Here’s why Voting Matters to Disabled People

Here’s why Voting Matters to Disabled People

Earlier this year The House passed a bill that would strip down the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), a bill that is widely considered one of the most expansive pieces of civil rights legislation in America.

Signed into law by President George H.W. Bush, it was modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The ADA was later amended to defend its original text and signed by President George W. Bush.

Within the ADA’s dense text is Title III, which establishes regulations for businesses and non-profits to comply with accessibilities for disabled people.

While no piece of legislation is perfect, the ADA’s Title III is certainly fair. But some don’t feel that way, most notably Rep. Ted Poe of Texas, the most vocal sponsor of the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 (HR 620).

Last year HR 620 passed the House in a 225 to 192 vote. The vast majority of Republicans, along with 12 Democrats, voted for the bill, which then moved to the Senate, where for months I dreaded it would make it to a floor vote and eventually be signed into law by President Trump. Thankfully that hasn’t happened … yet.

The main point of HR 620, as I see it, is to prevent frivolous lawsuits brought against businesses for not complying with regulations established by the ADA. But I don’t see how frivolous lawsuits actually exist in this case. Is there really such a thing as a frivolous lawsuit as it pertains to ensuring that disabled people can gain access to a facility, like say, a doctor’s office where they seek treatment for their condition?

HR 620 makes a meager concession to disabled people by developing “a program to educate state and local governments and property owners on strategies for promoting access to public accommodations for persons with a disability.” The only problem is that the ADA has already established this kind of program and yet lawsuits are still necessary to make business owners comply with the law.

The irony of HR 620 is that it aims at reforming a law which has been vigorously supported by two Republican presidents from Texas, yet Rep. Poe and other members of Congress from Texas, the nation’s second largest state, are the ones sponsoring HR 620. What’s more, while the bill aims at eliminating “frivolous” lawsuits, the entire state of Texas only had 267 ADA lawsuits in 2016.

According to HR 620’s official press release, “There is a now whole industry made up of people who prey on small business owners and file unnecessary abusive lawsuits that abuse both the ADA and the business owners.”

But as the American Civil Liberties Union points out, lawsuits seeking “money damages” are not allowed under Title III, except for some state laws, which would not be changed by HR 620 anyway. As it stands, all lawsuits brought against business owners and non-profits under the current ADA regulations are about compliance, not financial damages.

For the sponsors of HR 620 to claim that disabled people are “preying” on business owners is absurd and offensive. It would be impossible for a disabled person to profit from the lawsuits. Their attorneys may profit from the lawsuits, but disabled people are the ones at the heart of the matter. We shouldn’t be punished because some lawyers are capitalizing on the ADA. People with disabilities still need access to buildings and barriers to those buildings still need to be removed. We — disabled people — are the ones trying to buy groceries, but can’t because the buildings don’t meet regulations.

Under HR 620, when someone with a disability first identifies an architectural barrier they would have to serve the business owner with a written complaint in which they would have 60 days to provide a written outline of how the barrier will be removed. Then the owner has another 120 days to “make substantial progress” on those plans. So minimally that’s six months that the disabled person has to wait for the barrier to even be improved. The bill’s crafty language presents the possibility for the business owner to draw out the barrier’s removal for months depending on whether the progress is deemed substantial.

Now, for me, and I suspect most disabled people, six months is an unreasonable amount of time to wait for substantial progress of a barrier removal. And that time frame doesn’t include how long it would take if the progress wasn’t deemed “substantial.” At that point a lawsuit would finally be allowed and the issue would likely be tied up in court for many additional months, or even years. For a business owner (or a politician who supports the bill) six months may not matter, but when a disabled person’s health depends on seeing a doctor in a building that isn’t wheelchair accessible, that six months is critical.

If you read my blog then you know I am a disabled person. I suffer from a chronic illness called myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), a multi-system disease that studies have shown is both an inflammatory condition and a metabolic disorder. ME has left me unable to walk. While I’ve been sick for eight years now, I’ve only been officially disabled for the last three. Last year I bought my first wheelchair. When I’ve been well enough to use it I have discovered how unimaginably difficult it is to get around my house. And that’s just at home, I can’t imagine how much trouble I would have navigating in public. That is a whole other issue — there are more objects and people to bump into, but most difficult is trying to get in and out of buildings. Doors must be opened and closed, stairs must be detoured, objects must be avoided.

Filing a lawsuit against a business that makes it impossible for me to navigate would certainly not be my first course of action. For starters, it would almost guarantee that the problem would not be fixed in a timely manner. My goal is to be able to get around, not be tied up for months in court.

Luckily, the bill has stalled in the Senate, mostly thanks to the outspokenness of Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois. She is disabled and back in April quickly gathered a group of 42 of her Senate colleagues to sign a letter saying they all oppose HR 620 and would essentially filibuster any attempts to vote on it. She also wrote an Op-Ed for The Washington Post about her views on the bill. And it seems that her efforts have paid off, least for now — it appears HR 620 is dead and The ADA and rights of disabled people are safe.

But that the bill made it through The House is alarming. Those who support HR 620 grossly overestimate the desire of disabled people to bring lawsuits against businesses and non-profits. Disabled people, especially those like myself who suffer from a chronic illness, have limited energy and resources, filing a lawsuit is a last resort for us. But sometimes it’s the only option we have in order to get an accessibility barrier removed promptly. If HR 620 had been enacted, not only would it have jeopardized the health and quality of life of disabled people, it would have put us at a further disadvantage in defending our civil rights. But thanks to Sen. Duckworth and others, we can save our energy for other issues.

It’s a good reminder that voting the right people into office — the people who are going to look out for the issues that mean the most to you, the issues that directly impact your life — is crucial. I didn’t vote Sen. Duckworth into office because I don’t live in her state, but I did vote for two of the senators who signed her letter to the leadership opposing the bill. And that is the kind of representation that matters, at least to me.

With the midterm elections less than a month away, I want to encourage everyone to vote, regardless of your political affiliations. At the very least it’s the best way to ensure bills, like HR 620 or another bill that impacts your life, are handled properly.

BEFORE YOU GO…

1. Thanks for reading!

2. If you would like to donate to support this blog I would be equally grateful!

3. I am fundraising to pay my medical bills so if you’d like to help out by buying a shirt or hoodie I would LOVE to see you rocking some Show ME the Money apparel like these lovely friends…

Welcome to Facebook! Please Accept Our 137,000 Page Terms of Use Policy

Welcome to Facebook! Please Accept Our 137,000 Page Terms of Use Policy

This is a piece of satire I wrote and submitted to McSweeney’s. The editor rejected it. It didn’t seem like he even read it, but his loss is your gain, or maybe the piece really sucks and isn’t funny at all, in such case I’ll gladly give you a refund. Either way, thanks for reading!

Welcome to Facebook!

Our Terms of Use are for your online safety and protection only. They are definitely not intended to trick you into unknowingly giving us your personal data so we can sell it to a third party who may or may not then sell it to a menacing foreign government currently attempting to destroy our democracy.

Nope, The Terms aim to do none of that. But we do want you to stay connected to everyone. ALL. THE. TIME. Sorry, we didn’t mean to shout, but we can’t emphasize enough how important it is for all of us to Share and Like with each other. It’s how we keep the dopamine hits coming, if you know what we mean. And, if we’re being honest, it’s how we keep the lights on here at our humble 430,000 square-foot headquarters, which just so happens to feature the world’s largest open floor plan — you’re not the only one whose privacy we like to infringe upon. Besides we employees hate privacy, or at least that’s what we’re told to say in the employee handbook.

Lord Zuckerberg has given Facebook as a gift (not GIF, though maybe that too) to the world. Sure, he stole the idea from two ridiculously rich and even more ridiculously good looking twins when he was at Harvard, but The Zuck merely took the idea and made it his own. So what if he is now using Facebook to get all of you more addicted than a chain-smoker in the 60s?This is capitalism, baby!

Now, the point of you agreeing to our Terms of Use is not to trick you, by any means. The 137,000 pages of legalese below is not meant to be convoluted. You could read all 68 million words of The Terms, or have your attorney do it, but don’t waste your time. It’s just a formality, and besides, we update The Terms every three weeks, which coincidentally, happens to be exactly how long it would take you to read them. That means you would have to start over every three weeks, unless you are capable of staring at a screen nonstop for days on end like Lord Zuckerberg. Gosh, he sure is amazing. Such a great guy, isn’t he? He doesn’t tell us to say that. He definitely hasn’t been using his mind control to make us tell EVERYONE how awesome he is since he made himself look so evil in front of Congress. Oops. I meant he looked very genuine and compassionate in front of Congress. He didn’t look evil at all. Not one bit. And those pictures of him sitting on a booster seat? Those were photoshopped.

Ahem! Anyway. Just agree to The Terms, okay? For our sake? Please? We’re not exactly Zuckerberg’s slaves, but our lives are pretty miserable when he is unhappy. If enough users agree to The Terms, maybe Lord Zuckerberg will finally put the doors back on the bathroom stalls and stop broadcasting our personal phone calls over the company PA system. Oh, right, and if you agree to The Terms you can get back to connecting with EVERYONE. You can go back to sliding into the DMs of your crush from work and finally accept the Friend Request from your great-aunt Sally, whom you haven’t talked to in a decade, and honestly don’t want to, except, well, your mom won’t leave you alone about it. So just accept The Terms already. ACCEPT. ACCEPT. ACCEPT!

A few things before you go:

1. Thank you for reading this piece of satire.

2. I am fundraising to pay my medical bills so if you’d like to help out by buying a shirt or hoodie I would be very grateful!

3. If you would like to donate to support this blog I would be equally grateful!

My Domain

My Domain

For the most part, I have made an effort to keep politics off of this blog. I realize there are people who read my writing that voted for Trump, just as there are people who voted for Hillary Clinton. Hell, there’s probably even someone reading this who voted for pornstar, Mary Carey during California’s 2003 Gubernatorial recall election. I voted for none of those candidates. And while I may not have succeeded entirely at keeping this blog free of politics, I am an opinionated person, and I am human, so that’s okay with me. Now that the political landscape is shifting, I want to make a few things clear. The following is spurred mostly by interactions I’ve had on this blog as well as social media.

First, I want to make it clear that disrespect or hate of any kind will not be tolerated by me, even if the person does not deem it to be so. In other words, I will not hesitate to block, delete, or use any method available to combat trolls.

This blog is quite literally my domain, as is my Facebook profile and Twitter account, and all the other social media stuff. It’s silly to take it all so seriously. It is, after all, just a bunch of words on a screen made to look presentable by some otherworldly language that all comes together by thousands of miles of fiber optic cables underground. Okay, yeah, maybe it’s more serious than I thought.

But anyway, I feel this needs to be said in order to set some people straight. In the past, I have had people tell me what I should and should not write about, and more recently, I had someone tell me, during a heated Facebook argument, that I “lack comprehensive reading skills.” The first person was marked as spam, because anyone who tells me what not to write is just that — spam. And the second person, although he was once someone I called a friend, I blocked and deleted on Facebook. It is a bummer that it came to that, but here’s the truth for you: It doesn’t matter how close our relationship is, if you insult me — question my intelligence — I will absolutely cut you off. I have a debilitating disease that makes it incredibly hard to string together coherent sentences (let alone read the garbage this guy was saying). He has no idea. This post — these words I’m writing — is a damn miracle. I couldn’t do this a year ago. And by the way, I’ve had essays published in major publications like Men’s Journal and Quartz, so despite my disability, I think my reading comprehension is just fine. But for him to insult me in such a way is, as far as I’m concerned, on the same level as Donald Trump making fun of a handicapped reporter, which whether you believe he did or did not do on purpose is irrelevant — insulting someone is insulting someone regardless of how you justify it.

For the guy who recently insulted me, I had not heard from him in years — not when I first got sick, not when I was near death — not even a text or email. Yet he did not hesitate to lash out at me on a post which featured an exact quote from Donald Trump — one that was insulting, degrading, and disgustingly lewd. So that person is gone, thankfully. But my greater point is, and I recommend other people who value peace of mind consider it, anyone who does not bring something positive to my life, including my life online, is best dismissed. I cherish different views, and I encourage people to express their opinions with me, but they better be respectful is all I’m saying. 

Let me leave this post with an image. Think of online interactions as visiting someone at his or her home. If I comment on your post, I’m stopping for a cup of tea; if you say something on my post, you are coming over for dinner. Now, I can’t remember a time when I was a guest at someone’s house and I suddenly and belligerently started shouting insults. Well, there were a few drunken times during college, but hey, that was college. Anyway. Let’s keep it classy — stay respectful and all will be well (I hope).

*On a lighter note, we’ve sold 85 “Show M.E. the Money” shirts, which means roughly $400 will be donated to the Blue Ribbon Foundation, with an equal amount used to pay my medical bills. Yay! Now, there’s only TWO DAYS left to buy them and I REALLY want to get to 100. Let’s make it happen!