As amended, HB 333 makes changes to state disability accessibility laws. The bill allows for those who believe that a property owner or other responsible party is in violation of an accessibility law to voluntarily serve a notice of intent to sue. The respondent would be permitted to rectify the violation within 60 days, unless the respondent can provide a reasonable explanation of why they need another 60 days to fix the violation.
If a person with a disability opts out of the voluntary notice of intent to sue and files a lawsuit, even if the person prevails at trial, they will not be able to recover attorney’s fees unless the judge determines that the violation was of a certain “scale”. The scale is not defined in the bill.
LCS Legislation Status
Our Take on This Bill
As introduced, HB 333 radically undercut state accessibly laws and attempted to do the same to federal laws as well. However, as a result of vocal opposition from the ACLU of Ohio, our coalition partners, and disability rights advocates from across the state, H.B. 333 has been improved. The amended bill makes several modifications including changing the notification process to voluntary from required and removing any references to federal accessibility laws (ADA) - making it clear that federal laws cannot be altered by state laws.
Though these changes have been made, this bill still introduces the possibility of increased barriers for Ohioans with disabilities. There is a risk that a person who doesn’t elect to provide voluntary notification of intent to sue might not be able to recover attorney’s fees unless a judge rules otherwise. The bill also maintains a waiting period for a property owner to fix the violation. While the amended version has shortened this period, any amount of time a person with a disability is expected to wait means they must continue to endure a barrier even longer for a violation that should have never happened.
For these reasons, the ACLU of Ohio maintains opposition to H.B. 333.
Testimony on 1/22/14.
Passed out of the House Judiciary Committee on 5/22/14.