Help Defeat HR 620, Which Negatively Amends the Americans with Disabilities Act [IEP 016]
US HR 620 is being considered for a vote in the Senate this week. We wanted to address this timely matter because we have an important request. HR 620 weakens certain key provisions of the American with Disabilities Act, making it more difficult for people living with disabilities to access buildings. It’s important to understand what this Bill does and what you can do to help defeat it. We even demonstrate a live Senator call-in.
Full show transcript at the bottom of this post.
What We Cover in This Episode:
- US HR 620 passed in the House of Representatives and now it’s making its way over to the Senate
- How HR 620 amends the American with Disabilities Act (for the worse)
- How this Bill weakens key provisions of the ADA
- What additional burdens this Bill imposes on people living with disabilities
- What can you do to help? We demonstrate how you can call your Senator and leave a message
- Why this House Bill was introduced in the first place?
ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017? HR 620
Call your Senator – (202) 224 3121
COPAA Script for when you call
Thank you for listening!
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Full Show Transcript
Vickie Brett: Welcome to the Inclusive Education Project. I’m Vickie Brett.
Amanda Selogie: I’m Amanda Selogie. We’re two civil rights lawyers on a mission, to change the conversation about education, civil rights and modern activism.
Vickie Brett: Each week, we’re going to explore new topics, which are going to educate and empower others.
Amanda Selogie: And give them a platform to enact change in education and level the playing field.
Vickie Brett: Okay. Take two you guys. Because when we started this episode, our recorder died.
Amanda Selogie: Oh my gosh. Always have a backup set of batteries. They tell us that in grade school, right? You have to have batteries because your flashlight, you might need it because of an earthquake. That might just be us in California, but …
Vickie Brett: I don’t know. You live and you learn. But anyway, take two. Hey projectors.
Amanda Selogie: Oh, man. We’re still going with that apparently.
Vickie Brett: We’re still going with that.
Amanda Selogie: Until you guys tell Vickie to stop-
Vickie Brett: No.
Amanda Selogie: … she will just keep going.
Vickie Brett: No, I won’t. It’ll be even worse. But I need another nickname, I haven’t seen anything good. We’ve gotten plenty of feedback with different topics. Keep the emails coming. We’ve actually met with a couple of people as well. I won’t name names just yet but it’s been a great experience just kind of people reaching out to us and letting us know that with us trying to start the conversation, it’s kind of helped them start the conversation with some of their friends and families and relatives and people that have children with disabilities, people that don’t have children with disabilities.
Amanda Selogie: And don’t worry. If you’ve given us a suggestion for a topic, we have a running list. We have certain ones that we’ve kind of put in the docket and we’re recording first. And then today, there’re some ones that are timely so have to go out first.
Vickie Brett: Right. So hopefully you guys are listening to this. This is Tuesday. It’s Friday for us so this is our reality, so we’re getting ready for the weekend. What are you doing this weekend?
Amanda Selogie: I have a family lunch on Sunday. It’s my sister’s birthday at the end of the month and my grandpa’s birthday … What’s today?
Vickie Brett: The 16th.
Amanda Selogie: So next week is my grandpa’s birthday. So-
Vickie Brett: Oh, that’s fun.
Amanda Selogie: … we go to the same restaurant for family birthdays all the time, Mexican food.
Vickie Brett: Oh, that’d be fun.
Amanda Selogie: Yeah.
Vickie Brett: That’d be good. I’m headed to Vegas but it’s not the traditional Vegas. I’m actually going to go see Ken, which for those of you who’ve been keeping tabs, Ken was our first guest. What’s up Ken? So check out our … We’re going to try to do some Facebook Lives, Instagram Lives, maybe I’ll do some stuff so that we can post it next week. He’s very excited for us to come and visit him.
Amanda Selogie: I know. I’m not going to be there. He’s going to be like, “What the heck? Why is Vickie here without Amanda?”
Vickie Brett: He asked me, he was like, “Are we recording for the podcast?” And I was like, “Oh, Amanda’s not coming.” He’s like, “Oh, okay. Well, whatever. I mean we can do whatever.” So he’s looking forward to that, so that’ll be fun. But we have a very exciting episode for you guys today.
Amanda Selogie: I feel like we say exciting or like, “We have a great episode”, every week.
Vickie Brett: It’s true. But I guess-
Amanda Selogie: It is true.
Vickie Brett: … we have an important episode. How’s that?
Amanda Selogie: Yes. It’s very important today guys. If you-
Vickie Brett: Very timely.
Amanda Selogie: Yes. If you’re listening to this when the episode drops on Tuesday … What’s next Tuesday?
Vickie Brett: Going to be-
Amanda Selogie: I literally just said what’s today, so-
Vickie Brett: … the 20th.
Amanda Selogie: So the 20th is Tuesday?
Vickie Brett: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Amanda Selogie: So if you’re listening to this on February 20th, please this is really important that you listen to it today because if you’ve followed us on Facebook or Instagram, we’re always talking about calls to action, about how you can personally get involved and act and make changes for the better. So today is one of those days. Last week for you guys, it’s currently happening for us. The U.S. House of Representatives voted on House Bill 620 last week and the house actually passed it and now it’s going to this United States Senate next week, so your current week. And it’s very important that you guys all reach out to your local senators and tell them to vote no on 620. So we’re going to break it down for you. We’re going to give you a little bit more info on what it is and then we’ll tell you what you can do about it.
So 620 amends the ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act. So picture this. The entrance to a post office in a small town is up a flight of 20 stairs. When told that he needed to make the post office accessible to wheelchair users, the postmaster was befuddled. He says, “I’ve been here for 35 years and in all that time, I’ve yet to see a single customer come in here in a wheelchair.” Well, how ironic is that he didn’t see how ironic that response is. That it’s because of that exact lack of awareness from business owners and governmental entities or governmental workers that in 1990, congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act. It was specifically enacted to promote the integration, acceptance and everyday rights of people living with disabilities. So this week, the House of Representatives already tried to undermine the key tenant of that landmark civil rights law.
Vickie Brett: So now it gets passed to the Senate and that little example is from a book called No Pity. That’s according to Joe Shapiro, it was ’94 when that book had come out. And as attorneys, this is a very interesting proposal that has now passed the House that would affect the ADA in so far as in the 90s, if everybody remembers, all these attorneys, all these personal injury attorneys were suing. The MacDonald’s coffee was too hot and then it scald the person’s leg or whatever and then … We still see it today. I think just recently within the last year, Snapchat was getting hit with a bunch of plaintiff-side lawsuits because you didn’t have to be a certain age to see some of their social media things.
Amanda Selogie: Oh. Like the discover section or whatever it’s called.
Vickie Brett: Right, right. And just like some people’s view of the government is that they should stay out of people’s lives and therefore non-profits come in and fill the void of the government, where the government should be providing or whatever. Similar to attorneys and personal injury attorneys and the things that they do, we don’t have very hot coffee anymore because … And it was scalding hot, it was crazy. There’re certain things that in our profession … And we’re not just saying this because we’re attorneys, obviously it affects a lot of people with disabilities and [abroad 00:06:20], not just people with disabilities. As we get older, we’re not able to climb up 20 stairs in one fell swoop or anything like that. And I think that this touches us in a unique way because it’s not necessarily an area of the law that we do, it’s in our world, but it affects so many things.
Amanda Selogie: Yeah. We deal with the ADA but we’re dealing in a little bit smaller capacity than the other laws, the Individual Disabilities Education Act. But it’s really important, like we always say, to be educated on what’s going on. But especially here. Look. The house representatives, they created this bill and they titled it the ADA Education and Reform Act. So if you were to just see that name, you’d probably think, “Oh, they’re making improvements, they’re helping it.” But what they’re really doing is they’re taking a step back.
So over 230 organizations within a Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities have opposed this law because they say that it weakens the key provisions of the ADA. Essentially, it prohibits civil actions based on the failure to remove an architectural barrier to access into an existing public accommodation except under certain condition. But what it does is it places a burden on people living with disabilities to notify the owners of the business to provide the accommodations. And it places this huge burden … There’s a three-step or something process that these individuals will have to go through before the business owners are even required to take the necessary steps to act. And then, they’re trying to propose a mediation ADR-type situation on it rather than the civil lawsuits. And I get it. What the idea behind it is is that there’re so many lawsuits on … We were talking in our office about it. There are people that will go into that MacDonald’s and they will measure th bathroom stall for clients.
Vickie Brett: Right. So that’s what they’re saying is there’re certain people. But at the end of the day, the law already exists, so you as a business owner should know what the ADA … How can I be ADA compliant. And so if you are a person and you’re trying to access a place and you’re not able to, and then you go and you find an attorney and then they do basically a lot of the … And I’m assuming the senators will go with this is, “Oh. We’re trying to curb all these high rates of lawsuits where all these attorneys are trying to line their pockets.” Okay. That’s not every single attorney that’s out there and yeah, I’m sure that there are some attorneys that are out there that are just … Some of the articles that I’ve read were saying like, “Oh. They’ll just drive by and then they’ll see they don’t have somebody that’s right was actually denied, but maybe there has been somebody there that was denied access and they didn’t think that they needed to go and get an attorney.” And I’m not saying we’re the watchdogs here and we should be going, we should be measuring and things like that. But that is more …
And from what opponents have said including the ACLU and the Consortium that Amanda had referenced earlier is that essentially that’s a state issue that can be addressed by the state and the court of trying to curb these attorneys. But we as attorneys have an ethical obligation to not bring frivolous lawsuits. So the point in what Amanda was referencing, it’s just putting more burdens. This law is enacted to remove burdens that these people with disabilities had before and now we’re taking a step back and we’re saying, “Oh, no. They’re going to be second class citizens again.” So I as a person in a wheelchair notice that there may be a potential violation, I’m being denied access, I have to look up the specific code, then I have to tell … This is what the new things is going to do, this new law. Then I have to tell the business owner and say, “60-days, hey, I’m letting you know that you have a violation here.” The violations that I looked up, I googled. And then-
Amanda Selogie: And they have to be very specific [inaudible 00:10:10] based on what they want.
Vickie Brett: Very specific. Yeah. And then the business owner has 120 days to fix the problem, which is great because you’re like, “Okay. Wow. They have 120 days to fix it and then that goes away.” However, that person, they were supposed to already do that.
Amanda Selogie: They should’ve done it. This law was enacted in 1990 and it’s 2018. So we’re talking about almost 30 years ago they should’ve made these changes. And going back to my post office example. To say that, “Oh. Well, we don’t need to do it because I’ve never seen anyone do it.” You’ve never seen anyone do it because they can’t. They take one look at the building and say there’s no way. What? You’re going to expect them to take their wheelchair and go up these stairs? It boggles-
Vickie Brett: You’re taking away the fear of being sued and it’s like right now they can be sued and there’re still people that are ignoring the ADA, so then the consequence is you should be sued.
Amanda Selogie: Right. So it’s crazy to us to see that there are people that support this and we looked. So if you’re following our Facebook or our Instagram on Thursday, so would’ve been the 15th. We actually had all of our interns, we got them lunch and during our lunchtime, we had them all calling their local representatives to say don’t vote yes, vote no, vote no. And unfortunately, there were … Obviously, it was very apparent it was majority of republicans who voted for this but there were a few democrats as well. And I will say … I’m going to call them out. My local representative in district 48 here in Huntington Beach, Dana Rohrabacher. I did call your office and I said, “Please do not vote on this.” But of course, like always, voted against your constituents and voted yes and pushed this through.
So the next thing is for us to … There’s still a chance. It went through the House, the next step is the Senate. So in order for this bill to become a law, the Senate has to pass it and then the president has to sign it into law. So we still have a chance to get our senators to make a change. And what we’ve done is put on our Facebook and I think we’re going to put it on our Instagram as well, this call to action on what you can do. So if you either go … The ACLU has a petition you can sign or you can call your local representative to urge them to say no. Even if you live in a blue state or a blue county or you know that your senator is going to say no, still call anyway. Because if they see that there’s a huge movement of people that are backing it … Look at last year with the healthcare debate. How many people called their representatives and it made an impact, so we can make an impact here. So today, Vickie is actually going to do it live to show you exactly how easy it is to call your representative and what you should do.
Vickie Brett: Right. So you can just call the Capitol switchboard. It’s 202-224-3121, which I had already had that dialed in my phone.
Speaker 3: Thank you for calling the United States Capitol. To be connected to your senator’s office, press or say one. To be connected to your representative, press or say two.
Amanda Selogie: So you’ll press one there.
Speaker 3: You have reached the United States Senate. Please speak your state or enter your zip code.
Vickie Brett: California.
Speaker 3: You have entered California. If this is correct, press or say one. If not … Press or say one for Senator Kamala Harris. Press or say two for Senator …
Speaker 4: Hi, this is Kamala Harris. Thank you for calling my senate office in Washington DC.
Vickie Brett: Hey Kamala.
Speaker 4: If you would like to leave a message to share your opinion about an issue, press one. If you need-
Vickie Brett: Okay. I’m going to leave a message.
Speaker 4: … [inaudible 00:13:59] about our office, press two. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. This mailbox is checked regularly so you can be sure your opinions will be heard. Please leave your message after the tone and I will keep your thoughts in mind as we move forward. Thank you again.
Vickie Brett: Hi Senator. My name is Vickie and I am an attorney that represents children with special needs, and I would like to take the time to let you know that I would really appreciate it if you voted no on H.R.620. It negatively amends the ADA and I believe it places an undue burden on children and adults who require access to businesses of all kinds. Thank you so much. Look forward to seeing you vote no. Bye bye.
Oh, yeah. See I didn’t even have to talk to someone. Yesterday, they were like … People were like answering. They’re like …
Amanda Selogie: It might be different because I called Dianne Feinstein’s office, so maybe call her office next. But see how easy that is. It’s as simple as that. So Vickie will call Dianne Feinstein’s office right now too.
Vickie Brett: Do you think that anybody works on Friday in the capital? Oh, no. You know what? It’s 2:00 here, so it’s 5:00. So we’re a three hour difference-
Amanda Selogie: Oh. So that’s why.
Vickie Brett: … and that’s why we’re thinking … Yeah.
Amanda Selogie: Okay. So yesterday when we called, we called at lunchtime so it was earlier in the day. So typically what would happen is … And you can check out our Facebook Live and Instagram Live, we had done an actual video of it. So someone will pick up the phone, they’ll gather your information. You don’t have to give your full information if you don’t want to. If you want to, they’ll take down your name and your address and so they know exactly. So when I called my representative, Dana Rohrabacher, I did give my information because I’m not afraid to tell him that I don’t appreciate the fact that he goes against our constituents so often and that’s why we’re trying to flip 48. Because it’s things like this, trying to negatively amend the ADA that’s causing the problems. Why do we have … We have so many issues in this country that we need to deal with but yet our congressmen are spending time negatively impacting current laws that are working and that are good? Why?
Vickie Brett: It’s burden shifting. It’s a symptom and you can only do so much for symptoms but if you don’t cure the root cause, the virus, the bacteria, whatever it is that’s making you sick, then you’re not really getting to the bottom of anything. So here, I see what the problem is. Okay. The problem is you’re saying that we want to curb all these high-end lawsuits and these poor small business owners. Look. I’m a small business owner. I get it. If I had bought a piece of property and I didn’t do my due diligence and figure out if it was ADA compliant and then all of a sudden, this person comes and I have to spend a million dollars to renovate. I get it. They would put me out of business. However, there are things in place and they have been in place for a while. And approaching with this solution of taking that step back and making us really second-class citizens. We’re telling them, it’s all on you. The burden is completely on you. But the law has already existed for you as a business owner to correct it.
Amanda Selogie: Yeah, and the crazy thing is the ADA was carefully crafted in 1990 and updated in 2008. And it wasn’t just, “Oh. Let’s have some lawmakers …” It was based on the input from both people living with disabilities and business owners. So I want to know, who are the people backing the proposal for this bill? I want to know. And if I had to guess, I’d probably say it’s probably big businesses. If we have a law that with input from both sides, people living with disabilities and business owners created a law very carefully that does work … We know that it works. It shouldn’t be amended in ways that discriminate against people that it was designed to include in our community in the first place. Bottom line.
Vickie Brett: I think it just goes back to what we always say. We say inclusion, opportunity and community. What are we saying about people with disabilities when we’re seeing articles, “Disability’s rights under attack.” When you have the National [Bar 00:18:04] Association, when you have the ACLU, when you have the Consortium that you had mentioned before and I just … And the Consortium for Citizens and Disabilities. You have so many different people and they’re saying, “Look. We’re weakening the Americans with Disability Act.” And we have this entire concept where we want everybody to feel included. That raises the opportunities for everyone and it what does it say about as the community? And finally in 1990, we were like, “Oh, okay. We want to say as a community that we are going to provide access to the post office.” And we get that all the time. I’ve had teacher that was a lot older, and this was a couple of years ago, and we were talking about a kid with dyslexia and she’s like, “I’ve been teaching for 30 years and I never had a kid in my class that had dyslexia.” And it’s like I don’t know that you can say that only because you may not have been able to readily identify that child as a child that suffers from her learning disability of dyslexia, but that’s a pretty bold statement.
Just like the guy, “I’ve never seen a guy in a wheelchair walk up these steps and say he has problem with it.” Yeah. He can’t walk up the steps. Just like at the end of the pod when I tell you guys, “See you next week.” I’m not seeing you next week. It’s just these small little things that people just … You don’t really think about. And that’s what we deal with all the time with people that just don’t want to see it. I’m not trying to make an emotional plea, I’m not. It’s a logical plea. I understand what the problem is but that’s a state and court problem that can be resolved with putting restrictions on the … We already can’t bring frivolous lawsuits, things like that. They’re saying a whole business has been created. Well, at a certain point, that business is going to go out of business because then everybody will be ADA compliant. But to me, it makes it seem like, well, no. There’s going to be people out there that will continue to be not compliant with the ADA. Well, so then we still need the threat of lawsuit for them to be ADA compliant. It’s crazy.
Amanda Selogie: Yeah. If we had people doing the right thing all the time, we wouldn’t need laws. The laws are there for a reason and yeah, there are some laws that aren’t good. We talk all the time about there’re some laws that need to be amended. We talk about gun control or we talk about No Child Left Behind. Yeah, there are things that need to be amended but is the ADA one of them? No. Not unless you’re actually increasing protections. If this bill was to increase protections … And here’s the difficult part, is that people, I’m sure, are seeing the news maybe …
Look. At the end of the day, congress right now is working on a budget because they decide to fund the government in six-week increments, which is ridiculous but that’s where we are. That’s our reality in this moment. But it’s almost like they’re just dangling a piece of candy in front of a kid. Congress is like, “Oh. We’re dealing with the budget.” So all of the country is sidetracked with this budget thing. And meanwhile rather than working on something that, I don’t know, maybe we should be funding the government and taking care of the protections of our Dreamers or making sure that children have healthcare, those things that are really important. No. We’re not spending time on those important things. We’re going to sit here and waste our time on undermining a current law that’s already existent. There’s so many things-
Vickie Brett: We’re going to get so many emails with just what you just said. But no, obviously marginalized communities, LGBT … LGBT community, the Muslim community, the African American community, there’s been so many communities within our community that have been under attack under this administration and that’s why we’re making this plea. I’m trying to present it in a way that I hope some of our more conservative people will see that I’m not making an impassioned plea. I’m not trying to make an emotional plea. I gave you the logistics behind it.
The problem is someone is thinking out there that … I think it was a Texan representative that proposed the bill last year and was saying, “Small business owners are getting hit.” Okay. I totally hear that. I’m here saying that there’s attorneys out there and we’ve tried to break it down. Obviously inhibits so many other different areas and that’s where Amanda’s coming from. We’re seeing all these marginalized communities being … Hits are being taken and we get it. I know somebody could also make the allusion to … They can allude to the fact that Delta Air Lines is just pushing back on service animals. I get it. There is plenty of people out there that take advantage of it. 100%. This lady was trying to bring a peacock. I totally get it. She indicated it was support animal. I get it. But now they’re saying you have to tell us 24 hours, 48 hours before, you have to bring us appropriate paperwork? But guess what, me? I don’t have a disability, I don’t have to provide the airline 24 hours notice that I’m going to be showing up.
Amanda Selogie: Well, it’s the idea that there are people who abuse systems, sure, and we acknowledge that and we realize that that happens. So why aren’t we trying to fix that problem instead of placing the burden on the law abiding citizens who truly need these protections in the first place? And that’s kind of the point I was trying to make is that the law … It’s not like we’re trying to push through a law that doesn’t already exist. We’re trying to protect a law that exists. And rather than spending our taxpayer dollars fighting to undermine protections, why aren’t we figuring out how to keep the government open? I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense to me.
Vickie Brett: Yeah. And yeah, I get it. I can already hear people, “Oh. You do have to check in before a flight.” But that’s not the point. It’s the additional burden of I don’t have to give them additional paperwork 48 hours before. And that’s what I’m saying-
Amanda Selogie: No more than anyone else.
Vickie Brett: Right. No more than anybody else. Exactly. Yeah. There’s rules and regulations totally for it but at the same time, I think with this episode because of the timeliness of it and because you could see how easy it is. Even if somebody were to answer, there’s a script. We’re going to provide the script for you guys and we actually got this information from COPAA, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, which is an organization that both Amanda and I are a part of and are going to their annual conference this year. We’re super excited about it. But we want to thank them because they are at the forefront and they just started out just like you and I, podcast listeners just kind of seeing some things, feeling a social injustice and wanting to change it, and that’s how they came together and that’s why it’s a council of parents and attorneys and advocates. We can kind of band together. But this is something that we were hoping some of you guys would be interested in hearing about. It’s a call of action that is near and dear to our hearts but we hope that we were kind of able to present it to you in a way that made sense on an emotional level and on a logical level.
Amanda Selogie: And if you have just five minutes, please, please, please. If you are not comfortable speaking on the phone or giving your information, you can also go to the ACLU website that we’ve posted to sign the petition if you’re not comfortable going on the phone. But do one or the other because it’s so important.
Vickie Brett: Time to do a little bit more than just Facebook status guys. Let’s try to do little bit more. If you want. You don’t have to, I’m not saying you have to to continue listening. But, yeah. So we’re going to wrap this one up. I’ve been coughing. I don’t know if you guys have heard that but apologize. Oh my god, awful.
Amanda Selogie: It’s just this flu that’s been going around.
Vickie Brett: It’s the worst.
Amanda Selogie: It’s made its rounds.
Vickie Brett: Yeah.
Amanda Selogie: I’ve gotten it twice.
Vickie Brett: Yeah.
Amanda Selogie: I don’t know. It’s crazy.
Vickie Brett: No. It’s the worst and-
Amanda Selogie: This winter needs to end.
Vickie Brett: I know. I know. Well, winter … It’s like 78 right now outside.
Amanda Selogie: Says the one who’s wearing boots, a scarf. You wore a jacket in.
Vickie Brett: Because I’ve been getting sick. I have to cover up.
Amanda Selogie: Oh, no. I do that all the time too. I’m not making fun. I’m making fun of myself too.
Vickie Brett: I’m making fun of myself. Yeah. We hope you guys enjoyed this episode. Remember, we’re attorneys, we’re not your attorneys. And if you guys can take a minute, share with a friend, hit subscribe. Maybe just take their phone and then just look up Inclusive Education Project Podcast and then just hit subscribe.
Amanda Selogie: Pretty much Vickie’s been doing that.
Vickie Brett: Just that’s what I do. If you have an iPhone and you just never hit that little purple button. It’s like, “…” There’re so many podcasts I’ve been listening to now and you just find them. And that’s how a lot of people have said, “Hey. I found your podcast.” And that’s always great to hear. So keep those coming and I hope you guys have a beautiful rest of your day, evening, morning and we will be in your ears next week.
Amanda Selogie: Yeah, we’ll talk to you soon.
Vickie Brett: Bye.
Amanda Selogie: Bye.