Intent of the ADA Restoration Act
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
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).