My life was fundamentally altered by the Americans with Disabilities Act when it passed in 1990. Ten years earlier, when I was 16 years old, I had become paralyzed and I faced many obstacles because public places didn’t accommodate a wheelchair.
However, with the enactment of the ADA, my world opened up. Suddenly I and millions of people with disabilities nationwide could no longer be excluded from society. For the first time, we couldn’t be fired because of our circumstances. For the first time, we had access to public buildings, communications and transportation systems. The barriers began to come down.
Throughout my time in Congress, I have championed the gains we made under the ADA. But after decades of progress, the ADA is under attack.
The House recently passed H.R. 620, the misnamed “ADA Education and Reform Act.” The bill changes the very nature of the ADA by requiring compliance with its provisions only after a four month “notice and cure period.” No other civil rights law has such an onerous process before an individual can act to stop discrimination. The ADA has been part of our legal framework for nearly 30 years. Delaying justice for people seeking reasonable accommodations under the law will only encourage noncompliance.
While I’m deeply troubled that this bill cleared the House, the fight isn’t over. I’m hopeful the Senate will realize the potential harm H.R. 620 poses to individuals with disabilities and reject this dangerous bill. With the steadfast commitment of leaders like Senator Tammy Duckworth, we can preserve and protect the ADA for generations to come.
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