This letter was written for the Idaho Falls Progressive’s visit to legislator’s offices as part of their education campaign.
To: Senators Crapo and Risch and House member Simpson
from: the Idaho Falls Progressives
Date: December 19, 2017
We write again today to raise awareness about the damaging impacts of HR620, the ADA Education and Reform Act. The act was passed by the house on February 15 and awaits action in the Senate.
As a person with a disability, I have witnessed firsthand the positive impact of the ADA over the last 28 years. It is often simple things: braille on an elevator, an accessible menu, or a ramp into a meeting, which make a significant difference in creating welcome and usable places of public accommodation. I know of no one in Idaho who has filed a “frivolous lawsuit” using the ADA. Perhaps the reverse is true. People would rather live with inaccessibility then create a fuss. For example: a friend of mine recently went to dinner at a neighborhood restaurant and was told that she could not bring her service dog into the establishment. Did she file? No! She went home, feeling bad about herself and her disability.
HR 620 penalizes people like me by erecting additional barriers to a potential accessibility complaint. The ADA provides multiple paths to redressing discrimination, none of which are either quick, or easy. There may be times when a barrier to accessibility is so pronounced that the only way to change the situation is to use a legal advocate. Requiring that the person who experiences discrimination prepare a document citing the parts of the ADA that are out of compliance, then waiting for months to see if anything changes before taking legal action flies directly in the face of the pursuit of justice.
We must do all we can to eliminate “frivolous lawsuits.” But let’s do it through education, conversation, and enforcing existing legal and ethical codes of behavior. I would love to share with you the world I experience on a daily basis. Come walk with me as I explore my community using a white cane, or spend time in a wheelchair with my friend who uses a service dog. I believe the experience would be enlightening!