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'Shame': 12 Democrats Join With House GOP to Attack Americans With Disabilities Act

"I want us to remember there's a distinct set of people who made this happen. Lobbyists for shopping malls and hotels and their money. Plus, of course, the reps who wanted that money."

Disability rights advocates have opposed a U.S. House bill, passed Thursday, which would weaken the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Photo: Emily Ladau/Twitter)

In a "shameful" move that disability rights advocates say "further marginalizes one of the most excluded communities in society," a dozen Democrats joined with House Republicans on Thursday to pass a bill that would erode key protections for Americans with disabilities.

"Congress should be making it easier, not more difficult, for people with disabilities to lead independent lives."
—Vanita Gupta, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The legislation, which now advances to the Senate, would create a "notice and cure" requirement before any legal action could be taken against a business on the grounds that it has failed to comply with federal standards established by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) nearly three decades ago.

In other words, before filing a lawsuit, people with disabilities would have to notify a business in writing of an accessibility violation, then wait six months to see if it had made "substantial progress" toward becoming compliant.

The measure was fiercely opposed by disability rights advocates. The grassroots group ADAPT said at least 17 protesters were arrested in the House today. Many other opponents turned to Twitter to denounce the bill and shame the "lobbyists for shopping malls and hotels" who have pushed for it, as well as House lawmakers who voted in favor of it:

Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, warned that if passed by the Senate, this bill "would lead to the continued exclusion of people with disabilities from the mainstream of society," and concluded, "Congress should be making it easier, not more difficult, for people with disabilities to lead independent lives."

The bill was also denounced by members of Congress with disabilities. Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), the first quadriplegic to serve in the House, gave an impassioned speech in which he warned, "this ill-considered bill will not only decimate the protections that people with disabilities rely on, it would turn back the clock to a more segregated society."

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), a veteran who lost (pdf) both legs and partial use of an arm after her Black Hawk helicopter was shot down in Iraq, explained in a series of tweets how the legislation would impact people with disabilities.

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