It has been an amazing few weeks! As some of you know, as a part of my job, I’ve been participating in the efforts to restore the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Background: The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was intended to “provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.” Unfortunately, since 1999, several U.S. Supreme Court and other lower court decisions have significantly narrowed the definition of disability.
As a result, individuals with certain health conditions, such as people with epilepsy, diabetes, psychiatric diagnoses, and other mental health conditions that are controlled with medications or other disease management strategies are not covered by the ADA. They are routinely dismissed as “not disabled enough” to warrant protection of the statute. In 2004, plaintiffs lost 97% of ADA employment discrimination claims, often due to the interpretation of definition of disability.
Early efforts in the fall of 2007 and early 2008 resulted in the two bills H.R. 3195 and S. 1881 supporting ADA Restoration. In fact, the House version of the bill had 255 co-sponsors. However, to ensure passage of restoration legislation this year Congress members strongly urged a compromise bill, a collaboration between the business community AND the disability community.
Current News: On June 25th, as a result of months of disability groups, business organizations, faith-based groups and civil rights organizations working diligently together in collaboration, the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 was introduced as a replacement for the original H.R. 3195.
Let me just say that anyone who has worked on compromise legislation will tell you – negotiated bills generally tend to move forward faster and with wider support. However, they ARE a compromise, which means all sides are equally unhappy. But I also want to say it is a very rare and unique thing to see business and disability groups visiting congressional offices TOGETHER and BOTH sides strongly advocating for the same legislation. As a result of these efforts, the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 passed on the House floor with a vote of 402 to 17. A very impressive margin. Now the action moves to the Senate!
Video: Prior to the floor vote, supporters of the legislation held a press conference. Please see the video below. My apologies for the lack of captioning. I hope to have a transcript up within the next day. Video courtesy of TheHillDotCom