223 Congressional Reps to Restore the ADA!
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.