Intent of the ADA Restoration Act

Posted on 24 August 2007. Filed under: ADA Restoration Act of 2007, Advocacy |

What is Congress hoping to accomplish by introducing the ADA Restoration Act of 2007 (HR 3195, S 1881)? What have the courts done to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 that has made the ADA Restoration Act of 2007 necessary?

You can read the answer in the words of one of the people who introduced the ADA Restoration Act. Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner delivered a speech (PDF format, 560 KB) on March 26 explaining the rationale for the ADA Restoration Act a few months prior to officially introducing it.

The first few pages extol the ways in which the Americans with Disabilities Act has succeeded in improving the lives of Americans with disabilities. But then he goes on to attack the courts for failing to understand that the ADA was meant as civil rights legislation, among the lines of the Civil Rights Act of 1964–not another benefits law such as social security. In court case after court case (a few of which are briefly summarized in Sensenbrenner’s speech), Sensenbrenner says, “The courts have created a situation in which disabled Americans can be discriminated against by their employers because of their impairments but these citizens are not considered disabled enough by our federal courts to invoke the protections of the ADA.” He continues on to say, “This is unacceptable. No other civil rights law […] requires a victim of discrimination to first prove that she or he is worthy of the law’s protections before proving a discrimination case. Nor should the ADA require such proof. The ADA is a civil rights law and should be interpreted as such.”

Think of what it would be like if you were discriminated against in a way that was so terrible and so unfair and so destructive to your life that you came to the reluctant decision that you had to fight this discrimination in the court. Despite the horrendous commitment in time and money this battle would require of you, you knew you had no choice but to try. But instead of listening to your side of the story, the courts simply told you, “But–you not disabled enough to be protected under the ADA. If you simply wear a hearing aid or use the video relay service then you’re able to carry on all your life functions just fine. Therefore, you cannot be protected from discrimination when an employer says, ‘We don’t want to hire deaf people.'”

No wonder more than 90 percent of people who take an ADA case to the court fail to win–not because they can’t prove discrimination but because they can’t prove that they are disabled by the extremely narrow definitions the courts have imposed!

This is not what the original Americans with Disabilities Act was intended to accomplish. And this is why we need the ADA Restoration Act — to make it clear to the courts once and for all that they need to treat the ADA as any other piece of civil rights legislation: i.e., where the burden of proof is placed on the ones accused of commiting discrimination, not on the victim.

This PDF file of Sensenbrenner’s speech is 560 KB. It took only seconds to download on my high speed connection, though it would take a bit longer if you have a slow modem dial up

http://www.nyls.edu/pdfs/SensenbrennerSpeech.pdf

Want to read more information about the ADA Restoration Act of 2007? Click on the category for “ADA Restoration Act of 2007” (either at the bottom of this article or in the list of “categories” in the left hand column on this page) to see some of my other recent posts on this topic.

Don’t forget to sign the petition (and use the comment area to say why IN YOUR OWN WORDS) or to write your congressional representative and senators to ask them to support the ADA Restoration Act (that’s HR 3195 to your congressional representative, S 1881 to your senator).

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5 Responses to “Intent of the ADA Restoration Act”

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We ought to be real skittish about the ADA Restoration Act of 2007.

My former employer, Honorable Kit Bond of Missouri, U.S. Senator and I voted against the ADA legislation due to vague interpretations how to enforce the law. Lack of teeth to enforce the law for disabled people.

Several pols tried to amend to the ADA law to weaken the law itself because of costly burden to the society at large, especially employers and public facilities. Too many people runaround with the ADA law to avoid any committment or provide service which richly deserve.

The ADA law is a gold mine for lawyers, not really benefit deaf people as originally thought.

Robert L. Mason (RLM)

Richard Roehm is under the impression that the original ADA was de-fanged by the American Association of People with Disabilities, here’s what he says in a post to my blog:

I’d be very wary of laws written by AAPD. They tricked us into pulling a lot of teeth out of ADA in the past and they want us to back up a possibly mis-named law that’ll pull even the last of the teeth out of ADA.

I’d read the bill real carefully and read between the lines of the bill real carefully too.

MANY DEAF PEOPLE COMPLAINED THAT DOJ OF CIVIL RIGHT DIVISION ALWAYS CLOSED MANY DEAF ADA COMPLAINT CASES WITHOUT THEIR ADA INVESTIGATIONS. THE DOJ OF THE CIVIL RIGHT DIVISION ALWAYS THROW AWAY MANY DEAF ADA CASES AND CLOSED THEIR CASES FASTLY. NO BODY CARE TO REVIEW THEIR ADA COMPLAINT RIGHTS. WHO WILL CARE TO REVIEW ALL OF DEAF ADA CASES INSTEAD OF CLOSING THEIR ADA CASES RIGHT NOW?

William Matton:

The problem is, the DOJ just doesn’t have the budget that they *ought* to have to go after all the cases of ADA violations that are sent to them in a thorough, systematic way. They are only able to really pursue seriously a very few of the more glaringly obvious, serious, easy-to-prove ADA violations. And not even all of those. It’s not just with “deaf” cases that this happens to. It’s ALL ADA cases. Deaf people aren’t being targeted. EVERYONE encounters pretty much the same set of problems with DOJ. And it’s not really DOJ’s fault. The fault lies with Congress and others responsible for FUNDING the DOJ so that they can have enough BUDGET and STAFF to go after, if not all ADA cases, then at least all the more glaringly obvious and serious cases.

This is a separate problem from the specific problem that the ADA Restoration Act is meant to address. The ADA Restoration Act, at least to my understanding as it is written now, does not address budgeting for DOJ. What it does is to try to reverse 17 years of court decisions that have served to strip the original Americans with Disabilities Act of its original intent and purpose — to protect all people with disabilities regardless of whether their disabilities can be easily and adequately accommodated, and also to protect people who might not actually be disabled but who receive discrimination because they are PERCEIVED as disabled.

DOJ budgeting is a separate issue that I think will need to be addressed separately from the ADA Restoration Act. But it is an issue that is probably about as important (if not more so) than the ADA Restoration Act. A DOJ without teeth cannot adequately enforce the ADA, with or without the ADA Restoration Act. And not just for deaf people, but for ALL people affected by the ADA.

thanks for the GREAT post! Very useful…


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