Sunday, July 26, 2015

Weekly Reading List - Happy Birthday ADA Edition

This week I am posting links to articles I have collected the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The “mainstream” press rarely covers disability issues in any sort of depth. That’s why I decided to stick with the more journalistic pieces, even though most of what I have read about the ADA this week was on personal disability blogs and social media sites.

Joseph P. Shapiro, Washington Post - March 29, 1988

This is a good place to start … an article on the ADA from 1988, just before the first bill was introduced for the first time.

Samantha Michaels, Mother Jones - July 25, 2015

It’s all about the video above, which I have posted before on this blog. As the man in the video says, there’s a fine line between empowerment and pity. I think there are two key factors. First, it seems like the capitol crawlers wanted to do it, and came up with the idea themselves. Second, they did it for their community, not for themselves.

Robert L. Burgdorf Jr., Washington Post - July 24, 2015

This is the kind of history I love, and I’m amazed at how little I knew about the origins of the ADA. But to me, this is the most important sentence:
“After conducting consumer forums around the country, NCD concluded that discrimination was the biggest problem facing those with disabilities."
It’s easy to forget what a radical conclusion that was at the time. For many today, it’s still a surprise and a revelation that disability discrimination is, in fact, worse than disability itself.
Joseph Shapiro, - July 24, 2015

News stories about ADA lawsuits usually make them sound either vaguely sleazy or unrealistic and selfish. This article shows how lawsuits are sometimes necessary to move progress along, and ensure justice for individuals who need it.

David Crary, Fox Business / Associated Press - July 25, 2015

This is a very good overview of the ADA’s history and effect, taking into account both praise and criticism.

Lorraine Mirabella, Baltimore Sun - July 25, 2015

The Title I employment provisions may be the least successful part of the ADA, if success means a major shift towards employment for all people with disabilities. But I don’t think the ADA was really designed to deal with macro-level employment gaps. It’s better suited to dealing with very specific individual employment matters. And as a civil rights law, the ADA has nothing at all to do with preparing people for jobs. It removed some barriers to entry, but it was never meant to push people through.

Ananya Bhattacharya and Heather Long, CNN Money - July 26, 2015

Reading about the blind man at the start of this article, I wonder for the millionth time why there aren’t more disabled people who file complaints and sue under the ADA when faced with such straightforward discrimination and lack of accessibility. But it takes resources to pursue complaints and lawsuits, neither of which are likely to make the plaintiff more employable. Especially with employment discrimination, there’s something missing in the ADA, but I don’t know how it could be fixed.

Pam Fessler, - July 23, 2015

Did the ADA make it harder for disabled people get jobs? It’s an interesting thought that makes some kind of sense, but I’m not convinced the law has been a net negative. After reading this article, I have the feeling that for many of us, the problem is that we are distracted by so many little inaccessibilities, discriminations, and disincentives before we even get to the workplace, and I think employers sense that. They might not think, “I don’t want to hire a disabled person,” but they will think, “This person’s life is too complicated, how would she stay focused on the job?” If the rest of our lives were smoother and more secure, I think we’d be more convincing in the job market.

Petula Dvorak, Washington Post - July 20, 2015

I agree with Dot Nary’s strategy of letting smaller businesses go with some education, while saving really aggressive advocacy for the big companies that “should know better.” In rural towns like mine, though, that might not be enough. The bigger companies are all on the outskirts of town, and are mostly accessible by now. It’s just that a lot of disabled people can’t get there. The businesses they can reach tend to be smaller, in those old downtown buildings that ALL have steps up and narrow doorways. Eventually, something has to be done about them, too. And after 25 years, “eventually” is, arguably, now.


I have to say I’m disappointed that neither of my two favorite news websites, and have posted anything about the ADA anniversary. I wonder if these were conscious editorial decisions, or just carelessness.


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