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Harkin Introduces Bill To Restore Intent Of ADA
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 27, 2007

WASHINGTON, DC--On the 17th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin introduced legislation that he said would clarify and restore what Congress intended the law to do in the first place -- protect people with disabilities from discrimination.

The Democrat from Iowa, who is considered the primary author of the ADA, introduced the Americans with Disabilities Act Restoration Act of 2007 on Thursday. The measure has bipartisan support in both the Senate and House of Representatives.

At a press conference, Harkin said that over the years a series of court decisions have narrowed the definition of disability, making it more difficult or impossible for many people to use the law to claim discrimination, particularly if the effects of their disabilities are "mitigated" or lessened by medication or assistive technologies.

"Many individuals who Congress intended to protect under the ADA -- including people with epilepsy, diabetes, and cancer -- are no longer protected as a result of these court decisions," said Harkin. "These cases have created a bizarre catch-22 where people with serious conditions like epilepsy or diabetes could be forced to choose between treating their conditions and forfeiting their protections under the ADA, or not treating their conditions and being protected."

"That is not what Congress intended when we passed this law 17 years ago. This situation clearly cries out for a modest, reasonable legislative fix, and that's exactly what I am doing, today, by introducing the ADA Restoration Act of 2007."

If the restoration bill becomes law, the bipartisan legislation would remove a significant barrier that has kept countless people from winning or even filing ADA suits because the courts have focused on having the plaintiffs prove the level of their disabilities rather than the level of the discrimination. Among other things, the legislation would change the language in the civil rights law so that it would prohibit discrimination "on the basis of a disability" instead of "against an individual with a disability" as it currently reads.

The measure would also bring the language of the ADA into line with that of other civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination "on the basis of" race, color, religion, national origin, and sex.

"When we passed the law, there was common agreement on both sides of the aisle ... that the law was designed to protect any individual (who) is treated less favorably because of a current, past or perceived disability," said Harkin, who now chairs the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Many national disability groups are asking advocates to contact their Senators and Representatives to urge them to pass the measure.

"Harkin Introduces Bill Restoring His Signature Legislation, The Americans With Disabilities Act" (Senator Tom Harkin)

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