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2018-02-17

H.R.620 - ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017

This the first of two posts I have posted today:
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990. It gave disabled Americans equal rights to the able and the right to accommodation for difficulties arising from their disability. The following groups are listed by Wikipedia as qualifying as disabled under the act:
deafness, blindness, an intellectual disability (formerly termed mental retardation), partially or completely missing limbs or mobility impairments requiring the use of a wheelchair, autism, cancer, cerebral palsy, diabetes, epilepsy, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia
It was far from a perfect bill, but every citizen of the United States knows several people who either are actively benefiting or are eligible to benefit from this act. I am one of those people. The act means that companies cannot deny me service because of my depression, anxiety and ADHD. In addition, I can get special plans at schools and colleges to help me learn despite the many ways my disorders have made my education difficult. These places, whether private or public, cannot refuse to provide me a plan without breaking the law. Any insurance company that I am covered by is required to give me full coverage, thus allowing me to get the medication that hopefully will keep me functioning. Several friends of mine whom I met at group therapy also rely on this law. By keeping people like us functional, the ADA allows those who are labelled diasbled under the act to participate in public life and protects us in the job market.

On January 24th, 2017, Ted Poe1, one of the most stupid member of Congress in all of its history, introduced a bill to modify the ADA: The ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017. It starts with a great proposal:
Based on existing funding, the Disability Rights Section of the Department of Justice shall, in consultation with property owners and representatives of the disability rights community, develop a program to educate State and local governments and property owners on effective and efficient strategies for promoting access to public accommodations for persons with a disability (as defined in section 3 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (42 U.S.C. 12102)). Such program may include training for professionals such as Certified Access Specialists to provide a guidance of remediation for potential violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
This would be a great boon for struggling disabled people! It spends government money on making an oppressed minority accommodated! Did Ted Poe really right this? But this is just the perfume to mask the sinister poison that makes the majority of the bill. The rest of the bill targets a major provision of the ADA: it delays and harms the ability of disabled people to go to court because of architecture that acts as a barrier to their legally required accommodation. It also removes incentives for acting upon complaints. As long as a company can prove "substantial improvements" are being made, the barrier can remain in place indefinitely. For more information on how it harms people with disabilities, read the text of the bill on its page on the website of Congress: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/620/text. If, like me, you do not understand the legal implications from reading that, the ACLU has a PDF on it: https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/field_document/myths_and_truths_about_the_ada_education_and_reform_act_-_updated_2-13-18.pdf

The good news is that Ted Poe is retiring at the end of this congress. The bad news is that the bill passed in the House of Representatives two days ago. It had the support of the vast majority of the Republican members and twelve Democrats. It is currently under reconsideration, meaning that the House could vote over it again. This attack on the physically infirm is an attack on the civil rights of us all and an attack on the economic benefits of including disabled people in the labour force. If such a bill can be passed, it means it is open season on other sections of the ADA. Comments from both major parties blaming the recent school shooting on mental issues the murderer suffered from show that there definitely is a political will to legalise yet more discriminations against us. The disabled were there in Congress to protest taking away Medicare and Obamacare. It is time to honor their efforts. Please contact your representatives to inform them that you are against the bill. If it goes to the Senate, repeat with your senators.


1 He once tried to ban people from countries that don't allow the US to deport criminals to them, even though that includes countries like Canada, Israel and the UK. If passed, the bill would have instantly destroyed the foreign tourism industry. He also is forever immortalised by schmoyoho for complaining about how the Department of Justice spent too much on muffins, even though the actual amount was lower than he claimed and the cost he claimed was negligible anyway considering the size of their budget.

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