Brindisi: Congressional Action to Weaken Americans with Disabilities Act Sets the Country Back 25 Years

Brindisi: “I have heard from several constituents who want members of the U.S. Senate to block this bill.”

Brindisi: “When barriers to accessibility exist, the burden of proof should not fall on the disabled”
February 22, 2018

UTICA -- Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi was joined today at the Resource Center for Independent Living in Utica by community members and disability advocates to express their opposition to legislation passed last week in Congress that would significantly weaken the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The measure passed 225 to 192, and was supported by most of the House Majority, including Congresswoman Claudia Tenney of New Hartford. The ADA Education and Reform Act (H.R. 620) eases federal requirements for businesses when disabled people consider civil action due to barriers to access. The proposal would give business people six months to develop a plan and show progress in addressing barriers to accessibility before a lawsuit is filed against the business for not complying with the ADA.

“Approval of this legislation is going to set back disability rights by decades. I have been fielding calls from constituents who are very concerned about what might happen. For almost 30 years, the ADA has been seen around the world as a milestone of civil and disability rights. The law has led to many positive changes in the design of streets and buildings so people with disabilities can lead productive lives in our communities. Now, Congress has passed legislation that would erase many of the positive gains we have made in society toward accessibility for all. I am imploring members of the U.S. Senate to do everything possible to prevent this bill from being brought to the floor for consideration, because it denies the most basic human rights to the elderly and disabled,” said Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi.

“This law puts the onus on individuals with disabilities to ensure the basic civil rights of access are achieved, and it gives businesses months to even acknowledge or begin to fix the problems. Businesses have had over 25 years to comply with these regulations, so there simply is no excuse for them denying access,” said Zvia McCormick, Executive Director of The Resource Center for Independent Living in Utica.

“It’s disappointing, albeit not surprising that our congress finds another avenue to marginalize Individuals with disabilities. The ADA was intended to give people with disabilities equal footing in society by requiring places of reasonable accommodations to remove barriers to the goods and services that they provide. They’ve had 27 years to accomplish this yet our Congress wants to give them more time. There are thousands of websites, and hundreds of organizations that offer assistance to anyone, especially businesses, on what modifications would be needed for accessibility. However, this legislation will force Individuals with disabilities to not only wait longer but require us to site specific violations of the law. The Americans with Disabilities Act was supposed to provide inclusion and equal opportunities to Individuals with Disabilities. This Bill is further proof that some elected officials are out of touch with the communities they are elected to serve,” said Gene Hughes, Coordinator of Community Relations, The Resource Center for Independent Living, Utica

A number of other organizations have also announced opposition to the bill, including the AARP; United Cerebral Palsy; Vietnam Veterans of America; and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).