Posing Policies, Posturing Politics

The House of Representatives has passed an amendment to the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the ADA. This amendment, H.R. 620, protects businesses from being sued by people with disabilities for not complying with the ADA; specifically, businesses are allowed 60 days to construct a plan for dealing with any legal complaints and another 120 days to actually accommodate disabled people — only after this allotted time could any legal action be taken against the businesses.  Much debate has ensued over whether this amendment will pass in the Senate, given the immense backlash by the disabled community. Indeed, this amendment would allow businesses to forgo accommodations for the disabled until brought to legal attention, thereby putting the impetus on disabled people and not on the businesses; by extension, the disabled are further obligated to sue businesses, and are legally obstructed from suing successfully by allotting businesses ample time to construct accommodations they should have already had. As such, the backlash against this bill is very much grounded in material and legal issues afflicted against the disabled community, whereas businesses are effectively allowed to discriminate against disabled people.

Proponents of the amendment have various claims as to why the amendment is so necessary. They largely believe that the amendment will protect businesses from immediate and apparently unwarranted legal action; indeed, such proponents look towards the ADA as a factor for the prevalence of lawsuits in the United States, as if the issue is that lawsuits to accommodate disabled people are simply too excessive and not that accommodations are too few.  If businesses were so keen on avoiding lawsuits from disabled people, then complying with the ADA would be the best course of action — for both disabled people and businesses — instead of waiting an arbitrary amount of time to construct accomodations after disabled people have already been discriminated against.

But what about small businesses? What if they lack the capital to construct such legally mandated accommodations? Even then, the amendment wouldn’t subsidize small businesses to construct accomodations, nor would the arbitrary amount of time allotted to plan and construct accomodations in lieu of a lawsuit necessarily give small businesses the capital they’d need either. As such, the amendment doesn’t even necessarily provide for businesses as much as it directly facilitates discrimination against disabled people in businesses while also arbitrarily protecting such discriminatory businesses from legal action. Overall, then, the benefits accorded to businesses are marginal, whereas the conditions that disabled people endure continue to worsen.

The Trump administration and dominant Republican party have attempted to pass various articles of legislation over the past few months, most notably those pertaining to healthcare and immigration reform. Given the nature of such legislation — H.R. 620 most definitely among them — many have held out hope that the Democrats will function as an opposition party to offset the Republican majority in Congress. Given the amount of Democrats that voted in favor of the amendment — and, more importantly, given the amount of Democrats that willfully acquiesced to hardline Republicans about DACA, healthcare, etc. — the Democrats have demonstrably shown themselves to prioritize the professionalism of concessions over the politics of people. Indeed, the Democrats have consistently shown themselves to align themselves with Republican ideology more often than not, as is further evident by the remarkably few Democrats who support the (widely and wildly popular) concept of Medicare for all. Overall, there is a clear duopoly on political power that is thinly split between liberal (lower-case “d”) democrats and Christian conservatives; in the grand spectrum of political thought that is actively engaged by virtually all other industrialized nations, this is a very small slice of political ideology that renders the notion of “polarization” in the United States somewhat laughable.  In this sense, it is not so much each discrete piece of legislation that is significant to protecting historically and presently marginalized groups: the whole of American political structures — specifically, the duopoly on political power and obstruction of other, more representative ideologies — must change drastically to ensure an actualized democracy and a represented populus.


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