Hoyer Floor Statement on GOP Provision to Undermine Access for People with Disabilities

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"Over two decades ago the first President Bush signed into law the bipartisan and historic Americans with Disabilities Act. I was proud to sponsor that legislation and have worked over the last 20 years to make sure that it was effective and strengthened.

“Contained in the bill before us is an unprecedented measure that would significantly erode the Justice Department's authority to protect access for those with disabilities to swimming pools. Now, one might say, access to swimming pools?  But I want my colleagues to think about if you have a mobility impairment, if you have some neurological impairment, that swimming is one of the most effective activities in which you can participate to get your motor skills back in an environment that will not allow you to sink. Therefore you have an environment in which you can exercise your muscles. So many of you have seen that and know that to be the case. This is an incredibly important accessible facility for those with disabilities. And in any event, those with disabilities ought to have access, certainly, to public facilities, and we can make it so.

“Now, I’m not going to offer an amendment to strike this language. But I hope, Mr. Chairman, and Mr. Ranking member, that this will be struck. I hope that we will listen to the tens of letters that I’ve gotten and you've gotten, and I want to ask unanimous consent to include in the record at this time.

“For many Americans with disabilities, swimming pools are an important source of physical activity and emotional comfort. The provisions in question would roll back the Justice Department's 2010 accessibility regulations, undermining standards for new pool construction and for upgrading of existing facilities. This would constitute a serious setback to Americans with disabilities, including many of our veterans, and I want you to think about this – many of our veterans, wounded while serving our nations overseas. And as all of you know, many of these injuries they've received are to their limbs. Again, in a swimming pool, supported by water, facilitates their exercise program. This would constitute, as I said, a serious setback.

“The 2010 accessibility regulations this provision would eliminate do not place an undue burden on pool operators who cannot afford to make their facilities accessible. Some of will you remember Steve Bartlett, Member of this Congress, Mayor of Dallas, still in town, a wonderful friend of mine, a conservative Republican from Texas. He and I spent literally hundreds of hours working on this legislation together. And one of the things we did was to make sure that businesses would know that what they were asked to do was affordable and that they could do it with relative ease. Realizing full well that one can't expect a small business in particular to incur a large expense, notwithstanding the objective is a worthy one. So we had a practical approach to this. And we had language that said, it had to be readily achievable and affordable for the enterprise. Certainly we can continue to do that for these facilities which are so important to so many people with disabilities.

“I hope, Mr. Chairman, and my good friend, Mr. Wolf – I want to say, Mr. Wolf is one of the most conscientious Members of this House and one of the most courageous Members of this House, and he and I have had the opportunity to work together for over three decades on legislation. I hope, Mr. Chairman, that the House and Senate conferees will look carefully at the damage this provision will cause in the lives of so many Americans with disabilities and strike it from the final version.

“I commend my colleagues who have come here to draw attention to it and I thank them for continuing to stand up for those with disabilities, including veterans and their right to equal access and opportunity. When George Bush signed in July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act, he said it was the most significant civil rights act in over a quarter of a century, since the 1960's. He said it ensured that all individuals would have access to full enjoyment of facilities in this country of opportunity and of freedom. This amendment may be well intended, but its effect would be very detrimental. I urge the Chairman and the Ranking Member – and I will certainly be working with my Senate colleagues as well – to make sure this language is not in the final bill, because this would be detrimental. And as I remind you once again, so many veterans are coming back in need of this kind of access.”