A revised version of the Americans with Disabilities Act is headed for the White House. The bill’s chief sponsor, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, says it’s of critical importance to millions of Americans.
"When we passed the original A-D-A 18 years ago, we clearly intended that anyone with a disability would be covered by the law. They’d be protected from discrimination and have reasonable accommodations in the workplace. A series of misguided Supreme Court decisions have narrowed the scope of who’s protected," Harkin says.
Those rulings meant certain people weren’t covered under the law, including those who used medications, prosthetics or other devices, to overcome disabilities. "The Supreme Court has created a supreme absurdity," Harkin says, as the court made the case that those who’ve been more successful at coping with a disability were less likely to be protected by the A-D-A.
Harkin says, "As a result, people with conditions that common sense tells us are disabilities, including amputation, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, intellectual disabilities, muscular dystrophy, on and on, have been told by courts they are not in fact disabled and are not necessarily eligible under the A-D-A." The new legislation, called the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act passed the U.S. House on Wednesday after passing the Senate last Thursday.
President Bush is expected to sign the legislation into law. The new bill makes clear several key portions of the original bill, which Harkin also co-authored in 1990. "What the A-D-A Restoration Bill does simply is to overturn the Supreme Court decisions," Harkin says. "It clarifies once and for all what we intended in the original bill and that is anyone with a disability is eligible for the protections of the A-D-A and it makes clear, in legislation, that mitigating measures cannot be considered in determining whether a person is eligible."
He says the bill has wide bipartisan support and the backing of the business community. Harkin says the goals remain under four pillars to provide people with disabilities: equal opportunity, full participation, independent living and economic self-sufficiency. Harkin says the bill’s passage will enable "Americans of all walks of life (to) achieve their full potential in the workplace and in other aspects of their lives."