Stinziano Bill (HB 333) Would Harm Disability Community

January 21, 2014 / ADA

Members of the disability community will offer strong opposition testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on HB 333, a bill sponsored by Rep. Michael Stinziano (D-Columbus). The hearing is set for Wednesday, January 22 at 4 p.m. in Room 122 of the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus.

HB 333 would discourage and delay compliance with Ohio's laws banning discrimination against individuals with disabilities, particularly related to access to facilities and related services. The bill lets businesses, developers, realtors, landlords and government officials "off the hook" for not complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Rather than encouraging compliance, this bill allows businesses at least five months to deny those with disabilities their rights.

Fred Gittes, President of Protecting Ohio's Employees, said, "A blind tenant in an apartment complex with a no-pet policy may have to live without his or her service dog for at least five months if HB 333 becomes law. Or a deaf person, who needs sign language in an emergency room, may have to file a notice provision with the hospital and wait a minimum five months before getting the needed service." Gittes added, "This legislation is a step backwards for the members of our community with disabilities."

Michael Kirkman, Executive Director of Disability Rights Ohio, stated, "The definition of accessibility laws in HB 333 is so broad that it will, by definition, cover the ADA. However, state law cannot supersede federal law, so there will be confusion for businesses and the disability community about whether the notice provision is required." Kirkman added that even the Legislative Service Commission analysis states that if the bill applies to federal accessibility laws, it may be unconstitutional. The federal ADA does not require notice to anyone as a prerequisite to litigation.

Kay Grier, Executive Director, Ohio Statewide Independent Living Council, said, "Perhaps the most disturbing provision in HB 333 is the section that allows a retaliatory suit against an individual with a disability. The bill allows the owner, agent, or other responsible party of a property to sue an individual and their attorney for filing an accessibility action without providing the notice required by this bill. This is true even if the responsible party knowingly broke the law. It will have a chilling effect on the enforcement of civil rights laws in Ohio."

HB 333 is flawed and misguided legislation that will cause confusion in the business community and harm the disability community.

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