Guest Blog: Why You Should Oppose the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017

December 10, 2017

Sean Edward Pevsner

Since its passage in 1990, opponents of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) have unjustly claimed that the ADA subjects private businesses to overly onerous regulations. These opponents have repeatedly introduced legislation that seeks to weaken the ability of people with disabilities to seek legal redress for violations of the ADA. Most recently, this attack has come from Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX2), who introduced H. R. 620, the ADA Education and Reform Act in January of 2017. Like other foes of the ADA, Rep. Poe claims his bill is needed to reign in frivolous lawsuits brought against small businesses with negligible ADA violations. While it is true that there are unmeritorious ADA lawsuits brought by unscrupulous attorneys and plaintiffs, Poe’s bill goes too far, and would cause significant damage to the rights of people with disabilities.

Americans should never face criminal fines for asserting their civil rights under the Constitution or anti-discrimination laws. However, if Rep. Poe’s bill passes, that's exactly what would happen to people with disabilities. They would face a criminal fine if they don't give businesses 180 days notice before filing a lawsuit for ADA violations to public access. Even if plaintiffs attempted to comply with his bill, it is written so broadly that a judge could invent a way to impose such penalties. Such a result goes against the spirit and intent of not only the ADA, but of the United States Constitution. This provision is objectively oppressive and tyrannical since the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not have any of these restrictions on people who want to file a lawsuit against a business for discrimination based on race, religion, or gender. People with disabilities should have the same access to legal remedies to ADA violations as people who encounter similar discrimination under the federal civil rights act.

After all, the ADA has been the law of the land for 27 years, and business should be held to the same standard in complying with it as they are to other civil rights laws. 

More protections are needed to reign in frivolous ADA lawsuits. However, Congressman Poe’s bill is flawed, and would only serve to harm the disability community. Title III of the ADA provides no monetary damages for plaintiffs in lawsuits. It is states, such as California and Minnesota, that provide monetary damages. It is therefore state law that needs to be reformed, not the ADA.

Take Action! Has your Congressional respresentative signed on as an H. R. 620 co-sponsor? Send him an email asking him to withdraw his support.

About Sean

A man in a power chair rolls across a sidewalk with Austin's skyline and a bright blue sky behind him.Sean Pevsner has severe cerebral palsy. He was one of the first students with disabilities to take mainstream classes in the Arlington Independent School District. He went on to major in Greek and Latin at UT, while making significant contributions to the university’s community. The UT Classics Department bestowed on him the WJ Battle Award for excellence in Greek and Latin translation. He graduated in 1998, receiving several awards for his advocacy and contributions to the university. Mr. Pevsner graduated from UT Law School in 2004. In 2012, Mr. Pevsner established a firm with his best friend, Mark Whitburn. Their firm, Whitburn & Pevsner, PLLC, practices ADA, FHA, IDEA, probate and guardianship law.

@TXDisabilities