Access for disabled Americans shouldn't depend on written notices

Photo by Marcel Oosterwijk

As a disabled person, I believe the congressional passage of HR620 signals my community is on the verge of losing its place in society.

This legislation would weaken the Americans with Disabilities Act by putting the onus on disabled people file written notices of obstructing barriers to business owners. The law would be unfair because it restricts disabled people from enjoying the same rights as everyone else to go to a public place, by removing the business voluntary compliance incentive.

Disability rights' groups such as AARP and ADAPT have condemned this bill pointing to the fact it dismisses ADA protections. What worries me is that it suggests my livelihood does not matter to some of our government representatives.

People like Brandon Pettey know how shattering this bill will be to the disability community. Pettey, a journalist with Spina Bifida, said, “America was founded on the premise of equality. If this bill passes, it will go against all we stand for. Further, it will push equality even further from the grasp of Americans with disabilities. "

According to NBC News, Republicans in the U.S. Senate are fast-tracking this legislation. Democratic senators such as Maggie Hassan view this bill as deeply concerning. "I am deeply troubled that the House of Representatives have pushed forward a bill that would drastically undermine the rights of Granite Staters and Americans who experience disabilities to fully included in our communities and to contribute to our economy,” Hassan said in a news release.

My first thought is that the party of George H.W. Bush has lost its soul in trying to hide the bill from public view. President Bush signed the law in 1991, saying, “This act is powerful in its simplicity. It will ensure that people with disabilities are given the basic guarantees for which they have worked so hard: independence, freedom of choice, control of their lives, the opportunity to blend fully and equally into the rich mosaic of the American mainstream.”

Unfortunately, Congress is in the process of dismantling the former president's legacy while stripping rights away from people like me. Under this law, business owners can make it unfeasible for a disabled journalist to enter their establishments.

This injustice is exactly why U.S. Senate must vote against HR620.