NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Proposed Changes To The Americans With Disabilities Act

December 7, 2000

Proposed changes to the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act promise to enhance it -- or threaten to defang it, depending on whom you ask, says an article in the American Bar Association's ABA Journal.

  • The proposed ADA Notification Act would require people to notify a business of alleged ADA violations 90 days before filing a lawsuit to force compliance and recover court costs and damages, which is allowed under the current law.
  • What isn't clear is whether remedial measures would have to be complete, substantially complete, or merely begun within 90 days.
  • Lawyers who filed suit prematurely would be sanctioned, and plaintiffs who violate the 90-day notice requirement would not be able to collect attorney fees, even if they win the case.

"This bill would allow small business owners to be made aware that they might be out of compliance before they have to hire an attorney and be forced to settle," Scott Vinson, policy analyst for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told the Journal.

John Kemp, vice president of the disability resource website, says the 90-day notice period is unnecessary because the ADA's requirements have been clear since the law was passed 10 years ago.

But Vinson says ADA regulations are filled with technical requirements that many small-business owners should not be expected to decipher and implement -- such as exact heights of restroom grab bars and inclines on wheelchair ramps.

An upcoming ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on whether the ADA applies to state governments may also have wide-ranging impact on the law. Alabama argues that the 11th Amendment protects states from being sued in federal court for violating the ADA.

Source: Margaret Graham Tebo, "Which Way for the ADA?" ABA Journal, December 2000.


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