Calling All Lawyers: Defending Against the US Chamber of Commerce

Posted on 27 August 2007. Filed under: ADA Restoration Act of 2007, Advocacy, US Chamber of Commerce |

You don’t have to be a lawyer to blog about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Restoration Act of 2007 (HR 3195, S 1881). All you really need is a modicum of passion about justice and equality for Deaf people and people with disabilities, a modicum of understanding of how the courts have torn apart a hefty portion of the promise of the original Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and a modicum of understanding of how the ADA Restoration Act of 2007 is meant to rescue it. Oh, and you need a blog to blog with.

But there are times when a lawyer’s insight into the law simply cannot be replaced. Or, failing that, at least someone who has made a serious and intensive study of the ADA as it was originally written, what Congress originally intended for it to do, and what has happened to it in the courts since. If you fit into either of these categories, then I hope you’re paying attention–even if you don’t (yet) have a blog of your own. (I’m willing to host your essay if you don’t have a place to post it yourself.) KEEP READING.

It seems the US Chamber of Commerce has now launched an attack on the ADA Restoration Act. This is not trivial. The US Chamber of Commerce, as they explain in their letter, represents more than three million businesses of every size and in every sector. In other words, more than three million potential employers.

<a href=”http://adarestoration.blogspot.com/”The ADA Restoration Act of 2007 blog, perhaps not surprisingly, was the first to bring attention to this new and major source of opposition. Do go read their original post on this issue at http://adarestoration.blogspot.com/2007/08/take-action-chamber-of-commerce-opposes.html. They have been urging people to take action by writing letters to complain directly to the US Chamber of Commerce, with further instructions there.

The US Chamber of Commerce, for their part, claims that it “strongly supports equal opportunity in employment.” Yet, it attacks the ADA Restoration Act, which is meant to return to disabled Americans the equal opportunity in employment that the original ADA should have given them–but didn’t. It claims that the Restoration Act represents a “whole-sale rewriting” of the definition of disability. (It doesn’t. It CLARIFIES the definition that the courts were originally meant to understand when the ADA was first passed 17 years ago.)

The letter from the US Chamber of Commerce makes a long series of claims against the ADA Restoration Act. And I’m sure that the above misunderstanding is not the only one. But unfortunately, my mere “modicum of understanding” does not stretch far enough to be able to pick apart their letter and counter it point by point. And I think this letter cries out to be countered point by point, by someone (hello, lawyers or avid law-readers out there?) who knows how.

Firstly, a good, insightful, but ACCESSIBLE analysis could help enhance everyone’s understanding of what the original ADA and the ADA Restoration Act are really meant to do. Two, a good, thoughtful, accurate, and well-informed analysis of the US Chamber of Commerce letter could give advocates more ammunition to use in defending the ADA Restoration Act against its would-be detractors. And, no, I’m not just talking about people who are thinking of writing a letter to the US Chamber of Commerce itself. I’m also talking about people whose congressional representatives or senators have not yet become cosponsors of HR 3195 or S 1881 — and do not plan to because they, too, oppose the ADA Restoration Act, perhaps for some of the same reasons given by the US Chamber of Commerce. And I’m also talking about people whose friends, neighbors, fellow church or temple members, or coworkers try to use the same arguments against the ADA. How can they argue back effectively without a better understanding of exactly where these arguments fall apart?

That’s where YOU could come in. If you’re a lawyer–or just someone who has taken a bunch of classes in disability policy and really understands the ADA well–please step forward. If you have a blog of your own, please BLOG ABOUT THE ADA RESTORATION ACT. Including a blog post picking apart the US Chamber of Commerce letter. If you haven’t a blog, then send your essay to me at ashettle (at) patriot.net and, if I think it’s good, I’ll post it for you right here.

For the rest of you (who are not lawyers) — please DO still blog about the ADA Restoration Act, too, to the best of your ability. I meant what I said in the first paragraph. If you have a blog, then please go back and re-read it. And if you do write a fresh blog post about the ADA Restoration Act, then please come back here and leave a comment so I’ll know about it. Thank you.

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8 Responses to “Calling All Lawyers: Defending Against the US Chamber of Commerce”

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[…] Act. (If you haven’t already learned about it, go there and read about it. Or read my own appeal for someone to write a blog post picking apart their letter point by […]

As a long time civil rights attorney who has practiced disability law since 1977 under Section 504 and before the ADA and since 1990 using the ADA, I think I can respond to the flawed analysis of the Chamber of Commerce.
(1) While the ADA Restoration Act does broaden the defintion of disability, this is a direct response to the courts narrowing it to the point that individuals who clearly have disabilities such as epilepsy, diabetes, or HIV/AIDS not being protected because the Supreme Court has said in Toyota v. Williams, that “substantially limits” and “major life activities” “need to be interpreted strictly to create a demanding standard for qualifying as disabled.”
Lucky you, you win the prize as by meeting a demanding standard to “qualify as disabled”. Congress never sad the law should require a demanding standard. What other minority group is required to meet a “demanding standard” to be protected.

Thus, the ADA Restoration Act removes the misinterpreted “substantial limits one or more major life activities” language but still has a strict and clear defintion of what constitutes a “physical” or “mental” impairment.
Contrary to the Chamber of Commerce letter this defintion will not cover “virtually all of working population in the United States.” Only those who are discriminated against on the basis of disability.
2. The fact that the ADA Restoration Act requires deference to Federal agency guidance and regulations does not remove the court system as the final decision maker. The courts will still determine the facts and apply the law, they just apply the law as defined through agency regulation. Those regulations are only adopted after lengthy study and nation wide public comment.

[…] who are upset that the US Chamber of Commerce has attacked the ADA Restoration Act of 2007. (See my earlier blog post on this topic) The two following posts can help guide you in the most effective way for us to […]

This great response to my inquiry enabled me to understand more and act on it by sending the necessary support for the ADA Restoration Act of 2007. Connecting able bloggers is an awesome way to use muscle where there may not be any otherwise. Thanks.

[…] the ADA Restoration Act. (See my earlier blog post on that distressing subject, entitled “Calling All Lawyers: Defending Against the US Chamber of Commerce.) Then the UnderRepresented blog provides a link that takes you to a form letter to your two […]

[…] is Wrong September 1st, 2007 — andreashettle A few days ago, I wrote about how the US Chamber of Commerce wants to block a law meant to protect the rights of Americans with disabilities to a fair chance in the work force.  […]

I will try to read and make points and perhaps make a vlog (hopefully somebody will do this as well so people can get several ASL interpretations!). This entry is a bit difficult to read so I wish to make this information more accessible to a wide range of people that will be affected by this.

THANK YOU gnarlydorkette — I will look forward to your efforts. Please do come back here (or to any other post at this blog related to the ADA Restoration Act) to let me know if/when you’re done so I know to link to you.


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