Letter to My Representatives on HR 620, the ADA Education and Reform Act

I am writing in opposition to HR620, the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017. HR620 further shifts the burden of compliance from businesses to disabled people. We disabled folks are expected to be civil rights lawyers laboriously advancing the public interest, whereas businesses and even public education are excused again and again for thoughtless non-compliance.

The ADA has been the law of the land for three decades, yet most businesses are still inaccessible. Even those that claim accessibility have done a half-assed job. They fail to meet the lowest bars of empathy and compassion. There is absolutely no excuse for this. None. Accessibility is not that hard. After 30 years, those still running inaccessible businesses do not deserve any more time or benefit of the doubt. Hold them accountable, and stop putting legal obstacles in the way of disabled folks trying to create a more inclusive society. We face enough obstacles at businesses and public spaces that have decided 20% of the population doesn’t matter.

My money and time are where my mouth is. Over the past twelve years, my company has grown from four to over six hundred people. We are committed to accessibility in our products and facilities. Thoughtful, accessible design benefits our employees and our customers. We should be designing for real life instead of excusing exclusion. Everyone doing business is responsible for doing so inclusively.

The social model of disability is essential knowledge for anyone providing goods and services to other people. This is basic business ethics. HR620 is ethical erosion in an environment of already poor business ethics. This is a bad signal to business owners. We’ve had decades to get our act together and have largely failed to do so.

The politics of resentment have turned the ADA into a means of vilifying marginalized people instead of promoting the accessibility that has brought us the biological pluralism of curb cuts, family bathrooms, and accessible public transportation. HR620 is more resentment. Oppose it. Instead, embrace the social model for both minds and bodies. It is good for business and society. An accessible society is more productive, resilient, joyful, and humane. The investments required of each business are trivial compared to the benefits.

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