On November 22, the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), a coalition of more than 100 national disability organizations, of which ANCOR is an active member, sent a letter (attached below) to Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who are the chair and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, respectively, strongly opposing the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2016 (S. 3446). ANCOR joined nearly one hundred other national and regional organizations in signing the letter. The bill would prohibit private enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for violations of the law's physical accessibility requirements until after 180 days notice has been given to the business owner of the alleged violation.
The letter notes that the bill is unnecessary and overly burdensome on people with disabilities. It is unnecessary because there are already resources available to businesses and members of the public to educate and assist with accommodating people with disabilities throughout the country. The ADA has been law for more than a quarter century, which disability advocates argue is sufficient notice for businesses to understand their obligations under the law. The additional 180 day period would only serve to continue to disadvantage people with disabilities who are unable to fully access public spaces due to a business owner's ignorance of or willful disregard for the law. AS the letter notes, "This onerous burden...means that effectively there is no incentive for businesses to come into compliance until someone with a disability, after being denied access, provides the business with specific written information about the particular provision of the law that has been violated...and gives the business 180 days to comply with the law. Until that happens, individuals with disabilities affected by the violation are effectively shut out from the business's services."
The letter also notes that the ADA does not provide for damages to be awarded to plaintiffs in private enforcement cases, but allows only injunctive relief (requiring the business to make modifications to become compliant). Some states do permit damage awards under state law, which would not be impacted by this proposed legislation.