Restoring the Americans with Disabilities Act

Posted on 4 August 2007. Filed under: ADA Restoration Act of 2007, Advocacy, Audism, Disability |


Remember when the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed?

If you’re young enough then you don’t remember. But us older folk do. Before the ADA, if I wanted to make a phone call to a hearing person, I had to depend on a completely volunteer-run TTY relay service. In Massachusetts, that meant phone calls at certain hours of the night were not an option, and we were–at least officially–limited to 10 minutes for personal calls, 20 minutes for business calls. And you had to keep dialing and redialing and redialing to get through to the relay service at all. Hearing people had enormous trouble grappling with that concept. Their idea of “keep trying” was to hang up and then wait half an hour or more before trying again, just as if they were trying to call a friend who might be busy talking to someone else — not a service with a limited number of personnell that only had a few very tight windows of opportunity to get through at all. Windows that could only be reached with constant, repeated, back to back re-dials. What this meant was that, if I wanted to talk with a hearing person–even someone who was willing to learn how to initiate their own relay calls–I was the one who had to place all the calls.

In California, service was 24/7 — but you could only make phone calls to people who were also in California. No phone calls to Big Sis in Boston or to Grandma and Grandpa in New York.

In the Washington DC area, it was back to limited hours. And you had to dialredialredialredialredialredialredialredialredialredialredial for a solid 20 to 30 minutes in a row to hit that one microscopic window of opportunity. I learned to re-dial numbers with my eyes closed.

Post ADA era: now I can make a TTY relay call from any state, to any state, 24/7, and have a reasonably good expectation of getting through on the first try. (Yes, for now I’m still using a TTY. And given that deaf-blind people can’t use video relay, I do plan to hang on to my TTY even if I do eventually get around to implementing video relay for myself.)

Pre-ADA: I had to choose a college based in part on whether they would adequately accommodate my needs as a Deaf student. Sure, I could have fought if there had been a particular college I was dying to go to that didn’t want to accommodate my needs. The Rehab Act of 1973 and Section 504 were around then, which did help some. But some colleges (I wish I could re-locate those letters) flatly told me, in black and white print, that they “could not” meet my needs as a Deaf student. Something a college wouldn’t dare put in writing today, post-ADA.

So, does the ADA help? Yes, immensely.

But not nearly enough.

Some of our remaining problems are due to issues the ADA was never written to cover. It was not written with enough flexibility, for example, to cover new technology such as the World Wide Web. That’s one of several reasons why so many on-line videos and audio pod-casts are simply not captioned, and maybe the most important one. It’s also why so many web pages are nearly impossible for blind people to navigate even when the right “fix” would cost nothing.

Some of our remaining problems are because of things that no law can legislate away. Have you ever had an employer seem to express interest in you, only to suddenly stop returning phone calls or answering emails as soon as you reveal you’re Deaf? (Or Autistic, or blind, or using a wheelchair?) Some of this might not be intent to discriminate per se. Some employers may simply assume, “They can’t do the job” and honestly don’t realize that there are often ways around the barriers they think they see. These kinds of assumptions need to be overcome with EDUCATION, not just legislation.

But some of our remaining problems are due to weak support for the ADA from the government and from the courts. Deaf people, and people with disabilities ourselves often lack the time and energy to lodge a complaint when the ADA gets violated–even if we know how and know we should. If we wrote up a letter to the Department of Justice with the appropriate documentation every time something happened, we would be spending our lives fighting for our rights instead of just living them. But even when we do complain, the DOJ doesn’t have enough budgeting and staff support to go after everyone who does something wrong. Which means only a few lodged complaints may bring about real results — not necessarily a payment to the wronged party, but at least a change for the better for the next Deaf (or disabled) person.

And the courts keep diluting the law with every decision they make. The ADA, for example, is supposed to cover both people who actually HAVE disabilities and ALSO people who are PERCEIVED as disabled. But the courts have essentially gutted the second part of that. So someone who is denied opportunities because they have epilepsy may be denied protection under the ADA because their epilepsy is well-controlled by medication. And this is just one example of many–perhaps you know of more (in which case, please share in the comments area below).

Well, Congress is trying to do something about these problems. They are working on a piece of legislation called the ADA Restoration Act. And they’re now collecting petition signatures on line. If you’re registered to vote in the United States, then PLEASE GO SIGN IT. And ask your friends and relatives to do the same — Deaf, hard of hearing, deaf, or hearing; Autistic or non-Autistic; disabled or non-disabled. And, please– BLOG about it.

When you sign the petition, you’ll see there is a comment area at the bottom where you can add your own comments. USE IT. Petition signatures by themselves mean very little. Congresspeople know how easy it is to sign a petition–they know that some of the people signing these things are just humoring their friends who asked them to sign it. But if you take a few minutes of your time to add your own thoughts, Congress will sit up and take notice.

I suggest writing a paragraph about an experience you have had with discrimination WHILE UNDER THE ADA. How has the ADA FAILED to protect your rights? Where possible, try to identify something that happened specifically because the courts have WEAKENED the ADA, or because the DOJ doesn’t have enough budget to take action even when it should.

Go sign the petition here:

And remember — BLOG about it.


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9 Responses to “Restoring the Americans with Disabilities Act”

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Thank you. I have just signed.

and I have, also. The notes section allows you to add comments on how ADA has affected or failed to help you…fill it in for yourself or a friend that you know about.

Hi, Andrea, I have been truly enlightened by your post, you’ve asked me to blog about it however my knowledge of the ADA is wholey inadequate, I’m going to simply direct people to this blog, I hope that’s ok. Dave

[…] Disability Act, called the “ADA Restoration Act”. (See my earlier post on that topic at for reasons why the ADA needs to be brought back to […]

[…] this–hearing aids. And I’ve explained in earlier blog posts some other reasons why the ADA Restoration Act matters and why YOUR words about it matter […]

[…] Restoring the Americans with Disabilities Act, here at ReunifyGally, August 4, 2007. On why I think the ADA Restoration Act of 2007 (HR 3195, S.1881) is important. […]

Someone beat me up real bad two half years ago on March the night I went in and serve people in the bar cookies then one of the mother of a girl lied so I found out which it lead a girl to beat me up. I went back in the house and tried to call 911. I was beat up on the front of eyes, cheek and swollen like golf behind my head so I found out there was just a phone there I was not thinking right went back to the bar the people went home. One of the woker that had cell phone she called cops and chef they came hours later and I asked them to provide me interpreter. They tried their best but said no so I was forced to write ten pages at the time I was in lots of pain. Should I file a complaint? Just need feed back please thanks!

This article is featured on the front page of The Issue ( today, in the Issue of the Day section. The Issue of the day features four perspectives on 1 issue. Today, it’s restoring the ADA! Check it out, and let me know if you have any questions

Stephen Puschel
The Issue

Hello, I am a deaf student currently studing in psycholgoy at catholic university of american in washington dc. For the past 3 to 4 years i been getting fustrated with the whole wording of the ADA and the actions that are taking place for the ada. Just recently, i think it was nov 13 just a few days ago, i read up on the meeting that the house had on the ADA act. What was shocking to me was the amount of government officers that were there. what to take a stab at how man? 2 yes 2 senators were there and 1 had to leave to go to another meeting. They had speakers mostly those with a disablity talk about the ADA act. what makes me upset is how can we revise and make the ADA act better if there is no one there that wants to put the effort in. Im tired of hearing and seeing government officers talk about how they would like to make the ADA act a better one. I believe that actions are stronger than words. I feel that somthing needs to be done. We the united states of american fail to live up to the expectations of our country. that is the land of the free for all people. I have so much i would love to tell and i have the burning desire to want to march up in capital hill and take a stand. I am a firm believer that the ADA was a great step forward but it fails in so many areas. It is important to take those failures and act on them positively rather than against you That means learn from our failures. As a furture avicate for people with disablity i am not scared and am not going to back down from anything. Hopefully we can get enought people to think this way, and before you know it you have millions of people standing together for one cause.

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