Reasonable Accommodation

Has the Americans with Disabilities Act worked?

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Five years ago last week, with the nearly unanimous approval of Congress, George Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law. Today, the effectiveness of the groundbreaking anti-discrimination law is being questioned by the disabled and non-disabled alike.

Writing in the Libertarian magazine Reason (Aug./Sept. 1995) Brian Doherty asserts that the law unfairly 'gives the feds veto rights over such issues as: whether a prospective employer can ask a would-be truck driver if he has epilepsy; how far grab bars must be from the back walls of toilet stalls; what surfaces are permitted for subway platforms;... and dozens of other aspects of running businesses and city governments.' According to Doherty, the law has created an entire industry around interpreting it and has provided more work for lawyers than for the handicapped people it was supposed to represent.

On the other side of the fence, in the current issue of The Disability Rag & Resource (July/August 1995) John R. Woodward lauds the ADA for making significant changes in 'the everyday life of all Americans, not just those with disabilities.' Citing the telephone relay services for the deaf and hard of hearing that are operating in all fifty states as perhaps the ADA's greatest achievement, Woodward also praises the law for making commercial buildings across the country more accessible for their disabled customers and employees.

However, Woodward is also quick to point out that many businesses have failed to make the necessary adaptations and that the government has been slow to force them to do so. To gauge the disabled community's satisfaction with the ADA's progress, Woodwind asked users of the misc.handicap newsgroup to comment on the current conditions of the ADA in their communities. The responses, he writes, 'left figurative blisters on the information superhighway.'

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