AUCD Press Release: ADA Restoration Act to Restore the Promise to End Discrimination

July 26, 2007

Kim E. Musheno
Director of Public Policy

Silver Spring, MD

AUCD applauds Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) for introducing the bipartisan ADA Restoration Act on this historic day, the 17th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This bill restores the promise to end employment discrimination for people with disabilities as was originally intended by Congress.

When President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, he said that "every man, woman, and child with a disability can now pass through once-closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence, and freedom." Today, as we celebrate the anniversary of this landmark law, the realization of this promise remains unfulfilled for many Americans with disabilities.

In passing the ADA, Congress intended to end discrimination experienced by individuals with disabilities. Similar to other civil rights laws, a major provision of the ADA was to level the playing field by prohibiting employers from basing employment decisions on the basis of disability. However, since passage of the ADA, a series of court decisions has chipped away at the original intent of the law and seriously weakened protections. Congress never intended for the courts to seize on the definition of "disability" as a means of excluding individuals with serious health conditions like epilepsy, diabetes, cancer, HIV, muscular dystrophy, and multiple sclerosis. An unacceptable 'catch-22' has resulted, allowing employers to say a person is "too disabled" to do the job but "not disabled enough" to be protected by the law. Individuals who manage their disabilities with medication, prosthetics, and other aids (or "mitigating measures") are viewed as "too functional" to qualify for protections under the ADA, yet can face discrimination by employers on the basis of disability.

The ADA Restoration Act would stop courts from considering "mitigating measures" and from requiring an individual to first prove that he or she cannot perform daily functions in order to challenge discrimination. The ADA Restoration Act restores the right to be judged based solely on one's qualifications for the job. It brings the ADA in line with other civil rights laws and requires the courts to interpret the law fairly.

AUCD President Royal Walker, Jr., JD stated, "The employment rate of individuals with disabilities has not significantly improved since passage of the ADA. We can and simply must do more to fulfill the promise of the ADA to expand economic opportunity and full participation to millions of Americans who have been left behind. Our country should not allow discrimination on the basis of disability to continue. It is time for Congress and the President to act."

The ADA Restoration Act already has almost 100 original cosponsors. AUCD stands ready to work with these leaders of equality to move this bill through the 110th Congress.

The Association of University Centers on Disabilities, located in Silver Spring, MD, is a national, non-profit organization that promotes and supports the national network of interdisciplinary centers advancing policy and practices through research, education, and services for and with individuals with developmental and other disabilities, their families, and communities.