The Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 passes the United States House of Representatives by huge margin: 402-17!

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The Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 passes the United States House of Representatives by huge margin: 402-17!

Jul 2 2008

The Americans with Disabilities Act has transformed the nation since its enactment in 1990.  The ADA was intended to protect people with disabilities from discrimination at work and in public life.  Unfortunately, over the last decade Supreme and lower court decisions have excluded large groups of people with disabilities from receiving the employment protections.  Men and women, veterans, young adults, aging Americans – the backbone of communities and families – are caught in a Catch-22 and are often treated as “too disabled” to work but ruled “not disabled enough” to be qualified for equal rights under the ADA.  Further, these judicial restrictions block people with conditions such as epilepsy, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, cancer, heart disease and bipolar disorder – those whom Congress clearly intended to protect under the ADA in 1990 – from seeking protections against employment discrimination under the ADA.  The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 will re-establish these protections. 

On Wednesday, July 18, the House Education and Labor Committee and the House Judiciary Committee substituted the proposed language crafted by the disability and employer community for the original language, and passed the bills out of committee by overwhelming vote. The House Judiciary Committee was unanimous in its support for the bill as amended (27-0), and the Education and Labor Committee passed it 43-1. Only Representative Tom Price (R-GA) opposed the bill in committee.

Hearing Loss Association supports the bill as amended.  Employment issues are a real concern to people with hearing loss. We want to see people with hearing loss get the accommodations they need to get the job and to stay on the job. We believe this bill will help make that happen.

What follows is the letter we sent to Speaker Pelosi in support of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. We urge you to write your representative in support of this bill today!

June 23, 2008

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Office of the Speaker
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Via fax 202-225-4188

RE:  Support the ADA Amendments Act of 2008

Dear Madam Speaker:

The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) urges you to support the ADA Amendments Act of 2008.

The Hearing Loss Association of America is the largest consumer membership organization for people with hearing loss in the United States. Our mission is to open the world of communication for people with hearing loss through information, education, advocacy and support. We support the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) – a coalition of over 100 national consumer, advocacy, provider, and professional organizations who advocate on behalf of people of all ages with physical and mental disabilities and their families to urge passage of the ADA Amendments Act this session.

CCD has joined with this nation’s most prominent business trade organizations – including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, Society for Human Resource Management and HR Policy Association - to help secure the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The U.S. House Judiciary and House Education and Labor Committees overwhelmingly supported the ADA Amendments Act of 2008.  As you consider this legislation on the House floor, our alliance of disability, business, faith, veterans, and civil rights advocates urge you to pass the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 as reported out of committee, without amendments.

The Americans with Disabilities Act has transformed the nation since its enactment in 1990.  The ADA was intended to protect people with disabilities from discrimination at work and in public life.  As Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner stated at the House Judiciary Committee mark-up, “The ADA has been one of the most effective civil rights laws passed by Congress.  Its continued effectiveness is paramount to ensuring that the transformation that our nation has undergone continues in the future and that the guarantees and promises on which this country was established continue to be recognized on behalf of all its citizens.”

Unfortunately, over the last decade Supreme and lower court decisions have excluded large groups of people with disabilities from receiving the employment protections.  Men and women, veterans, young adults, aging Americans – the backbone of communities and families – are caught in a Catch-22 and are often treated as “too disabled” to work but ruled “not disabled enough” to be qualified for equal rights under the ADA.  Further, these judicial restrictions block people with conditions such as epilepsy, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, cancer, heart disease and bipolar disorder – those whom Congress clearly intended to protect under the ADA in 1990 – from seeking protections against employment discrimination under the ADA.  The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 will re-establish these protections. 

Hearing Loss Association of America has heard directly from our supporters that employment issues are a real concern to them.  Veterans returning from Iraq have hearing loss in significant numbers (http://www.asha.org/Publications/leader/2006/060321/060321g) and baby boomers are beginning to age into hearing loss.  In fact, Newsweek predicted there would be some 78 million people with hearing loss of all ages in 2030 (Newsweek, June 2005).  Many of these people want to work and are able to work with accommodations on the job. 

The employer and disability community believe that there is an opportunity in this Congress to improve the ADA and address issues that have been raised by court decisionsThe ADA Amendments Act of 2008 is the product of meaningful negotiations and discussions with experts in the disability community, business and employer groups, Members of Congress, and congressional staff.  This legislation strikes a good balance between protections for individuals with disabilities and the interests of business and employers.  All involved have worked to craft legislation that will ensure all Americans have a fair opportunity to secure employment. 

Hearing Loss Association supports this legislation in concert with CCD and many other national disability and business organizations. The employer and disability communities understand the benefit of this legislation for both employers and employees because it puts more Americans to work.  We urge you to support the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 as reported out of committee without amendments. 

Sincerely,

Brenda Battat
Executive Director