February 13, 2018
Members of the Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation,
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990 and for 27 years has been a key part of the lives of people with disabilities. The Pennsylvania Statewide Independent Living Council (PA SILC) and the Pennsylvania Council on Independent Living (PCIL) believes that House Resolution 620 (H.R. 620) harms the ability people with disabilities have to live free and independently in the community. H.R. 620 also fails to address the underlying problem with the frivolous ADA lawsuits that the bill supporter’s claim claims to solve. For these reasons we hope that all Pennsylvania Congressmen will oppose H.R. 620 when it comes up for vote.
Everything from accessible public bathrooms, ramps at apartment complexes and equal access to businesses depend on the power of the ADA. Recent surveys describe that Pennsylvania has 30% of households across the state with at least one member with a disability. H.R. 620 will have serious impact on the lives of these families as they live and work in their communities. H.R. 620 stated purpose of education and clarification, and to provide notice and cure period has not been resolved by H.R. 620. By forcing people with disabilities to acquire a lawyer to begin a complaint it starts the process as a lawsuit rather than working toward an access solution. Next by making a person with a disability to wait six months to receive a good or service it effectively denies the person with a disability from receiving a good or service. The PA SILC and PCIL feel that H.R. 620 could undo decades of progress for equal access.
We have heard the argument that architectural requirements are a “burden” on businesses. However ADA was a bi-partisan bill designed to not unduly burden businesses while allowing people with disabilities access to them. Given that the ADA has been in existence for 27 years, and ADA Title III architectural standards has been long adopted into building code. ADA architectural standards should be no more burden than other building code requirements like those required for health, sanitation, and fire safety.
H.R. 620 supposed purpose by supporters is to stem the tide of frivolous lawsuits made by rogue lawyers. The ADA does not allow plaintiffs to collect damages. It only provides for injunctive relief and attorneys’ fees. Individual states have amended their own laws to allow damage claims thus creating room for these frivolous lawsuits to grow. H.R. 620 neither suspends lawsuits for damages nor does it slow the pace of the frivolous lawsuit claims. It only slows the process down and adds more lawyers to the system. This process will make mediation and resolution even more difficult for both parties. Instead H.R. 620 stopping frivolous damage claims it creates opportunities for businesses to ignore the ADA entirely. This bill does not solve any problems it only creates more.
PA SILC and PCIL hope that you will review this letter and not support H.R. 620. Thank you for your attention and your time regarding this matter.
Rob Oliver, Chair
The Pennsylvania Statewide Independent Living Council
Amy Beck, President
Pennsylvania Council on Independent Living