A judge's mallet with the letters ADA spelled out in dice in front of it

Disability Rights Are Not Optional: How Proposed GOP Legislation Will Hurt the ADA

19 Aug 2020

Disability rights are human rights, and these civil rights must never become optional benefits that can be taken away whenever it’s convenient or cheaper for employers and those in power.” -Senator Tammy Duckworth

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)  just celebrated its 30th anniversary, but even with this legislation in place, there are still lots of hurdles folks with disabilities face everyday, both in the physical and digital world,/

Unfortunately, Senate Republicans are trying to roll-back the progress made by the ADA, and create more obstacles for those with disabilities. They’ve proposed legislation as part of the HEALS Act that strips liability away from employers and property owners as long as they claim they have made reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities.

Not only will this set us back 30 years of progress, it will undo all the tireless work that disability rights advocates did just to get the ADA passed. (Check out the documentary Crip Camp and our blog post about it for more information on that struggle).

Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, who is disabled, recently spoke to the Senate to express her frustration at her “…Republican colleagues’—including ones who once championed the ADA—attempt to reconstruct, brick by brick, the shameful wall of exclusion that Congress sought to tear down three decades ago.”

According to the National Law Review, if the Act is passed, it will create a huge challenge for plaintiffs who face discrimination based on disability, as the defendant would merely have show proof of an existing company or organizational statement and claim that the business/property owner was doing its best to comply with the ADA. This was done to save defendants money, time and effort, not to do what is best for people with disabilities. 

Folks with disabilities have been asking for implementation and action for decades. and Passing this legislation would take the onus away from the businesses and organizations that exclude and put folks with disabilities in harm’s way. This is not acceptable. 

While we hope this legislation does not pass in any version, it’s actions like this that drive us in our work at Accessible Web. While it’s only a portion of what needs to be done, we put in the hard, sometimes difficult work to make sure that websites truly conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Policies and statements are just words, it’s action — putting time and effort into creating accessible websites — that is needed to continue to move forward. 

Contact your Senators and urge them to vote against this legislation. The United Spinal Association provides language and a form you can fill out here.