House Approves ADA Education and Reform Act, Meaning Possible ADA Changes Could Be Coming Soon
The United States House of Representatives passed a bill on February 15 that would make large-scale changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The bill is the ADA Education and Reform Act, which passed 225 to 192, mostly along party lines (all but 19 Republicans plus 12 Democrats voted in favor). Proponents of the new legislation say the bill would help stop the occurrence of lawyers profiting by threatening businesses with ADA litigation, but opponents say the bill will remove incentives for businesses to actually comply with the ADA.
Two sides to the issue
Critics have been quite vocal in their opposition, saying the ADA Education and Reform Act could potentially remove some of the ADA’s most important provisions for incentivizing public accommodations for people with disabilities. They say that without the threat of litigation or penalty, businesses will no longer have any incentive to comply with the law unless a complaint is filed against them.
On the other side, however, groups such as the National Federation of Independent Business and the International Council of Shopping Centers say the bill would bring an end to predatory lawsuits that happen under the guise of attorneys wishing to enforce the ADA.
There have been some highly publicized incidents in recent years, particularly by one predatory group in Arizona, involving lawyers and plaintiffs making a living off suing small businesses that often do not have the means to go to court and have to pay out settlements as a result. In some cases, even these settlements, which are typically lower than what a business would have to pay upon receiving a guilty verdict in court, are enough to force the business to close, or at least curb its ability to compete with larger corporate players.
Under the new law, anyone attempting to sue a business over ADA-related violations in a federal court would first need to send a written notice to said business that includes details about the violation. The business would then have 60 days to formulate a plan that addresses the complaints, and another 60 days to act on that plan.
It remains to be seen what chance the ADA Education and Reform Act has of making it through the Senate, as there has not been a similar bill that has come from Senate committees so far.
Still, it is something business owners should keep tabs on—the ADA affects all business owners, and changes to the law could be significant for their operations. Those who want to learn more about ADA-compliant signage to better assist their own clients should contact ECS.