashtag and a movement.

Many people are flocking to social media and writing platforms to share their concerns over the AHCA. Celebrities, patient activists, and others have been sharing how their conditions or lives will be affected. Groups are even starting video projects in order to help abled people understand what those of us with conditions and disabilities will face.

Hell, you can even get things set up to have your ashes sent to GOP peeps who voted for the AHCA if it becomes law and you pass away because of it. Here’s a breakdown of Republicans in the House that voted in favor btw.

The AHCA is incredibly dangerous. As it stands right now, the bill targets special education, potentially turns sexual assault and C-sections into pre-existing conditions, and affects even those on employer-based plans. It affects the LGBT+ community even more – something we don’t need more of, especially after the latest Executive Order.

Reps have even had the audacity to rule themselves exempt from these changes. The only potential upside is that at least the Senate won’t be voting on this specific bill? But that also gives them more time to fuck us over with worse shit.

I touched on this over at my other site, Not Standing Still’s Disease, but… bills like this one just remind those of us who aren’t abled that our lives aren’t considered as worthy as others. This isn’t new news but brings up a lot of hurt.

It’s important to remember our history. For example, Holocaust killing methods were perfected on us precisely because our lives weren’t as valued. The Capitol Crawl, where so many of our siblings and leaders harmed themselves in order to ensure our rights, was only in 1990 – and it’s still not enforced.

Want to join us?

Use the tags #IAmAPreExistingCondition and #HealthHasNoParty on social media.

Use this awesome photo from Liz Salmi and Hugo Campos:

I am an American with a Pre-Existing Condition #HealthHasNoParty

You can even use free services like PicMonkey to create collages with this photo and others related to your illness journey like I’ve done here:

Tag your representatives, local news offices, and others.

Record videos. Share them.

Write on Medium or other platforms.

Contact your elected officials in whatever way you can.

Remember that you can text RESIST to 50409 to utilize Resist Bot, which will compile your thoughts into a fax. This is far more likely to be read than email – and easier for many of us than calling. You can do it every single day.

Chat Questions Jan 12, 2017: Advocacy in 2017

It’s been a while since we had chat, I know. My health hasn’t been great lately and, let’s face it, I think a lot of us are feeling pretty defeated, too.

I’ll be honest – as a queer and disabled sexuality educator/disability activist who grew up in poverty and abuse and tries to be as intersectional in advocacy as possible? I don’t feel like this country wants me here right now. That is really hard to balance with doing social justice work.

I know I’m not the only one dealing with these feels. Tonight, let’s talk through some of this and come up with some advocacy ideas together. If we can help each other, the work that we do goes further.

This will be a really chill chat tonight. We are going to check in with each other. No one can pour tea from an empty cup.

We are going to check in with each other. No one can pour tea from an empty cup so we need to talk about self-care.

We’ll talk about some struggles we’re having. Next, we will see if we can brainstorm on advocacy together.

Join us tonight at 7 pm Eastern over on Twitter using the tag #chronicsex.