Thursday, June 19, 2008

ASAN Seeks to Strengthen the Americans with Disabilities Act

Several disability and civil rights organizations, including the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, currently are working with American business associations to provide greater protection against employment discrimination by amending the Americans with Disabilities Act. Details below:

Employers and Disability Advocates Push for Amendments to Landmark Americans with Disabilities Act

Employer & Disability Alliance Forms to Clarify & Secure Promise of the ADA

Washington, DC, June 18, 2008 – This afternoon, former Congressman Tony Coelho, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue, LCCR Executive Vice President Nancy Zirkin and autism advocate Ari Ne'eman announced the formation of the Employer & Disability Alliance – a new collaborative effort among some of America's largest business associations and leading disability and civil rights advocates to promote the ADA Amendments Act.

"Narrow court interpretations have removed ADA protections for people Congress intended to cover – those with serious heart conditions, epilepsy, diabetes, and even cancer," said Zirkin. "Organizations in the Employer & Disability Alliance have been working around the clock with leaders in Congress to return ADA coverage – through the ADA Amendments Act – to these people and to craft an agreement that is fair to both employers and those with disabilities," said Zirkin.

"I always say that I don't know of any other group in America who wants to pay taxes – it's those of us with disabilities, because a job is our dignity and an opportunity to participate in this great American dream," said Coelho, the primary author of the original ADA. "What the ADA Amendments Act does is provide us the opportunity to work with the business community to get those jobs we want."

"I'm thrilled to be able to speak up in support of this essential restoration of civil rights law that will ensure that Americans with disabilities, like myself, will continue to enjoy protections and are included throughout society," said Ne'eman who is the founding president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.

The ADA Amendments Act clarifies the current requirement that impairment substantially limit a major life activity in order to be considered a disability. It also confirms for the courts that people with disabilities should not lose their civil rights protections because their condition is treatable with medication or can be addressed with the help of assistive technology. The Employer & Disability Alliance sent a letter to the Hill explaining these and other elements in more detail this morning. The full text of the letter is below.

"Some will criticize the details of the compromise, and this criticism will come from some in the employer community and some in the disability community," said Donohue. "But, in making decisions comes some heat and we are willing to take that heat to do what is necessary. Fortunately, the new proposal has been widely vetted in the business community and we look forward to working with the policymakers on Capitol Hill to move the ball forward, with the hope that this agreement can be kept largely intact."

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