From Transition Letter Attachment Sent by AAPD and a Coalition of Consumer Controlled Organizations (12/22/08):
Protecting Civil Rights
· Over the last decade, US Supreme Court decisions, amendments to certain disability rights legislation, and changes in federal regulations have undermined the right to equal protection under the law for Americans with disabilities.
· The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 rejected the Supreme Court’s narrow interpretation of “disability” under the ADA to make it easier to obtain protection against disability-based discrimination. However, the law still fails to consider certain impairments “disabilities,” subjecting some individuals with disabilities to continued discrimination.
· In June 2008, the Federal Register published over 800 pages of DOJ's proposed rules to revise Title II and III regulations, including revisions to the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG). The 60-day comment period was woefully inadequate to analyze and respond to the massive NPRM.
· President Bush signed the ADA Amendments Act into law on September 25, 2008. Effective January 1, 2009, the law requires EEOC revise portions of its regulations that define "disability."
· Many Americans are unfamiliar with their civil rights and responsibilities under Title III of the ADA.
· In January 2008, Senator Kennedy and Congressman Lewis introduced the Civil Rights Act of 2008 to restore civil rights protections that courts have limited.
Long Term Goals:
· Continue the restoration of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Legislation should afford protection to individuals with impairments not covered by the current law and should:
- Mandate that virtual or online businesses using the Internet are “places of public accommodations.”
- Eliminate the catalyst theory of attorney fees (Buckhannon).
- Revise upwards the current $300,000 limit for damages under Title I of the ADA.
- Allow damages under Title III of the ADA and modify standing requirement for injunctive relief.
· Assure input into ADA Amendments Act Regulations. Since the regulations implementing the ADAA have substantial impact on individuals with disabilities and their relationships with employers and courts, the process must allow substantial input from the disability community. “Nothing about us without us.”
· Appoint Supreme Court Justices who demonstrate commitment to disability rights as civil rights law.
· Enhance enforcement of Title III of the ADA. to create accessible communities of inclusion for all individuals with disabilities.
Short Term Goals:
· Work with Congress to identify an appropriate legislative vehicle to ensure that all people with disabilities are protected against employment discrimination.
· Direct EEOC and other agencies to use Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking or Negotiated Rulemaking to develop draft ADA Amendment Act regulations with input from the disability community.
· Direct the DOJ to reopen the comment period on its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to ADA Titles II and III, including the ADAAG, allow a reasonable period to review the more than 800 pages, and revise portions of its regulations based on public comments.
· Direct DOJ to improve enforcement of Title III of the ADA and support its efforts to:
· Create a working group to bring together DOJ staff to coordinate their efforts and train them in the most up-to-date information about individuals living with the spectrum of disabilities, incorporating individuals with disabilities as trainers;
· Increase DOJ’s budget for technical assistance so it can encourage compliance and facilitate the removal of physical and attitudinal barriers, as part of the economic stimulus package that will fix the nation’s infrastructure;
· Direct more technical assistance efforts to those for whom information is not readily available and to those individuals in the disability community who have not typically filed complaints with DOJ; and
· Identify opportunities to educate the public about their rights and responsibilities under Title III of the ADA and the work of the Civil Rights Division of DOJ.
· Work with Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 2008 to restore legislative intent, and strengthen accountability when discrimination occurs, including disability-based discrimination.