On December 21, 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a rule change titled “Amendment of Title VI Regulations,” however, unlike typical rule changes, the notice contained no text showing the proposed changes.
Acting quickly, the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) secured a meeting with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) to obtain more information about the changes, and to share our concern that this was an attempt to eliminate disparate impact, a key civil rights tool that protects people with disabilities from systemic discrimination. NDRN, working in coalition with other civil rights groups, Hill offices, and the media also attempted to get a copy of the text, to no avail.
On January 5, 2021, NDRN received a leaked copy of the Title VI memo said to originate from DOJ. This internal memo contained the text, which not only proposed to eliminate the disparate impact theory under Title VI, but also the ability of funds recipients to use affirmative action to even the playing field after discrimination occurs. These huge changes would impact the ability to prevent and remedy systemic discrimination. The proposed change in Title VI also opens the door for possible alterations to the use of disparate impact theory in disability rights laws.
NDRN’s Executive Director Curt Decker: “Title VI is too important for changes to be made in secret, at the 11th hour, and without public notice and comment. That is why the law requires public input. Discrimination remains a part of daily life for many people with disabilities who are also people of color.”
Title VI’s prohibition on discrimination by a broad and diverse group of recipients, requires that every federal agency that disburses federal funds and every recipient of those funds should be consulted in the process of developing a Title VI rule at DOJ. Amendment to the Title VI regulations is a “significant regulatory action” and every effort should be made to ensure transparency in the process.
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The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and the Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for individuals with disabilities. Collectively, the P&A/CAP Network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.