On September 7th 2017, the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee addressed this topic and voted to issue a report to the full chamber recommending that H.R. 620, also known as the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017, be considered further. Without getting into the minutiae of Congressional procedure, the next major step for this bill is a vote on the House floor.
So what does it mean if this bill becomes law? In a general sense, this bill will give businesses an opportunity to remedy barriers that are not ADA compliant before litigation begins, while also putting checks in place to discourage "ADA testers" and their attorneys from becoming serial litigants filing frivolous lawsuits. In the bill's current form there are 2 major changes:
1) The creation of a "Notice and Cure Period." Civil action based on the failure to remove an architectural barrier cannot commence until the following conditions are met:
the person alleging a violation has provided the owner a written notice identifying the barrier, the address of the location, the specific sections of the ADA alleged to have been violated, whether a request for assistance in removing the barrier was made, and whether the barrier was a permanent or temporary barrier.
the owner fails to provide to that person a written description outlining improvements that will be made to remove the barrier within 60 days.
the owner provides the written description but fails to remove the barrier or to make substantial progress in removing the barrier within 120 days of the written description being provided.
2) Development of a model program for mediation. The bill promotes the use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, including a stay of discovery during mediation, to resolve claims of architectural barriers. The goal of the model program shall be to promote access quickly and efficiently without the need for costly litigation. The model program should include an expedited method for determining the relevant facts related to such barriers and steps taken before the commencement of litigation to resolve any issues related to access. Supporters of the bill, such as the ICSC, say that the pause in litigation will allow businesses the opportunity to remove barriers to access without having to take on additional costs in legal fees. They also say that the changes will put an end to "drive-by lawsuits" targeting local businesses. Opponents of the bill, such as the ACLU, claim that the new changes place too much of a burden on disabled people and give businesses too much protection when they are non-compliant. They also state that the "ADA testers" should be dealt with by using existing mechanisms in the courts and state bar associations instead of changing the ADA.