There’s a moment that I’ve come to dread. I wheel up to a bar or restaurant where my friends are gathering. Then, I’m met with a staircase — a major barrier to my fun night out. In this situation, I have three options. I can turn around and go home. Or I can ask my friends if we can go to another place that’s more accessible, disrupting our plans. Or I can suffer through the spectacle of being lifted from my power chair into an inaccessible venue.
The problem is even worse when I can’t easily get through the door of a supermarket or an office building where I have an important meeting. In those circumstances, the lack of accessibility is not simply an indignity, but a serious hardship.
Even though the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1990, many businesses still remain inaccessible to people like me. Still, because of the ADA, the world I experienced in elementary school was completely different from my world in college. The transformation happened because the ADA forced businesses to change their practices. Stores, restaurants, and other businesses started building ramps because the law required it. They knew that they could be held accountable if they failed to follow the law.
But now, some members of Congress are trying to fundamentally change the ADA with H.R. 620, the so-called ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017. Under this legislation, disabled people would have to provide businesses with an indeterminate amount of time to fix the ADA violation before we can ask a court to take action to provide access. This potentially indefinite delay means that I may never be able to get the opportunity to vindicate my rights and obtain access, the main tenet of the ADA. This bill would make it almost impossible to enforce the law.