Ctr for an Accessible Society ADA article by T4nRGwP

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									October 2011

The Center for an Accessible Society and ADA

                     The Americans with Disabilities Act
                     The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the
                     most comprehensive federal civil-rights statute            Overview
                     protecting the rights of people with disabilities. It
                                                                                Links
                     affects access to employment; state and local
                     government programs and services; access to places
                                                                                Expert sources
                     of public accommodation such as businesses,
                     transportation, and non-profit service providers; and
                                                                                From the Disability
                     telecommunications. .                                      and Business
                                                                                Technical
                                                                                Assistance
                     The scope of the ADA in addressing the barriers to         Centers:
                     participation by people with disabilities in the
 DISABILITY
                     mainstream of society is very broad. The ADA's civil       Historical Context
   ISSUES
                     rights protections are parallel to those that have         of the ADA
INFORMATION
                     previously been established by the federal
     FOR
                     government for women and racial, ethnic and                ADA definition of
JOURNALISTS                                                                     disability
                     religious minorities.
                                                                                Overview of law's
                     "The ADA is solely about 'equal opportunity', from its     structure
                     preamble to its final provision: like other civil rights
      HOME           laws, the ADA prohibits discrimination and mandates        The ADA is
                     that Americans be accorded equality in pursuing            changing the
                                                                                landscape of
                     jobs, goods, services and other opportunities -- but       America --
                     the ADA makes clear that equal treatment is not            commentary
     TOPICS          synonymous with identical treatment, says Professor
                     Robert Burgdorf Jr., one of the drafters of the            "The ADA changed
                                                                                my life" -- personal
                     original bill that became the ADA.
                                                                                stories


    ABOUT            "Letting every employee have an identical                  The meaning of
  THE CENTER         opportunity to use a restroom located up a flight of       "disability" under
                     stairs may be "identical" treatment but it is hardly       ADA
                     equal treatment for a worker who uses a wheelchair.
                                                                                "A misunderstood
                                                                                law" --
                     "The ADA is a mandate for equality. Any person             commentary
                     who's discriminated against by an employer because
                     of a real disability -- or because the employer            The ADA
                     regards the person as being disabled, whether they         Notification Act
                     are or not -- should be entitled to the law's
                     protection. The focus of the Act was -- and should         Paratransit ruling
                                                                                from Philadelphia
                     be -- on eliminating employers' practices that make
                     people unnecessarily different."
                                                                                Supreme Court
                                                                                ADA decisions:
                     Progress at 10 years
                                                                                          the 2004
                     Ten years after the signing of the Americans with                     Lane
                                                                                           decision
                     Disabilities Ac in 1990, this landmark federal law has
                                                                                          the 1999
proved a remarkable success, defying the gloom and            Olmstead
                                                              decision
doom predictions of many members of Congress
                                                             The 1999
that the law, designed to open up American society            Sutton
to its 54 million citizens with disabilities, would           decision
bankrupt the economy. At the same time however,              The 1999
the law has not fully delivered on its keys promises          Cleveland
                                                              decision
to eliminate discrimination against people with              The 2001
disabilities in the workplace and in public                   Garrett
accommodations.                                               decision
                                                             The 2001
                                                              PGA Tour
The ADA has profoundly changed how society views              v. Martin
and accommodates its citizens with disabilities.              decision
Universal design -- the practice of designing                The 2002
                                                              Chevron
products, buildings and public spaces and programs
                                                              v.
to be usable by the greatest number of people --              Echazabal
has helped create a society where curb cuts, ramps,           decision
lifts on buses, and other access designs are                 The 2002
                                                              US
increasingly common. In the process, we have                  Airways
discovered that an accessible society is good for             v. Barnett
everyone, not just people with disabilities.                  decision


Curb cuts designed for wheelchair users are also
used by people with baby carriages, delivery people,
and people on skateboards and roller blades. With
the Baby Boom generation poised to enter the
population of seniors, the number of Americans
needing access and universal design will grow
enormously.

The ADA has created a more inclusive climate where
companies, institutions, and organizations are
reaching out far more often to people with
disabilities. Colleges and universities, for example,
now accommodate more people with disabilities than
they did before ADA, even though they have been
obligated by law for nearly 25 years to make their
campus and classrooms accessible.

"Flood of Lawsuits" Never Materialized

When the ADA was before Congress, some members
predicted a flood of lawsuits that would bankrupt or
at least overburden business. One Congressional
leader characterized the ADA a "disaster" benefitting
only "gold diggers" filing frivolous lawsuits. Attempts
continue to weaken the law through amendments.

Studies have shown, however, that businesses have
adapted to the ADA much more easily - and
inexpensively - than the doomsayers predicted.
Some have even made money by making
accommodations. Law Professor Peter Blanck of the
University of Iowa has studied business compliance
with the ADA, including Sears Roebuck and many
other large businesses, and found that compliance
was often as easy as raising or lowering a desk,
installing a ramp, or modifying a dress code.
Another survey found that three-quarters of all
changes cost less than $100.

Moreover, the predicted flood of lawsuits proved to
be imaginary. Almost 90 percent of the cases
brought before the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission are thrown out. And only about 650
lawsuits were filed in the ADA 's first five years - a
small number compared to 6 million businesses,
666,000 public and private employers, and 80,000
units of state and local governments that must
comply. The American Bar Association recently
conducted a survey and learned that, of the cases
that actually go to court, 98 percent are decided in
favor of the defendants, usually businesses.

Supreme Court Decisions Thwart Intent of ADA

Many people believe that Supreme Court decisions
involving the ADA are impeding efforts to create a
more accessible society. Law Professor Robert
Burgdorf has written, "Twelve years ago, as I
drafted the original version of the Americans with
Disabilities Act, I never dreamed that this landmark
civil rights law would become so widely
misunderstood and my words so badly
misinterpreted, particularly by the body meant to
protect the very rights guaranteed by the law."

Despite tremendous strides forward, many people
with disabilities are dismayed that more progress
has not come. In 1990, 70 percent of people with
disabilities were unemployed, and the figure remains
the same today. Part of the problem, they say, is
the adverse court rulings. Another problem has been
contradictory federal policies that actually make it
difficult for people with disabilities to work. Under
current Social Security regulations, a person with a
disability is allowed to enroll in Medicare, but can
earn only a few hundred dollars a month. Earn more
than the limit and you stand to lose all your
benefits. Likewise, federal and state regulations are
still biased in favor of nursing homes and
institutional care providers over personal attendant
services at home ?? a policy that dates to the 1960s
when Medicare and Medicaid were created. This
policy forces many people to live in nursing homes
instead of at home, where they say they'd rather be
in order to participate in their communities and, for
many, obtain employment.

People With Disabilities Disenfranchised

Another significant problem that hasn't disappeared
in the decade since ADA was enacted is access to
the voting booth. One study shows that the voting
rate among people with disabilities is 20 percentage
points less than non?disabled people, despite state
and federal laws, including the ADA, which require
polling places to accommodate disabled voters. The
Federal Election Commission has reported that more
than 20,000 polling places across the nation are
inaccessible, depriving people with disabilities of
their fundamental right to vote.

Frequently, polling booths are set in church
basements or in upstairs meeting halls where there
is no ramp or elevator, or disabled parking. This
means problems not just for people who use
wheelchairs, but for people who use canes or
walkers too. And in most states people who are blind
don't have the right to a Braille ballot; they have to
bring someone along to vote for them.

While much remains to be done to achieve the
accessible society, the ADA stands out as what one
respected Washington observer called "one of the
government's greatest successes" of the past
decade. Increasingly, in part because of the ADA,
people are beginning to look at disability in a
different way. As Professor Robert Silverstein of
George Washington University has written,
"Disability, like race and gender, is a natural and
normal part of the human experience that in no way
diminishes a person's right to live a normal life and
participate in mainstream activities."




On June 27,2000, The National Council on Disability
released a 380-page report, "Promises to Keep,"
harshly critizing federal agencies for their poor track
record in enforcing the Americans with Disabilities
Act. NCD chairperson Marca Bristo said agencies had
been "overly cautious" in enforcing the law and that
"poor leadership" has significantly weakened the
law's impact.
The National Council on Disability is an independent
federal agency; in 1986 it proposed the bill that
became the Americans with Disabilities Act. Read
NCD's press release about the report Read the
report .




EXPERTS ON THE ADA:

Chai Feldblum
Georgetown University Law Professor
202-662-9595

Marca Bristo
Chair
National Council on Disability
President, Access Living of Chicago
312-253-700




OTHER ITEMS OF INTEREST:
The following sites contain information that may be
of interest. Please bear in mind that the information
at these sites is not controlled by the Center for An
Accessible society. Links to these sites do not imply
that the Center supports either the organizations or
the views presented.
ADA Watch, disability rights advocacy groups efforts
to "respond to threats to the civil rights of people
with disabilities."

The ADA Technical Assistance Program sponsored by
the U.S. Dept. of Education offers quick answers and
technical assistance through regional centers.
On June 27,2000, The National Council on Disability
released a 380-page report, "Promises to Keep,"
harshly critizing federal agencies for their poor track
record in enforcing the Americans with Disabilities
Act. NCD chairperson Marca Bristo said agencies had
been "overly cautious" in enforcing the law and that
"poor leadership" has significantly weakened the
law's impact.

The National Council on Disability is an independent
federal agency; in 1986 it proposed the bill that
became the Americans with Disabilities Act. Read
NCD's press release about the report Read the
report..



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