Real People, Real Stories: Why We Need ADA Restoration
Over the next few days, I’m going to step aside and feature some real stories about real Americans with disabilities who have been hurt by court decisions that violate the original intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. I’ll be taking these stories from a longer file of case studies written up by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD). CCD has compiled an excellent collection of materials on the ADA and on the ADA Restoration Act of 2007, so it’s well worth following their link at www.c-c-d.org/ada.
For tonight, I’m just posting the introductory text that CCD put at the start of their 13-page file of case stories. Then I’ll post probably no more than one story per day–maybe less if life intervenes, as it always does. I’m taking this approach to make it easier for people with limited time to read through the case stories a little at a time. But if you’re impatient to read all the stories for yourself, without my commentaries, then you can download them in Word format here, or in PDF format here.
(Edited to add:) You can see the first of these case stories, along with my commentary on it, at “Thinking Isn’t a Major Life Activity, Say Courts.”
The second case story is at “Where is Todd’s Day in Court?”
The third is entitled “Qualified to Work = Disqualification from ADA Protection.”
The fourth is entitled “Give Orr a Break.”
The fifth is entitled “Doing Good Work? You’re Fired!”
The sixth is “Why Everybody Loses Without the ADA Restoration Act.
The seventh is “A Hearing Woman But A Deaf Story: Why We Need the ADA Restoration Act.”
The eigth and last court case is “Unfair Precedent Ties Hands of Sympathetic Court: Why McMullin’s Case Highlights Need for ADA Restoration Act“.
THE EFFECT OF THE SUPREME COURT’S DECISIONS ON
AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES
The following stories illustrate many of the problems that the Supreme Court has created for people with disabilities who seek protection from disability discrimination in employment. Through a series of decisions interpreting the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), the Supreme Court has narrowed the law in ways that Congress never intended. First, in a trio of decisions decided in June 1999, the Supreme Court ruled that mitigating measures—medication, prosthetics, hearing aids, other auxiliary devices, diet and exercise, or any other treatment—must be considered in determining whether an individual has a disability under the ADA.(1) This means people with serious health conditions who are fortunate enough to find a treatment that makes them more capable and independent—and more able to work—often find that they are not protected by the ADA at all. Next, in a 2002 decision, the Supreme Court emphasized that courts should interpret the definition of “disability” strictly in order to create a demanding standard for qualifying as disabled.(2)
In the wake of these restrictive rulings, individuals who Congress intended to protect—people with epilepsy, diabetes, cancer, HIV, mental illness—have been denied protection from disability discrimination. Either, the courts say, the person is impaired but not impaired enough to substantially limit a major life activity (like walking or working), or the impairment substantially limits something—like liver function—that does not qualify as a “major life activity.” Courts even deny ADA protection when the employer freely admits it terminated someone’s employment because of their disability. This has resulted in an absurd Catch-22 where an employer may say a person is “too disabled” to do the job but not “disabled enough” to be protected by the law. This is not what Congress intended.
Congress never intended to exclude people like Charles Irvin Littleton, Jr., Mary Ann Pimental, Carey McClure, Stephen Orr, or James Todd. Their stories are among those collected below, which demonstrate the problem created by the courts’ misinterpretation of the definition of disability. These stories make it clear this problem is not limited to a single judge, employer, or geographic area. This is a nationwide problem that requires an appropriate Congressional fix.
(1) Sutton v. United Airlines, Inc., 527 U.S. 471 (1999); Murphy v. United Parcel Service, Inc., 527 U.S. 516 (1999); Albertson’s, Inc. v. Kirkingburg, 527 U.S. 555 (1999).
(2) Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. v. Williams, 534 U.S. 184, 197 (2002)
[Edited to add links to subsequent court case stories]:
With all of these stories, I have added my own commentary at the beginning, followed by the story, then links to the other court case stories, and links where you can learn more about the ADA or contact your legislators.
The third case story is “Qualified to Work = Disqualification from ADA Protection.”
The fourth is “Give Orr a Break.”
The above text is from CCD; but here, it’s back to me, Andrea Shettle, your blogger at ReunifyGally.
The fifth is entitled “Doing Good Work? You’re Fired!“.
The sixth is “Why Everybody Loses Without the ADA Restoration Act.”
Want to learn more about the ADA Restoration Act of 2007 and how it’s meant to help reverse the damage done by the courts? See my continually-updated list of blog entries from all over the web on the Restoration Act. It’s always available from the top navigation bar: just click “On the ADA Restoration Act.”
Also, don’t miss these links: One group of activists has posted a short list of simple ideas of things you can do to help get the Restoration Act passed. And do check out the ADA Restoration Blog for updates. Or browse through more background information on the ADA Restoration Act. Or contact your legislators (just be sure to uncheck the box asking to be added to their action alert email list, unless you want to receive them).