July 27, 2021

After ADA’s 31st Birthday, Duckworth Re-Introduces Bill to Strengthen the Landmark Civil Rights Law & Help More Small Businesses Become Accessible


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) re-introduced legislation today to make it easier for small businesses to comply with the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and become accessible for people with disabilities. Duckworth’s Disabled Access Credit Expansion Act of 2021 bolsters the existing Disabled Access Credit (DAC), which helps businesses pay for renovations by doubling the maximum tax credit and allowing more small businesses to receive it. Her legislation also invests in programs that mediate ADA-related disputes to avoid additional litigation and help individuals and businesses understand the ADA.

“I’m proud to work with my colleagues on this important legislation to strengthen the ADA and give Americans with disabilities increased opportunity to fully participate in our society,” Duckworth said. “This bill will help more businesses across the country comply with a nearly 30-year-old law that protects the rights of people with disabilities, who have spending power yet are still all too frequently denied access to public spaces.”

She was joined in re-introducing this legislation by Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH). U.S. Representative Donald McEachin (D-VA-04) also introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“No one, including the 61 million Americans living with disabilities, should be denied access to a public space because of who they are,” said Rep. McEachin. “Our legislation allocates important federal resources to assist small businesses in providing reasonable accommodations while minimizing the risk for increased threats of litigation. I am proud to introduce the bicameral Disabled Access Credit Expansion Act to take meaningful steps to bolster the Americans with Disabilities Act, provide resources to help our nation’s small businesses become ADA-compliant, and honor our commitment to fairness and equality for all.”

“Even today, more than 30 years after the ADA was signed into law, people with disabilities are limited from accessing public spaces. Our work to address this issue is not done,” Hirono said. “I join Senator Duckworth to reintroduce this bill because small businesses should have the resources to expand their accessibility for all customers.”

“This bill enables small businesses to better serve people with disabilities by helping with credit they need to make renovations,” Blumenthal said. “Investing in accessibility prevents discrimination and opens opportunities. This measure bolsters resources to build more inclusive places to work and shop.”

“Increasing the accessibility of small businesses for people with disabilities fosters inclusion and broader community engagement," said Klobuchar. "This bill will allow small businesses to access the resources they need to help more people fully participate in our economy.”

“Three decades after the passage of the ADA, we must ensure that both large corporations and small businesses comply with ADA regulations,” Padilla said. “This effort to strengthen protections for people with disabilities is long overdue and will empower small business owners to prioritize accessibility adaptations. By funding ADA-compliant renovations, this critical piece of legislation ensures that we are making good on our promise of a more equitable and accessible country for all Americans.”

The Disabled Access Credit Expansion Act of 2021 would:

  • Increase the ceiling on eligible expenses for the tax credit from 50 percent of $10,250 to 50 percent of $20,500 and expand eligibility for to include small businesses with gross receipts of $2.5 million or less. It would index the ceiling to inflation;
  • Codify the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) ADA Mediation Program, which is meant to help individuals with disabilities and businesses reach a resolution without increased litigation. It would authorize $1 million for Fiscal Year 2022 to support these efforts and require biannual reports to Congress on the program’s effectiveness; and
  • Require DOJ to provide a report to Congress regarding the calls the ADA Information Line receives. These data would be collected in order to make improvements to better assist individuals with disabilities regarding their rights under the law.

Since she was first elected to Congress, Duckworth has been a fierce advocate for disability rights. In 2018, Duckworth led efforts to protect the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), gathering enough support from her colleagues to block a bill that would have gutted enforcement of the ADA and rewarded businesses that have failed to make their facilities accessible to people with disabilities. Duckworth also passed legislation to require airlines to disclose the number of lost bags and broken wheelchairs to ensure travelers are treated with dignity.

Duckworth recently introduced legislation with U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Bob Casey (D-PA) to help make public transportation systems more accessible to passengers with disabilities. Duckworth also introduced a resolution with U.S. Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) calling for accessibility improvements at the FDR Memorial and joined U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) in introducing legislation to support the direct care workforce and family caregivers.

The Disabled Access Credit Expansion Act of 2021 has been endorsed by Access Living; American Association of People with Disabilities; American Foundation for the Blind; American Network of Community Options and Resources; The Arc; Association for University Centers on Disabilities; Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law; Center for American Progress; Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund; Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities; National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities; National Council on Independent Living; National Disabilities Rights Network; National Federation of the Blind; Paralyzed Veterans of America; and United Spinal.