My ADA Restoration Act letters to Legislators

Posted on 30 August 2007. Filed under: ADA Restoration Act of 2007, Advocacy |

I just now found that Easter Seals has a page that makes it easy for you to contact your Congressional Representative and your two Senators to urge them to co-sponsor the ADA Restoration Act of 2007 (or to thank them for cosponsoring it if they’ve done it already). Yes, they’re in recess–but they will be back in session next week. So you may as well get those letters out of the way this weekend. Yes, even if you have already signed the petition, it can still be very helpful to ALSO write an individual letter to your legislators.

If you already know your Congressional Representative and your two Senators, and if you already know which of them (if any) have co-sponsored the ADA Restoration Act of 2007 (HR 3195 for your Rep, S 1881 for your Senators), then go straight to Easter Seal’s template letter to your legislators.

Easter Seals has already written a letter for you. But they have a box that you can use to add your own personalized message. I STRONGLY URGE that you use it. Legislators always listen much more closely to citizens who take the time to write their own words (even if you think your English is bad). They know that citizens who write a personal paragraph or two of their own are people who are passionate about the issue and may allow it to influence how they vote. And they want your vote.

But first be forewarned of two things:

1. When you go to fill in the letter, Easter Seals has pre-checked this box saying you give permission for Easter Seals to send you regular emails. In other words, they have an opt-out mailing list, not an opt-in. If you want out, you’ll have to remember to un-check the box before submitting your letter to your legislators. Yes, annoying, isn’t it.

2. You can only send ONE letter from the Easter Seals page. I found this out when I TRIED to send INDIVIDUAL emails to each of my legislators. I succeeded with the first, to my represenative. But when I tried to submit my next, slightly modified letter to one of my senators, the web page balked and said, “you’ve already sent an email on that issue, select another issue instead.” So you will either have to send the exact same letter to all three of your legislators at once (even if some co-sponosered the bill and some didn’t, and even though that would dilute the power of your message), or you would have to choose only one of your legislators and not the others.

Your other alternative is to go to the page where you can look up your congressional represenative, go to his or her web page, and email him/her individually from his/her own web page, this time entirely in your own words. Then go to the page where you can look up your two senators and repeat the process for each of your senators. This is what I ended up doing for my senators.

Not sure who your legislators are? Not sure if they have co-sponsored the ADA Restoration Act of 2007? Easter Seals has links to the two above pages where you can find out who your legislators are. Then, after you’ve done that, they link to two more pages where you can look up who has sponsored the house version of the bill (HR 3195, that’s for your Congressional Represenative) and who has sponsored the Senate version of the bill (S 1881 to your Senators).

Need inspiration? Here’s my letter to my own Congressional Represenative, James Moran, for the 8th district of Virginia. He is one of the co-sponsors, so in his case I thank him for being a co-sponsor, as well as explaining one of many reasons why it matters to me:

Thank you for co-sponsoring the ADA Restoration Act of 2007 (HR 3195). As a deaf person, I have encountered a double set of barriers in the workforce. First is the set of barriers partly (though not entirely) related to my disability: SOME of the jobs that I think I could do well at would require a great deal of interaction with others and, therefore, would require intensive interpreting assistance. But many of the organizations where I would love to work are too small and limited in budget to be able to support the accommodations I need without specific funding assistance. This already restricts the range of job options that are open to me.

But on the other hand, when I find a job for which I am well qualified and could do superbly if given a chance–a job for which my accommodation needs would be minimal to non-existent–I find that sometimes employers suddenly seem to lose interest in me as soon as they find I am deaf. These are people who seem highly interested in me and then suddenly stop responding to my follow up contacts. And these are for jobs for which I know I am likely at least as competitive, or more so, than any other hearing applicant.

It is already challenging enough to find a job that I know I can do without costly accommodations. I should not also have to deal with potential discrimination from employers who may be simply assuming, without even communicating with me about my ACTUAL (not perceived) needs, that I “can’t do the job” or that it would necessarily be “too expensive” to accommodate my disability.

So far, I have never encountered discrimination that was blatant enough that I could document and prove it as such. So I have never tried reporting any of the incidents in which I fear discrimination MIGHT have occurred (even I can’t be sure). But if I ever do, I would want to know that the courts would truly protect my right–NOT to be guaranteed a job, but to be given a FAIR CHANCE. I don’t want to have to live in fear that the courts would simply say, “You’re too disabled to work. But you’re not disabled enough to be allowed a level playing field on which to compete.”

Thank you, Rep. James Moran, for standing up for my right to a level playing field. Thank you for standing up for my right, not to a guaranteed job, but to a guaranteed chance to at least try.

And here is the letter I wrote to my two Senators (I emailed each individually, replacing the appropriate name as needed). Neither is a co-sponsor. Most senators aren’t yet:

As a deaf person, I have encountered a double set of barriers in the workforce. First is the set of barriers partly (though not entirely) related to my disability: SOME of the jobs that I think I could do well at would require a great deal of interaction with others and, therefore, would require intensive interpreting assistance. But many of the organizations where I would love to work are too small and limited in budget to be able to support the accommodations I need without specific funding assistance. This already restricts the range of job options that are open to me.

But on the other hand, when I find a job for which I am well qualified and could do superbly if given a chance–a job for which my accommodation needs would be minimal to non-existent–I find that sometimes employers suddenly seem to lose interest in me as soon as they find I am deaf. These are people who seem highly interested in me and then suddenly stop responding to my follow up contacts. And these are for jobs for which I know I am likely at least as competitive, or more so, than any other hearing applicant.

It is already challenging enough to find a job that I know I can do without costly accommodations. I should not also have to deal with potential discrimination from employers who may be simply assuming, without even communicating with me about my ACTUAL (not perceived) needs, that I “can’t do the job” or that it would necessarily be “too expensive” to accommodate my disability.

So far, I have never encountered discrimination that was blatant enough that I could document and prove it as such. So I have never tried reporting any of the incidents in which I fear discrimination MIGHT have occurred. But if I ever do, I would want to know that the courts would truly protect my right–NOT to be guaranteed a job, but to be given a FAIR CHANCE. I don’t want to have to live in fear that the courts would simply say, “You’re too disabled to work. But you’re not disabled enough to be allowed a level playing field on which to compete.”

Senator John Webb, please stand up for my right to a level playing field. Please stand up for my right, not to a guaranteed job, but to a guaranteed chance to at least try. Please co-sponsor the ADA Restoration Act (S 1881). Thank you.

Go write your legislators!

Then, after you’ve done that, BLOG ABOUT IT! Post your letters for others to see. Maybe you’ll help inspire more letters.

If you do blog about the ADA Restoration Act, then please come here and let me know. I’ll be happy to link to you from my ongoing list of blog posts on the ADA Restoration Act.

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