[NFBOK-Talk] President riccobono's article in The Hill regarding reform of the ADA

Jeanie Massay jeannie.massay at nfbok.org
Thu Jul 27 23:44:25 UTC 2017


Source: The Hill
Date: July 26, 2017
Author: Mark Riccobono
Passing the ADA Education and Reform Act would be a step backwards for
equality and justice
Exactly twenty-seven years ago, the United States took another in a long
series of steps toward actualizing our founding principles of equality and
justice for all. On July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
became the law of the land. With its signing by President George H.W. Bush
came true progress in the fight for equality and opportunity for the
nation's blind.
The National Federation of the Blind, the country's oldest and largest
nationwide organization of blind people, has always been determined in our
efforts to break down barriers that hinder us from transforming our dreams
into reality and living the lives we want. The ADA, while not the only means
through which we achieve these goals, has been and continues to be
indispensable. Specifically, Title III of the ADA provides legal remedies
for the blind when we encounter accessibility barriers as we work, study,
shop, travel, and generally avail ourselves of the things that society has
to offer. Such barriers are daily occurrences in our lives, and, in the
worst cases, threaten our employment, education, and ability to function in
our communities.
It is therefore incumbent upon us to defend against the many assaults upon
the ADA. Using a tactic deployed by critics of the Civil Rights Act and the
Voting Rights Act, opponents of the ADA falsely accuse us of wanting special
privileges or treatment. But we demand only equal treatment and opportunity;
no more, no less.
The latest misguided attempt to undermine civil rights and equality for the
blind and other Americans with disabilities is the ADA Education and Reform
Act, a House bill that would purportedly mitigate the scourge of "frivolous"
lawsuits brought by shady lawyers and "serial plaintiffs."
The crux of the argument in favor of this bill is that people with
disabilities, such as the fifty thousand members of the National Federation
of the Blind, are abusing the ADA in order to make a quick buck by unfairly
targeting small businesses. There are several things wrong with this thesis.
First, there is no systematic evidence that large numbers of illegitimate
complaints are being filed. Proponents of this legislation, which would
insert 180 days of unnecessary lag time between when a violation is
encountered and when redress can be expected, can only point to anecdotal
and extreme cases. For example, a report that analyzed all Title III
lawsuits filed in 2016 found just twelve "serial plaintiffs." Given that
6,600 suits were filed in total, claims of abuse are exaggerated.
Second, this bill cannot and does not make any distinction between
meritorious and frivolous complaints. Therefore, legitimate complaints would
be discouraged because of a tiny number of bad actors. The blind are
disgusted by any abuse of the ADA for personal enrichment, but we do not
believe that the problem is pervasive enough to weaken the most critical
tool that we have to protect our rights.
Third, the number of violations that we encounter daily dwarfs the number of
lawsuits. Lawsuits are expensive and time consuming, and we do not pursue
them lightly. In most cases, we find acceptable work-arounds and move on.
In short, this bill is a solution in search of a problem. While it is true
that Title III complaints have risen substantially in recent years, it is
also true that awareness of our rights as blind people and the mechanisms of
redress available to us have risen in equal measure. It is also true that
new opportunities driven by technology bring with them new accessibility
challenges. Whether we are attempting to engage in ecommerce, book travel
plans using digital platforms, or conduct banking activities using mobile
applications, we are consistently met with roadblocks that clearly violate
the ADA.
The National Federation of the Blind strongly opposes this bill. On this day
we commemorate a milestone in our nation's history. We acknowledge that
passage of the ADA was another move toward a more perfect union. To support
a bill that would undermine the ability of the blind and others with
disabilities to ensure equal access and opportunity would be to repudiate
that project and dishonor our shared legacy. As we use this anniversary to
reflect on what the ADA means, we will also take concerted action to
buttress it against those forces that would undermine it. The National
Federation of the Blind calls on those who have already signed on as
co-sponsors of this bill to withdraw their support and for those who may be
asked to support it in the future to refuse. To do otherwise is to scale
back hard-won gains and hinder our progress toward true equality.
Mark A. Riccobono is president of the National Federation of the Blind.
Christopher S. Danielsen, J.D.
Director of Public Relations
200 East Wells Street, Baltimore, MD 21230
(410) 659-9314, Ext. 2330 | cdanielsen at nfb.org <mailto:cdanielsen at nfb.org> 
Twitter: @rlawyer 
<https://twitter.com/NFB_Voice>      <https://www.youtube.com/NationsBlind> 
The National Federation of the Blind is a community of members and friends
who believe in the hopes and dreams of the nation's blind. Every day we work
together to help blind people live the lives they want. 


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