Statement on Gov. Abbott’s Sudden Interest in the ADA

February 6, 2020

Dennis Borel
Executive Director

Governor Abbott’s January 21 tweet is a stunner: “I’ll look into this—as well as look into whether Austin is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by allowing people to block wheelchair ramps like your picture showed.”

The Guv showed zero concern for his fellow citizen. He was clearly not sleeping and had the posture of a person suffering from an acute health event.

Most jarring is Abbott’s use of the moment to lecture the city on ADA violations. As Governor, and previously as Texas Attorney General, Greg Abbott has taken the stance that the State of Texas has sovereign immunity from the ADA and can dodge accountability for its ADA violations. “Sovereign immunity” is a legal doctrine that says a state may claim an exemption from compliance with a federal law. This constitutional argument can be used in a court of law to maintain that the United States Congress overstepped its authority by trying to enforce federal laws at the state level. This is a states' rights argument. Abbott’s use and support of sovereign immunity has successfully prevented Texans with disabilities from having their day in court when they have experienced discrimination by the state.

More about Texas’ sovereign immunity claims

Cities, counties, school districts, the private sector and even federal actions in Texas must comply with the ADA, which essentially prohibits discrimination based on disability. According to the Guv, not so for the State. 

If Abbott is really interested in protecting Austin’s wheelchair accessibility, then he should work with the city to address ADA violations by electric scooters. CTD’s offices are downtown, and we can attest that there are exponentially more scooters blocking curb cuts, sidewalks, and accessible parking spaces than there are people passed out in the street. Our Chase Bearden snapped this just a few blocks away:

4 electric scooters stand in the middle of a curb cut, blocking the path to a crosswalk.

Governor Abbott, the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities would love for you to champion the ADA. You can start by promoting legislation to waive the State’s offensive sovereign immunity position.

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