H.R. 620 violates basic, human rights of accessibility

Jeff Rose

The lives of disabled Americans are in danger. HR 620 quietly snuck through the House, passing 225 to 192 on Feb. 15. Officially, HR 620 is known as the ADA Education and Reform Act. It proposed that businesses and public spaces can wait several months to provide accessibility, rather than needing to take immediate action. My fellow disabled Americans and abled-bodied people need to band together and voice their opposition to this hurtful bill.

This bill is picking away at the rights provided by the Americans With Disabilities Act. H R 620’s sponsors and proponents deem it a strength to the ADA, but the bill undermines important civil rights.

Disabled people won’t be able to file lawsuits to get the accessibility needed until after a six month waiting period. The bill requires we become experts in legal code to provide some notice to businesses who are violating the law. Then we have to wait six months. The businesses don’t have to provide accessibility by the end of that time. They simply have to make some kind of ‘progress.’ But minor progress won’t help us. We need accessibility now, not later.

As someone who is deaf, businesses could legally wait months or longer to provide interpreting services, captioning or visual alarm systems for me. This bill has even bigger implications for those with mobile disabilities. They are at risk of losing access to doctor’s offices, schools, pharmacies and grocery stores. Everyone has the right to buy their own groceries and see the doctor when they need to. Accessibility isn’t a privilege — it’s an undeniable right that we, and abled-bodied people, have.

Accessibility is an inalienable civil right that our disabled predecessors have fought for. And now we all need to be more politically active to stop this bill in its tracks.

Every single Republican representative in Texas — and one Democrat —voted yes on HR 620. As disheartening as this is to disabled Texans, we have the opportunity to vote these people out of office in the upcoming midterm elections on March 6. All 36 representative seats are up for reelection, and we should vote for those who support the rights of people with disabilities. Beto O’Rourke, an El Paso representative, voted nay on the bill. He’s currently running against Senator Ted Cruz.

Since the bill is currently being fast-tracked through the senate, we can call our senators or text 50409 to resist it. The number is part of a resist bot that will format letters for you and send your messages to your lawmakers. It’s one of the easiest ways to contact those representing you in office, and just takes a simple text: ‘Vote no on H R 620!’

Society should not regress to a time where disabled people had to wait until we got home to use the bathroom or struggle to follow along with a movie. Lawful inaccessibility is putting the health and livelihood of 57 million disabled Americans at risk, and that’s unacceptable.

Rose is an English and rhetoric and writing sophomore from The Woodlands. Follow him on Twitter @jeffroses.