Write Your Senators!
In looking around the web some more, I found another way you can contact the two Senators for your state to urge them to support the ADA Restoration Act. The Epilepsy Foundation has a form letter addressed to your Senators. When you fill in your address, the form will automatically figure out who your senators are. You are able to edit the letter any way you wish. So, for example, if you don’t have epilepsy, you can delete the references to epilepsy and replace it with examples more relevant to your own disabilities (or the disabilities of someone you love).
If you’ve been paying attention to my blog then you know I’ve already written a letter to my senators. But it never hurts to write more than one letter. So I went ahead and did another letter to my senators, with modifications to the text provided at the Epilepsy Foundation site. In my case, although I don’t have epilepsy, my partner does, so I added a line in reference to that. Then I added a paragraph expressing my concerns that I could be discriminated against as a deaf person under the ADA as it is currently interpreted.
Here’s the letter:
I am writing to urge you to co-sponsor the ADA Restoration Act of 2007, S.1881, introduced by Senators Tom Harkin(D-IA),
Edward Kennedy(D-MA)and Arlen Specter(R-PA).
Due to several landmark Supreme Court decisions, it is no longer clear that epilepsy is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This means that people with epilepsy have no protection against discrimination in the workplace because of seizures. This concerns me as someone married to a person with epilepsy.
I am also concerned as someone who has been deaf since birth. Although I do need a few accommodations–for example, a special (cheap) device that allows me to communicate by phone, and the occasional interpreter–I can get by in many situations with speaking and lipreading. But the courts have weakened the ADA so much that I fear potential discrimination: they could point to my lipreading skills and claim that they prove I’m not actually “disabled” enough to deserve protection. But I can only lipread if a hearing person looks right at me and takes care to talk clearly without over-enunciating. This is one of many very simple actions that cost nothing but count as a “reasonable accommdoation.” But with the ways the courts interpret the ADA at present, a future employer could refuse to give me even this minimal accommodation, then accuse me of being “impossible to communicate with” and fire me. And the courts would likely allow it because, after all, I COULD lipread my hypothetical future employer IF he or she were to look at me, so therefore (according to them) I wouldn’t be disabled.
Every American wants a fair chance to use their job skills and support themselves through work. Just like other Americans, deaf people and people with epilepsy can and want to work to their full ability. The ADA was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support to create a level playing field so everyone who wants a job has a fair chance to find and keep a job they have the skills to do.
Many people who are trying to work despite having an impairment are not being given a fair chance. The ADA Restoration Act of 2007 would correct this injustice. It is time to keep the promise of the ADA for all Americans with disabilities. Please cosponsor the ADA Restoration Act of 2007 and restore civil rights!
Thank you in advance for your support of this critical piece of legislation.