Representative Bobby Rush (D-IL) was the target of a large-scale ADAPT protest. The Disability rights group, who has been in the news a number of times this year fighting to keep Medicaid from being slashed, has set their sights on Chicago. Rush, a longtime Democrat and ex-Black Panther, is being targeted for supporting the ADA Education and Reform Act (H.R. 620). The Republican-backed measure seeks to give businesses a six-month grace period to address ADA violations on top of the 27 years they have had.

Why ADAPT opposes H.R. 620

Backers of H.R. 620 say that there's an epidemic of so-called drive-by lawsuits, where disabled people (or more often attorneys claiming to represent disabled people) shake down small businesses for large amounts of money for what they say are minor violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Critics, including those in ADAPT, say that changing the law is unnecessary. In most states, plaintiffs can't win money for winning an ADA lawsuit. In the few that do allow for punitive damages, states have cracked down on attorneys filing frivolous lawsuits. In their view, that makes the proposed law pointless.

Critics further point out that by giving businesses 180 days before any sort of action can be taken, it removes the motivation to abide the ADA. On their Twitter, ADAPT points out that enforcing the ADA is hard enough as it is. Unlike other civil rights laws, the ADA requires that the person whose civil rights were violated file the suit, rather than the government take an active role. This has led to businesses being out of compliance for years and choosing to hope an ADA lawsuit never comes.

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If filing ADA lawsuits becomes harder, critics say that there will be no motivation to comply with the ADA.

Protest results in people from ADAPT being arrested

ADAPT protests typically result in arrests and this one has resulted in police presence. According to the ADAPT Twitter feed, the Chicago Police Department discussed getting handicapped accessible vans to conduct arrests. The organization and supporters proceeded to point out the irony on Twitter, noting that the accessible police vehicles are themselves the result of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Initially, the staffers would not allow the group into the office but eventually, some got in. ADAPT said that they got increasingly bizarre answers from the staffers. First, when ADAPT asked why Rep. Rush was supporting H.R. 620 in the first place, the staffer said that though he respected disability rights, he wanted to give small businesses more time to comply with the law that has been on the books since 1990. Staffers also said that that he did not know how to withdraw sponsorship of the bill.

Arrests were eventually made, with people being put in the vans. Rep. Rush still has not indicated whether he would drop his support of H.R 620. ADAPT continues to point out that the ADA has been the law for nearly three decades and their Twitter indicates that they will continue to fight for it.