Congress shouldn’t create more barriers

Photo by Shelby Knowles for The Texas Tribune

I remember having an out-of-body experience waiting to see my name up on the University of North Texas Coliseum's scoreboard.

My lifelong goal of becoming a professional journalist was mere seconds away from being realized. People in my hometown might never have imagined how this moment was a part of fate's master plan.

I have severe cerebral palsy. This makes me unable to speak and I get around in a wheelchair. I wanted to be a reporter, as I had dreamt about making a difference for my community.

Fighting for ideals such as ensuring the inequality of people with disabilities has always been my focus. This is why I am gravely concerned about how U.S. House Republicans have crafted a bill, H.R. 620, undermining the accessibility guidelines for businesses that the Americans with Disabilities Act had created.

This bill hinders disabled people from asserting their right to sue businesses for not removing architectural barriers to access into existing public accommodations, unless there are two qualifications to the specific complaint.

The aggrieved person must show that they provided a written notice specific enough to identify the barrier, and that the owners or operators failed to provide the person with a written notice outlining improvements that will be made to improve the barrier, or they failed to remove the barrier or make substantial process after providing such a description, according to Brian Wood, senior attorney for Disability Rights Texas. Specifically, it makes it nearly impossible for people with disabilities to have such barriers removed and favors the business owner instead of the customer.

The proposed law would force people with disabilities to limit their social interactions to places where proper accommodations have been made.

Brandon Petty, a journalist with spina bifida, said, "People with disabilities work every day to fit into an able-bodied world. Our government should strive to make our lives better, not more difficult. "

People like me deserve the right to attend public functions wherever we may desire. Under this bill, I fear disabled people would be unable to maintain a full social life. I am speaking on the fact that folks like me have a right to enjoy our lives in public.

I have made it my mission to show the world that disabled people can be seen with utmost respect. I urge Congress not to pass this bill because it is grossly unfair and seems to send the message to people like me to just stay home. Haven't we shown that we deserve to be seen as respected members in our society?