Tuesday, February 20, 2018

HR 620: A Review for Library Staff

A couple months ago I wrote about accommodations in the wake of the announcement of HB 620, which was a proposed amendment to the ADA.

This bill, now HR 620, passed in the House and is on its way to the Senate.

There are definitely implications for libraries here.

Accessibility series logo (decorations) by Chris Frantz
at On a Roll Designs.
Here's what 620 says:
"The bill prohibits civil actions based on the failure to remove an architectural barrier to access into an existing public accommodation unless: (1) the aggrieved person has provided to the owners or operators a written notice specific enough to identify the barrier, and (2) the owners or operators fail to provide the person with a written description outlining improvements that will be made to improve the barrier or they fail to remove the barrier or make substantial progress after providing such a description. The aggrieved person's notice must specify: (1) the address of the property, (2) the specific ADA sections alleged to have been violated, (3) whether a request for assistance in removing an architectural barrier was made, and (4) whether the barrier was permanent or temporary."

Here's what I said about it at the time:
"Right now, the Americans with Disabilities Act puts the responsibility of ensuring accessibility on a building's owner, proactively. Meaning, if your building does not comply with ADA, whether or not anyone told you about it, or whether or not a disabled person had to compromise their humanity to tell you about it, your building is breaking the law. This bill would put the responsibility on disabled people to announce themselves in order to use a space effectively, in writing, not only the specific ADA non-compliance but also that they asked for assistance. One reason for this proposed change is that many, many buildings built before ADA passed in 1990 still do not comply, after 27 years, and their owners cannot be bothered to think about disabled people as actual people who need to use or work in their buildings.

FYI: There's a very good chance your library is one of those buildings."

HR 620 may indeed "help" your library, since you would have less of a legal "burden" to serve disabled people than you do under the current ADA as written.

I posit that this makes it more imperative, not less, to advocate for accessibility in your library.

Because disabled people are people regardless of whether there's a law that says you need to anticipate their existence like you do for abled people.

So here are some people speaking about HR 620 in a way that is so much more eloquent than I can:

Amanda Hackwith wrote this amazing thread about Logistics that made me think about how my partner and I (and especially me by myself, since it's so infrequent that he's not there with me on a new adventure to help me navigate) have to make considerations when visiting new spaces and having new experiences that others don't have to think about at all.

Kim Sauder, who is one of my favorite writers, just published this impassioned and wonderful article entitled "Why Everyone Thinks they Care About Disability Rights When they Really Don't". It is everything. Bookmark it.

Teen Vogue wrote about this last week, when no one cared except disabled people, and the not caring meant that the bill enjoyed plenty of bipartisan support.

Okay, and this isn't about HR 620 specifically, but back in November Stephanie Rosen wrote a wonderful piece called "Accessibility for Justice: Accessibility as a Tool for Promoting Justice in Librarianship" and it's probably required reading.

If you haven't even heard about HR 620, don't worry. I forgive you. But please, dedicate yourself to accessibility now because soon you may not be legally required to.

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