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Celebrating The ADA.

This year, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

One of PVA's core mission areas is to advocate for the civil rights of its members and other people with disabilities. The ADA ensures the civil rights of veterans with disabilities to fully reintegrate into their communities and workplaces after acquiring a life-altering disability.

A "Shameful Wall"

The ADA was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by then-U.S. President George H.W. Bush. It created a prohibition against disability discrimination in employment (Title I), public services (Title II) and public accommodations (Title III).

As he prepared to sign this historic civil rights legislation, Bush said, "Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down."

The ADA has forever changed the landscape of America by breaking down barriers for people with disabilities. Grocery stores, state and local government buildings, sports stadiums and public transportation all have access features to ensure people with disabilities have the opportunity to travel, shop and cheer on their favorite teams just like other Americans.

It's because of the ADA that people with disabilities can be part of all that our great nation has to offer.

Despite ADA access requirements, too many public accommodations still lack needed access features.

Some business owners claim they're unaware of the ADA's requirements. However, even when notified of their responsibilities under the ADA, some businesses will not take the steps necessary to come into compliance.

Going To Court

Sometimes, the only option for a person with a disability to enforce his or her access rights is to file a lawsuit. It's worth noting, however, that it's actually often difficult to find lawyers who will take ADA Title III cases.

Although some states have access laws that provide for monetary damages, Title III of the ADA doesn't. Thus, if an attorney takes one of these cases, the only remedy is injunctive relief or removal of the barrier. Under fee shifting, an attorney can get his or her fees paid by the defendant.

In recent years, a lot of media attention has been focused on the increased number of ADA lawsuits filed each year. In 2018, people with disabilities filed 10,163 Title III lawsuits, with the vast majority of these lawsuits filed in three states--California (4,249), New York (2,338) and Florida (1,941). The next state, Texas, had 196. Alabama, which had 80 lawsuits filed, was 10th. Six states (Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming) had no Title III lawsuits in 2018.

A possible explanation for the number of lawsuits in some states may be the existence of state ADA laws that allow for damages. It could also be that some people with disabilities had no other options other than to file a lawsuit to enforce their civil rights.

Throughout this year, PVA will highlight the ADA's successes and how it has improved the lives of millions of Americans with disabilities.

PVA will also, however, spotlight the areas in which accessibility has yet to be fully realized. Businesses and policymakers should focus more on improving access and less on simply seeking to decrease the number of lawsuits. Improved ADA compliance, of course, will ultimately mean a decrease in the need for enforcement.

Legislative Efforts

One way PVA is supporting improved accessibility is advocating for legislation that would help businesses meet their ADA requirements.

The Disability Employment Incentive Act (HR 3992/S 255), introduced by Rep. Josh Harder (D-Calif.) and Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), would expand tax credits and deductions that are available for employers who hire and retain employees with disabilities and who make their places of business more accessible.

Specifically, it would increase a tax credit for expenditures by eligible small businesses to provide access to individuals with disabilities and expand the tax deduction for expenditures to remove architectural and transportation barriers for persons with disabilities and the elderly.

In addition, the legislation allows the deduction to be used for certain improvements in the accessibility of internet or telecommunications services.

PVA also supports the Disabled Access Credit Expansion Act (HR 4045/S 2290), which was introduced by Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.). This legislation would also increase the tax incentives that help businesses with ADA compliance.

In addition, it would require the Department of Justice to report information to Congress about the types of requests it receives for assistance with ADA compliance and increase funding for its ADA mediation program.

During the 30th anniversary of the ADA, PVA will continue to work on improving ADA access. It's only through full compliance with the ADA that the dream of accessibility envisioned at its signing will finally become a reality.

Heather Ansley, Esq., MSW, is the associate executive director of Government Relations for PVA in Washington, D.C.

HEATHER ANSLEY, ESQ., MSW

Caption: The Americans with Disabilities Act's successes have improved the lives of millions of people.

Caption: Despite the Americans with Disabilities Act's requirements, too many public accommodations still lack needed access features.
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Title Annotation:on the hill
Author:Ansley, Heather
Publication:PN - Paraplegia News
Date:Jan 1, 2020
Words:843
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