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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Don’t Fall Asleep During the “Lame Duck Session”

By Steve Higgins, NCIL ADA / Civil Rights Subcommittee Co-Chair

This past week’s election will have an enormous effect on policy and, quite frankly, our civil rights for many years to come. With that being said, we also must be cognizant that there is still time for a short session to occur in Washington prior to our new President taking office, where legislators could act on pieces of legislation introduced during the 114th Congress.

For example, in September we saw the introduction of S. 3446, another ADA Notification bill, by Senator Flake from Arizona. The wording of this bill is the same as used in HR. 3765, Congressman Poe’s bill from Texas that we opposed with the “Don’t Roll Back Our Rights” campaign during NCIL’s 2016 Annual Conference on Independent Living.

This poses a danger because we now have companion ADA Notification bills in both the House and Senate, which could be acted upon during a “lame duck session.” It is these companion bills that can quickly gather momentum or be attached to something else being moved through Congress during the last few weeks of a session, which can be quite dangerous. 

We still clearly view this as an attack on our rights as persons with disabilities. In states where monitory damage can be sought, “Drive-By Lawsuits”* have been filed by groups of plaintiffs or organizations and continue to be the locus of bills being filed to weaken the ADA. We encourage you to read “Lawsuit threats may not be right, but non-ADA compliance is still discrimination,” an article in the Arizona Tribune by former NCIL Board Member Phil Pangrazio.

In addition to national legislation, there are several states that are also taking ADA Notification up and we need to keep aware of what is happening. We need to be careful of not being too critical of lawsuits being filed that increase access, but to frame this is an “ethics” question. We must also advocate that any new legislation in states does not affect the ability to enforce the ADA. The ADA Civil Rights Subcommittee is looking at the issue and working on developing an updated position paper.

Twenty six years after the implementation of the ADA, businesses still choose to ignore the Americans with Disabilities Act, only complying when they have been caught. Access is, and will always be, a civil right!

What can you do? During the lame duck session, it is imperative that you contact your members of both the House and Senate to voice your opposition to H.R. 3765 and S. 3446. We have a very small window to do this and may need to act on things quickly.

* “Drive-By Lawsuit” is a term developed by people who oppose the ADA. We need to stay firm on our message that this is a civil rights Issue.

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