Illinois Steps Backward in Care for People with Disabilities
What follows is a series of articles on the rights of people with disabilities and the violation of those rights in the state of Illinois and elsewhere. I settled on Illinois as the focus of these articles because of familiarity, I was Executive Director of the Illinois Association of Community Mental Health Agencies [IACHMA] for eight years [1980-1987] and because Illinois is currently in the news as a violator of the rights of people with disabilities.
On July 26, the 17th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA]-leading Members of the House and Senate, including Majority Leader Steny Hoyer [MD], Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner [R-WI] and Senator Tom Harkin [D-IA] introduced the ADA Restoration Act which according to Kaaryn Sanon, Communications Manager, National Disability Rights Network [NDRN], has the strong support of the NDRN and the larger disability community. Unfortunately, the main stream print media has not reacted positively or indeed in any way at all. My search of the internet on Google on August 6, turned up nary a mention of the "Restoration Act". I say unfortunately, because as a person with multiple disabilities, I would welcome the attention of the print media to assist me in dealing with what I perceive as discrimination resulting from my disabling conditions, diabetes, heart disease, parkinsons, mild hearing loss to name a few.
"Over the past 17 years, the courts have narrowed the definition of disability so much that people with conditions like epilepsy, diabetes, HIV, cancer, and hearing loss who manage their disabilities with medication, prosthetics, or hearing aids are viewed as "too functional" to have a disability". Yet, goes on Ms. Sanon, "while these same people may be denied a job or fired because an employer mistakenly believes they cannot perform the job, they are denied the ADAs protection from employment discrimination. This creates a catch-22 in which employers say a person is ‘too disabled’ to do the job but not ‘disabled enough’ to be protected by the law."
The ADA Restoration Act introduced on July 26 "ensures the right of individuals to be judged based on performance. It restores the original intent of Congress, harmonizing the ADA with other civil rights laws and requiring the courts to interpret the law fairly."
"While great progress has been made since passage of the ADA, bad court decisions over the years have eroded many of its essential protections," said NDRN Executive Director Curt Decker. "We urge Congress to quickly pass this bill to restore the rights of all Americans to be free from unfair discrimination."
Passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and signed into law by the first President Bush July 26, 1990, the ADA was passed to ensure equal rights for individuals with disabilities in workplaces, transportation, and other aspects of daily life.
The National Disability Rights Network [NDRN] is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy [P&A] systems and The Client Assistance Programs [CAP] for individuals with disabilities. Collectively, the network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.
Senator Tom Harkin [D-IA] has issued the following statement:
"Seventeen years ago I helped to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure that civil rights protections were extended to every individual-regardless of current, past, or perceived disability. This landmark piece of legislation has been crucial to breaking down the barriers that had previously prevented persons with disabilities from being able to fully participate in our society.
Unfortunately, the ADA has come under attack from a series of court decisions that have ignored Congress’ clear legislative intent regarding who should be protected by dramatically narrowing the category of who qualifies as a person with a disability.
That is why I have offered the ADA Restoration Act of 2007 to clarify and strengthen the original Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure that all peoples with disabilities-including those with epilepsy, diabetes, and cancer-remain protected under the ADA regardless of whether or not they are currently treating their symptoms."