February 15, 2007
Dear Mr. Majority Leader:
I am writing you on behalf of the board and members of the National Council for Support of Disability Issues (NCSD). NCSD constitutes a Section 501c3 non-profit whose purpose is to educate about and advocate for sustainable and sound cross-disability policy. For more information about NCSD, please consult www.ncsd.org . I understand that a coalition of organizations dedicated to protecting the civil rights of persons with disabilities has been in collaboration and at work with Congress to restore the provisions of the ADA, which has been harmed by :”conservative courts” and an administration who although purports to support the quality of life and opportunity for persons with disabilities actually still possesses the kind of ignorance and negative stereotypes intended to be eradicated by this piece of landmark civil rights law. I am writing to congratulate you on assenting to the position of Majority Leader and to urge you to continue to lead the progress towards and to collaborate with members to assure the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Restoration Act.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a comprehensive civil rights act for persons with disabilities. The scope of the protection of the ADA has been narrowed and/or abrogated by the Supreme Court interpretations and by those of other state, federal district and appellate courts.
Contrary to the hyper technical and flawed interpretation of the ADA by the U.S. Supreme Court, the ADA is a remedial civil rights statute that is intended to protect persons with disabilities who do indeed constitute a “discrete and insular minority”. The board and members of NCSD agrees with you that, “The point of the law is not disability; the point is discrimination….” The ADA is a statute that is one in a litany of prior civil rights laws that have been enacted to provide protections to many persons in our society who have suffered discrimination because of an immutable characteristic, and, thusly, the ADA must be read liberally.
The language of the ADA Restoration Act "on the basis of a disability" harmonizes the ADA with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination "on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, and sex." Prohibiting discrimination "on the basis of a disability" will enable individuals utilizing the ADA to focus on the discrimination that they have experienced rather than having to prove that they fall within the intended scope of the ADA. This phrase presumes that an individual is a member of the protected class if they are disabled.
Considering the extent to which the present administration and conservatism in general has demonstrated a disregard for the rule of law and the avenue of the courts to address grievances in a civil society, it is critical to assure that judicial redress in terms of potential remedies available to litigating parties and the ability to prosecute such claims is viable. Remedies set forth in the ADA must also be read liberally to allow a tool through which persons with disabilities can address in a fair but indelible method, the all too regular instances of discrimination that is both a negative effect to such persons financially and emotionally. Since many persons with disabilities, particularly, severe multiple disabilities remains at or the poverty criteria, the U.S. Department of Justice (Department) still constitutes the most viable way through whom to seek redress. Having filed complaints with the Department, I can attest to the unacceptably slow response and effectuation of complaints, through either settlement or litigation. At least one reason I imagine is that the Civil Rights Division of the Department remains under staffed and could receive increased funding to assure that prosecuting ADA issues is a top concern. NCSD particularly urges the Congress, as it works to enact the ADA Restoration Act, to review how the appropriations process can be utilized to increase funding to the Civil Rights Division so that disability discrimination can be a top priority.
Another bill, the ADA Notification Act, which has been introduced in last four Sessions of Congress, would negatively affect the intent and remedial purposes of the ADA. Fortunately, this bill has never had a committee vote. This bill would require any complainant under the ADA to give 90 days notice before filing a court action. While the bill has continued to gain co-sponsors, the bill continues to see no real action and as far as I know did not have significant movement in the last Congress. NCSD urges you to assure that any attempts to pass this bill are blocked.
As far as I know, the ADA Restoration Act's last action in Congress was in November of 2006, in House Education and the Workforce, which was subsequently referred to the Subcommittee on Employer-Employee Relations. NCSD is aware that this bill has been under review for several sessions of Congress and it urges you to assure its sheparding through the legislative process and its passage this session. Please do not hesitate to telephone me at – (410) 241-6745 if I can be of further technical assistance either on this particular piece of legislation or on issues related to disability policy more generally.
Gary C. Norman, Esq., Counsel & Spokesperson
National Council for Support of Disability Issues