ADA Restoration Act Clears Hurdles

While you won’t hear much about it from the national press the “ADA Restoration Act of 2007” cleared two House committees yesterday with only one opposing vote. (I’ll have more to say on that in a minute…) 

You can read all about yesterday’s proceedings and learn a good deal about the history  of the “ADARA” at the website of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD):    

It is heartening that in a time of divisive squabbling in Washington the cause of Americans with disabilities has once again “shown the way” for true bi-partisan legislation and negotiation.

Disability is universal—it transcends race, class, gender, point of origin, sexual orientation, social status, age, fortune, and happenstance. Just so: the lives and concerns of people with disabilities are in fact the most logical point of “ethos” for a largely divided country to reassert its American values of fairness and decency.

While you wouldn’t always know it from the strident qualities of my prose I am at heart an optimist about the United States. I have lived to see kids with disabilities get a real chance in public education—when, not so long ago I was one of those “mainstreamed” kids who struggled without civil rights or appropriate educational supports. Yes, we’re a decent nation. We’ve come a long way in many areas. There’s reason for  a positive outlook. And yes, there’s also reason to stay strident. Rights and liberty are inconvenient for the ruling classes and we forget this at our peril.

“Aw, c’mon, Kuusisto, you don’t really think we have a ‘ruling class” in the United States, do you? I mean, don’t you agree that we’re a ‘classless society” etc. etc.?”

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Civil Rights for People with Disabilities vs. “The Usual Suspects”

Right now, even as we drink our coffee there are powerful forces working overtime on Capitol Hill. I like to call these forces “the usual suspects” because I love the old TV series “Dragnet” and also because it takes too long to type all the acronyms of the various business and human resources lobbying groups that have assembled to fight the “ADA Restoration Act”. Oh yes, and there are prominent corporations opposed to the full inclusion of people with disabilities in the workforce.

The Usual Suspects are opposed to the legislation because it would require that employers actually make reasonable accommodations for employees who have disabilities—rather than allowing said Usual Suspects to proclaim that these accommodations are wildly unreasonable. Why, By Golly! even reassigning a disabled employee to a different but equal job is an undue burden on said Usual Suspect. Enter the extraordinary, well funded, hence powerful Allied Usual Suspects who are working like junior attorneys to “mark up” the bill.

Their aim? To do to the “ADA Restoration Act” what the Supreme Court has done to the original ADA of 1990.  In decision after decision the Supreme Court has exonerated employers from having to make workplace accommodations for disabled employees. The court has used a cynical  loophole when deciding “for” employers against disabled workers: they’ve argued that Congress, in adopting the ADA has assumed the power to regulate commerce within the respective U.S. states—in effect the conservative majority on the court has asserted that Congress doesn’t have the authority to legislate civil rights for people with disabilities—and by extension, for any other group.   

What’s the final final rationale for such a position? Why by God if you give one disabled employee an accommodation well then, by God you’ll have to give all the differently abled people accommodations and heck, that would mean living up to occupational safety and human rights standards and that’s an undue burden on capitalism which, it turns out, doesn’t always see the opportunities for new markets.

So what you do is declare the authority of Congress null and void. You do it by the process of red herring-ism, you confuse the public that the issue is about disabled people in the workplace who are always a suspect group in the view of the general public—aren’t these people faking something? Trying to get an advantage with a better parking space?

If Americans don’t demand of their Congress true accountability on behalf of our nation’s disabled citizens then they are in effect giving away the last measure of our civil rights—the stakes in this argument are really that important.

Write to your Congressman or Congresswoman; take a stand. Don’t let the “usual suspects” continue to evade social responsibility by means of obfuscation.

S.K.

LINKS:

"Permanent Link to ADA Restoration Act Blogging Round-Up, Feb 11-28 ‘08"

Who are the Political Friends of People with Disabilities?

ADA Restoration Headed to House Markup on Wednesday 
ADA Restoration Moves Forward in the House 
Disability, civil rights and employer groups are working hard to secure support for the negotiated legislated language that has been circulated on JFA and now has the support of more than 50 national and 60 state and local disability groups, the US Chamber of Commerce, the Society for Human Resource Management, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Human Resource Policy Association, and a growing list of companies, including McDonalds, General Motors and Honeywell. Lobbying on the House side for this negotiated deal began in earnest yesterday, focused on the members of the House Education and Labor Committee and the House Judiciary Committee (which also plans to mark up the bill next Wednesday).

To avoid confusion with the bill that was introduced last July, we have begun referring to the negotiated legislation as the ADA Amendments Act. In anticipation of next week’s markup, we are working to counter any efforts in either committee to attach an ADA notification requirement to the bill, a cause that was championed in prior Congresses by Representative Mark Foley of Florida and that is strongly opposed by the disability-civil rights employer coalition working to enact the ADA Amendments Act. We are also working hard to secure White House and Senate Republican support for the negotiated bill.

:::TAKE ACTION:::
At this point, it looks like the bill will receive strong bipartisan support in the committee markups in
the House. We have included a list of the members of the House Education and Labor Committee and the House Judiciary Committee below.
 

·      Contact Members on the House Education & Labor Committee and the House Judiciary Committee between now and Wednesday morning and urge them to support the bipartisan negotiated language that will become the Chairman’s mark in both committees. The names are below.

Locate the Members’ contact information online, or call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-1904 (V) / (202) 224-3091 (TTY) and ask to be connected to their offices by name. 

·      If you haven’t already, consider having your organization "sign on" to the proposed deal language by sending an email to Anne Sommers, JFA Moderator, at aapdanne@earthlink.net. Support of the deal language means you not only approve of its language and terms, but that you also agree to defend it against all attempts by Members of Congress to amend it–unless both sides agree to the amendments.

We will continue to share the list of organizational support with Members of Congress as ADA Restoration moves forward in both the House and Senate in coming weeks. 

·      Attend the markup! The House Education and Labor Markup is scheduled for Wednesday, June 18th, at 10:00 in the Rayburn building, Room 2175. Advocates are encouraged to show their support through numbers. The accessible entrance to the building is the main entrance with the horseshoe drive off South Capitol Street.

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Our Support Needed for the ADA Restoration Act

The Road to Freedom leads us, among other places, to this list of 5 Things we can all do RIGHT NOW to support

"the ‘ADA Restoration Act’ that would restore vital
civil right protections for children and adults with physical, mental,
cognitive and developmental disabilities."

For more information, visit the ADA Restoration Act 2007 blog where you’ll find this ****ACTION ALERT!****

HURRY!

~CK

Cross-posted on Blog [with]tv

Why I'm For Chris Dodd

I have decided to go to the Iowa Caucus and stand for Senator Chris Dodd. I suspect that I’ll be the only one in my local district who will be standing in his corner. Maybe not. It is altogether hard to say what will happen on caucus night. I am however persuaded that Chris Dodd is the best candidate either party has to offer.

1. He’s the most "presidential" of all the candidates regardless of party affiliation.

2. He has a sister who is blind; he knows why the ADA Restoration Act is crucial for PWDs.

3. He has the most foreign policy experience.

4. He knows where foreign countries "are" even when you turn the globe.

5. He has a great record of working in a true bi-partisan manner to get important social programs passed.

6. He gave up campaigning for three days to return to the senate and fight for the restoration of our Bill of Rights.

As they say in the vernacular: "’Nuff Said."

S.K.