ADA Restoration Act Respects Deaf Culture

Posted on 8 October 2007. Filed under: ADA Restoration Act of 2007, Advocacy |

This link is old — but it’s worth checking out for anyone still seeking to understand why the Americans with Disabilities Act needs rescuing and how the Restoration Act is meant to help. No, it doesn’t refer directly to Deaf/deaf/HOH people–but there is a certain parallel that I will explain further below.

This link leads to a brief article about how the National Council on Disability (NCD) first called for the Restoration Act to be written (and then, of course, passed). NCD objected to how a series of supreme court decisions have reduced Americans with disabilities to second-class status and wanted the ADA to be modified to reverse the poor precedents created by these cases.

I found the list of court cases cited interesting. One was a case brought by someone with myopia (basically, needing glasses). Now, not everyone would define the need for eyeglasses as a disability per se. But it is important to understand that the purpose of the ADA is not to decide who is or isn’t disabled. The purpose of the ADA is to decide whether discrimination has occurred ON THE BASIS OF DISABILITY (this is the key phrase to be used in the Restoration Act).

You may agree or disagree that myopia is necessarily a disability. But most of us would agree that a person should not be rejected from a job THAT THEY ARE QUALIFIED FOR just for needing glasses. That person should deserve protection under the law as much as a person who is Deaf (after all, Deaf people sometimes wear glasses too!), or blind, or a wheelchair rider, or whatever.

Note that I’m NOT talking about workers who fail to meet the skills, abilities, knowledge, and other qualifications needed for the job. Because the ADA WAS NOT MEANT TO PROTECT THEM. There’s no problem under the ADA, as it is currently written, with failing to hire a disabled worker who, by any honest evaluation that critically examines his/her actual skills and background, simply cannot do the job, or who simply isn’t as strongly qualified as the other applicants. And there would still be no problem with any of this if and when the ADA Restoration Act is passed.

Instead, the ADA was meant to protect PEOPLE WHO ARE QUALIFIED TO WORK in whatever job they’ve applied for, or are working in now–but are nevertheless discriminated against on the basis of disability. It’s NOT meant to put poorly qualified workers in jobs they cannot handle. It’s meant to force employers to take a minute to look past their own mistaken assumptions about the capabilities of disabled workers and look at what the applicant or employee CAN do.

To bring this discussion back to Deaf issues: some Deaf people strongly reject the idea that being “Deaf” equates to having a disability. But many employers do, in fact, view Deaf/deaf people as “disabled.” And some employers do discriminate based on mistaken assumptions about what they think that perceived disability means for the qualifications of a deaf worker. With the ADA Restoration Act, proud, culturally Deaf people would not need to argue that they are, in fact, disabled in order to win recognition from the courts that employers should not discriminate against them. The only factor that should matter is, Did the employer discriminate on the basis of (what they perceive as) disability?

For the record, if it matters, I personally feel no contradition in considering being Deaf as BOTH a cultural identity AND ALSO, simultaneously, a disability. But I don’t think that Deaf people should be forced into a position where they have to violate their own sense of identity and take on a label that they may usually reject (i.e., disabled) just to be protected from discrimination. Given the way that the courts have mistakenly interpreted the ADA, that’s exactly the position we’re in now. The ADA Restoration Act would fix that by reminding supreme court justices that the point of the ADA is to provide civil rights protection to people who might otherwise be victims of discrimination–whether or not people necessarily agree on whether or not they should be labeled as “disabled.”

If you’re interested in how the courts have violated the spirit of the ADA, then you may want to explore my growing collection of stories about individual ADA court cases. The most recent one, Give Orr a Break, was missed by

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 to

See my continually-updated list of blog entries from all over the web about the ADA Restoration Act of 2007, from July 26 2007 through TODAY, always available from the top navigation bar at “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 background information on the ADA Restoration Act. Or contact your legislators.  Or, for another way to contact your legislators — a few minutes faster, but not quite as strong an impact — try this tool instead.


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