Righting (?) the ADA

By December 14, 2004General

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the workplace comes a report from the National Council on Disability entitled, “Righting the ADA”. The 150-page report offers a series of legislative proposals “in an effort to return the ADA to its original course”. Would that it were so.

You might recall the birth of the ADA in 1990, signed into law by President Bush (Sr). Better still, you might recall the aim of the law, i.e., to lower barriers for the disabled, whether structural or legal. Now, some 14 years later, as with so many other statutes, with the help of (who else?) an enterprising trial bar we have wandered far from the original purpose.

Since the passage of the ADA, the participation rate of the disabled in the workforce has declined. Hardly a rousing success. And, the #2 claim under the ADA today is for emotional distress. The #1 claim? By a factor of 3 over the #2 claim, it is for back injuries. Not exactly what we meant, is it? As we like to point out, when this bill was signed into law in the Rose Garden, standing and sitting behind the President were not people with emotional distress and back injuries. Instead, they were people with, well, disabilities.

Manfuacturers have been at the forefront of accommodating the disabled in our workplaces. We have long embraced the spirit of this law (long before it was codified) and we religiously follow the letter of the law today.

We stand shoulder to shoulder with the National Council in its quest for equality for all disabled people. Maybe we can get the lawyers out of it and have a reasonable discussion. In the meantime, let’s not expand the ADA.