ADA Protections in FY13 CJS: Remove Harmful Provision for Individuals with Disabilities In the FY13 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Bill

May 13, 2012


On May 10, the House passed the Fiscal Year 2013 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill (H.R. 5326).  Included in that bill is an amendment that strips the Department of Justice of its ability to enforce regulations regarding disability access to swimming pools, which was to take effect on May 21, 2012.  Several of us spoke against that amendment during debate on the House floor.  We urged opposition to this prohibition, which would set a dangerous precedent for civil rights enforcement and would mark the first time that Congress has weakened enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Congress passed the ADA in 1990 with overwhelming bipartisan support, and acted with the same shared commitment when it amended and strengthened the law through the ADA Amendments Act of 2008.  Congress should continue fighting for equal access, protection and opportunity for individuals with disabilities, including our injured servicemembers and veterans.  The effort to roll back civil rights standards based on a misunderstanding of the ADA and DOJ regulations flies in the face of those long-established goals.


Proponents of the amendment argued that the hotel industry had been caught by surprise by Justice Department guidance and that, because the regulation was set to take effect on May 21, 2012, Congress needed to act immediately. Earlier this week, the Department of Justice issued a final regulation, extending the deadline for compliance with its regulations regarding pool access until January 31, 2013, obviating the need for this overly broad and controversial amendment. The regulation gives businesses plenty of time to determine what steps they need to take to bring themselves into compliance and establish a plan for doing so.  As we pointed out during floor debate, the 2010 accessibility regulations do not place an undue burden on pool operators who can’t afford to make their facilities accessible. The regulation only requires actions that are “readily achievable,” in other words, actions that can be accomplished easily and inexpensively, which has been the standard for ADA compliance for over twenty years.  Neither the ADA nor DOJ’s 2010 accessibility regulations require a fixed lift for every pool, and owners who cannot afford to install lifts will not have to shut down their pools or face civil penalties. 


During floor debate, we urged all of you to help us ensure that this amendment would not be part of any final bill sent to the President for his signature.  The Justice Department has now removed the need for Congressional action and, as this bill moves toward final passage by both Chambers, we urge you to help us ensure that this amendment is not included in the final FY 2013 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill. If you have any questions, please contact Todd Adams (Langevin) at 5-2735, Amy Schultz (Hoyer) at 5-4131, or Heather Sawyer (House Judiciary Committee) at 5-6906.