In the past month, the American Bar Association’s Section of Litigation announced a “roundtable” on the Americans with Disabilities Act that would focus on so-called “drive-by ADA lawsuits.” The American Bar Association is one of the largest membership organizations for lawyers in the United States and claims to be committed to “defending liberty, pursuing justice.” A small all-volunteer group of disabled folks, including attorneys, law students, and others from outside the legal profession, very quickly recognized this program for what it is – an open attack on the few rights that disabled people have.
We are asking anyone who wants to practice allyship to Deaf and Disabled people to sign on to a letter we have crafted demanding that the American Bar Association yank this panel and replace it with a program done deliberately and consciously by/with disabled people.
TODAY is the last day to sign our letter before we send it. View it here.
Not too long ago, “60 Minutes” ran an episode on the same topic, driving up unnecessary fear over a very small problem. The entire concept of the “drive-by ADA lawsuit” and efforts by big businesses like the International Council of Shopping Centers paints disabled people and lawyers who advocate for disabled people’s rights as deceptive, manipulative, conniving, and opportunistic. This is extremely problematic.
The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed more than 25 years ago, which means that businesses claiming to be terrorized by the potential of a “drive-by ADA lawsuit” have been on notice of their accessibility requirements for over two decades. The ADA is not new or sneaky. In fact, it is often rarely enforced and still fails to cover many important parts of life, especially for the disabled people most marginalized or targeted in society.
While Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people who are Deaf or Disabled (including with mental health disabilities) are the most likely to end up incarcerated, Deaf and Disabled people in prison are often locked up in solitary confinement, denied basic or specialized medical care, denied access to toilets and showers they can use, and denied access to sign language interpreters even for mandatory programming. Even in states with protections for transgender healthcare, disabled transgender people routinely face denial of gender-affirming treatment because of anti-trans and ableist medical discrimination. People who are at the interactions of being disabled, transgender, and of color are at heightened risk of criminalization. In schools, Black and Brown kids who are Deaf and Disabled are extremely disproportionately likely to be suspended, expelled, arrested, and locked up in kid prisons – racist and ableist realities that the ADA could theoretically be used to fight against.
But instead of focusing on the million and one areas in which the ADA remains unenforced, let alone does not even cover, the American Bar Association decided that they would run a panel on disability law without involving disabled people, participate in a problematic agenda trying to undermine one of the few civil rights laws disabled people actually have, and at the last minute, try to add in a “disability rights perspective” when the whole concept was egregiously wrong from the beginning. We don’t expect much from the legal profession with its rampant ableism, but we can still demand better.
We’re asking you to sign and share our letter so the American Bar Association knows that this is intolerable.