February 13, 2018
John D. Kemp
February 15, 2018 – Update to original blog posted on February 13:
Earlier today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 225 – 192 to pass the distressing ADA Education and Reform Act (H.R. 620). Twelve Democrats, including our own Cong. Kathleen Rice, a co-sponsor, voted in favor of it. I, along with the entire disability community, am outraged at this attack on our civil rights.
The disability community again and again, nearly on a daily basis, has been embattled. This past year alone, we’ve had to: fight for access to public places which should have been ensured 28 years ago with the passing of the ADA; fight to save vital, life-sustaining Medicaid funding; fight for fair meaningful jobs; fight for accessible transportation. Excluded are the battles we take on individually for our own personal care, equipment maintenance, living choices and more.
For those of you who joined or supported our fight against H.R. 620 by reaching out to your Representatives, we thank you and hope we can count on you again when this fight moves to the Senate. The surest way to protect every American’s rights is to vote! As a person with a disability, I ask you to be mindful, whether you yourself have a disability, are a caregiver, or an able-bodied registered voter of where disability fits in all of our candidates’ agendas and platforms. Make the disability vote count this coming November!
As great disability community civil rights leader, Justin Dart, Jr. said, “Vote as if your life depends on it, because it does.” In today’s political environment, those words have never rang truer.
To our government officials, I say, “We’re not done yet!”
As many of you may know, the H.R. 620 bill, scheduled to be voted on this Thursday, February 15 by the U.S. House of Representatives, would seriously weaken the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by delaying requirements that businesses be accessible to people with disabilities.
The proposed legislation requires a person with a disability to provide inaccessible businesses, who have had nearly 28 years to comply with the ADA and its regulations, with a written notice of the barrier, after which the businesses have 60 additional days to acknowledge there is a problem, and then another 120 days to begin to fix it. No other civil rights group is forced to wait 180 days to enforce their 28 year-old, hard-earned civil rights!
The Viscardi Center contacted the Offices of Reps. Suozzi and Rice late last fall as soon as we learned of the bill asking for their support in voting against it. It is our understanding that Rep. Suozzi, who originally signed on to co-sponsor it, has withdrawn his sponsorship, but Rep. Rice remains a co-sponsor of the bill despite numerous conversations with her staff.
We have continued our efforts to educate Representatives on the negative impact this bill would have on all people with disabilities and to encourage them to vote against it. These efforts have included direct communications between me and our Members of Congress; discussions by Viscardi Board member, Peter Thomas, on the Hill; significant social media activity; partnering with other disability organizations opposing it; and sending emails to our donor supporters and Henry Viscardi School families asking them to contact their U.S. Representatives to oppose it.
Now, we are asking you to take action as well.
A vote is scheduled for Thursday. Please call or tweet your Representative and ask him/her to Vote “NO” on H.R. 620, the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017. You can find your Representative’s Twitter account by visiting tweetcongress.org/tweeters/NY. Let’s get #StopHR620 and #HandsOffMyADA trending.
We need to take urgent action today. Together we can defeat this threat to our disability civil rights.
John D. Kemp
President & CEO, The Viscardi Center
John is a renowned figure in the disability rights movement who has received international recognition for his leadership in both the corporate and nonprofit worlds. As a person with a disability who uses four prostheses, he hopes to inspire others to achieve the impossible.