223 Congressional Reps to Restore the ADA!

Posted on 11 October 2007. Filed under: ADA Restoration Act of 2007, Advocacy |

First, the good news for those of you rooting to see the ADA Restoration Act of 2007 passed: as of October 11, it seems that there are now 222 co-sponsors for HR 3195 (house version of the ADA Restoration Act) in addition to the original sponsor (Rep. Steny Hoyer). This brings us past the 218 majority needed to pass the ADA Restoration Act in the House. (Senate is another story; for that see further below.)

If you’re new to my blog and aren’t sure what the ADA Restoration Act is about, then let me catch you up:

The ADA Restoration Act of 2007 is meant to rescue the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. The ADA was originally intended to protect all Americans with disabilities from discrimination, particularly in the job force. If you know enough people with disabilities (or who are Deaf, Autistic, etc., even if they don’t like to be labeled as “disabled”) then you know that we have the same range of intelligence, talents, and capabilities as anyone else–we simply also happen to have some specific things that we cannot do in the same way that everyone else does them. Yet many employers simply assume that, for example, “A deaf person can’t do this job because it requires making occasional phone calls.” So they may never ask a deaf job applicant to come in for an interview–which means they may never learn of the simple technologies that deaf people use to communicate on the phone, nor will they learn of the many other valuable ways in which the employee could contribute to their organization. The ADA was meant to give workers with disabilities a chance to be fairly considered for jobs for which they are qualified. It was NOT intended to give anyone any special favors. It was NOT meant to put unqualified workers in jobs they cannot handle. It was intended to make employers evaluate job applicants based on what they actually CAN do–not based on mistaken assumptions about what they THINK that people with disabilities supposedly can’t do.

But the ADA has failed to give disabled people a fair chance. That’s not through any fault in the ADA. The trouble is, the courts have miserably failed to correctly understand or interpret the law. In court case after court case, all across the country, judges have allowed employers to tell disabled workers, “We don’t want you because you’re disabled,” while simultaneously claiming, “This employee doesn’t deserve to be protected under the ADA because he/she isn’t actually disabled.”

Instead of looking at employer behavior to decide whether they have been discriminatory on the basis of disability, the courts have been asking workers with disabilities to disclose sometimes deeply personal or embarassing details about their disability or medical condition in order to decide whether they’re disabled. But the point of the ADA wasn’t to decide who is and isn’t disabled–the point was to stop discrimination on the basis of disability in the same way that other civil rights legislations have attempted to provide protection to people of color from discrimination on the basis of race, or to women from discrimination on the basis of gender.

The ADA Restoration Act is meant to reverse this travesty of justice. It is meant to return the ADA to its original spirit of protecting the civil rights of Americans with disabilities so that they can become fully productive citizens–and so that employers who might once have rejected them out of hand can benefit from the immense contributions that they can make to their businesses.

If you know anyone who is Deaf or has a disability, then the ADA Restoration Act matters to YOU.

Check the list to see if your congressional represenative is one of the co-sponsors: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:HR03195:@@@P. If they are, and if you haven’t already contacted them, then please drop a quick line to thank them. If not, it wouldn’t hurt to ask them to join in too.

However, there are still only three senators signed on to the senate version of the bill (S 1881): the original sponsor–Senator Tom Harkins–and two co-sponsors–Senator Edward Kennedy and Senator Arlen Specter. So please do write your senators to urge them to co-sponsor the bill!


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.

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 www.c-c-d.org/ada.

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 on-going updates. Or browse through background information on the ADA Restoration Act. Or contact your legislators.  I think this tool at UnderRepresented is the strongest one out there that makes it easier for you to speak up about the ADA Restoration Act to 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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2 Responses to “223 Congressional Reps to Restore the ADA!”

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This is quite amazing; the number of years it took leading up to the ADA’s passage in 1990 and the 17 years since then when it was ineffective. Makes me wonder about the future. Not that I don’t appreciate your work though.

To clarify: the ADA was not “ineffective” from the moment that it was passed. What happened was that the courts gradually wore it down in court decision after court decision by consistently misinterpreting the ADA in a way that the authors had never intended. The most seriously damaging precedents were set in legal cases in the late 1990s, nearly a decade after the ADA was first passed. Probably this was in part simply because it took a certain amount of time for people to start having problems and learn about the law enough to realize that they could take employers to court (or at least, SHOULD have been able to); and then it took yet more time for these cases to work their way through the court system to reach the state supreme court level. So it was not really 17 years of ineffectiveness but fewer than that, i.e., from the late 1990s to now.

Do also bear in mind that, even after the problem was realized, it still took time to write the restoration act and bring it up to where it is today with 223 supporters in the house — simply because it always takes ANY piece of legislation years to go from the “idea” stage to legal passage. The need for this legislation was first officially suggested in 2004 after the National Coalition on Disability did studies that showed how consistent the growing series of bad court precedents were from state to state and from year to year across the country. From the late 90s to 2004 may itself sound like a long time — but people first had to recognize the pattern through informal observation, then suggest that an official study be done to confirm that the problem really was a consistent trend and not just something they were projecting onto the data, and then doing the report would have to take time also.

So even though 17 years is a long time in the lives of people, it is not actually even remotely so long in the halls of law craft. If a dog year is the equivalent of human years, then think of it as 7 years of legislative life for each year of human life 🙂 Just joking, so don’t take that number too literally–but to give you an idea of the difference in time scale there can be between when things are observed in the real world to when it becomes possible to do something about them in the law.


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