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We should also, as much as possible, track Section 504 and Section 503 that apply to recipients of Federal money.
And third, the remedies for legislation should be simple, should be easy to understand, and should be non-litigious. They should convert discrimination into opportunity. The goal should be to end discrimination rather than to provide large amounts of lawsuits or punishment for wrongdoings.
The goal is to eliminate discrimination and to provide people opportunities to move into mainstream life, particularly in employment and accommodations, and that should be the be goal also of the remedies.
Mr. Chairman, I do appreciate the extra time for some degree of elaboration. I am looking forward to a very productive hearing. And as a Texan, I want to welcome you from New York, and Mr. Payne from New Jersey, here today. We do like our Texas hospitality. I understand that you also very much enjoyed the Houston Astros, and I will be sure not to tell the Mets or the Yankees of your enjoyment of that game.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
FIELD HEARING ON
AUGUST 28, 1989
Mr. Chairman, I welcome this opportunity to participate in a hearing on the Americans with Disabilities Act, especially here in Houston among old friends and fellow Texans who share my commitment to civil rights for individuals with disabilities.
These Texans know first hand the personal and societial consequences of such rights -- both when extended and when denied. This building is an excellent example of the consequences of rights extended. Recent action of the Houson transit authorities to purchase new buses that are fully accessible is another example. My good friend Lex Frieden and many others have been pushing Houston, and the rest of Texas to become a model for the rest of the country.
In this process they have learned and taught others that civil rights take concrete actions -- actions that not only change the environment, but open the mind.
The witnesses who will testify today have been part of the process. What they have to say is important for two reasons. First, they will speak from experience. Second, these witnesses will speak on the issue of the potential impact of the ADA on local goverments and communities. The debate over the ADA thus far has given little attention to this issue, except for public transit. We need to focus on substance -- clearly, thoughtful, and specifically so that intent underlying the ADA can become law this year.
2 I believe there is universal support for extending the civil rights of individuals with disabilities. The current debate centers around how -- primarily how fast and in what terms. My statement includes three areas of comment: .
a review of the record to date on the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1989 (ADA);
second, an outline of some concerns that have surfaced;
and third, observations on the implications of our failure to attend to these concerns.
The National Council on Disability
The record for extending the civil rights of persons with disabilities has been building rapidly in the last two years. Mrs. Parrino, Chair of the National Council on Disability and Council Members deserve credit, recognition, and thanks for drafting the first Americans with Disabilities Act introduced by Mr. Coelho and Senator Weicker in April of last year, and for beginning the educational process that must accompany such legislation.
3 The Task Force on the Rights and Empowerment of People with Disabilities
Chairman Owens, in May of last year, asked Justin Dart to Chair the Task Force on the Rights and Empowerment of People with Disabilities. Mr. Dart held public forums in every State, Guam, and Puerto Rico, and heard about the need for the legislation from over 8,000 people with disabilities. Mr. Dart's efforts have cleanlyestablished the social, moral, and economic imperative for extending the civil rights of those with disabilities. This imperative was dramatically reinforced and captured on video tape by the joint House-Senate Hearing on the ADA last September
In this Congress progress continues. Early in May of this year, the Republican Leader, Mr. Michel and I wrote to Mr. Coelho expressing our willingness to work with him toward developing a bipartisan ADA bill. An ADA bill was introduced by Mr. Coelho and Senator Harkin on May 9, 1989.
House action on the ADA has been slow; first because four committees have joint jurisdiction over the legislation, and second, because of Mr. Coelho's resignation. We have had two hearings in the House before today, but neither concentrated on the specific substance of the ADA, but rather its general intent.
The Senate had four hearings on the bill, and began working closely with the President in July on a bipartisan version of the JADA. The President and Senators achieved consensus, and in late July, an amended ADA bill was unanimously reported out of the Senate Human Resources Committee.
4 The Evolution of Civil Rights for those with Disabilities
Attention to comprehensive civil rights as a matter of National policy began with the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1,964: This Act, although it did not protect those with disabilities, laid the ground work and gave us the principles and experiences, that led to the enactment of title V of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of handicap by Federal Agencies, recipients of Federal grant funds, and Federal contractors. And thus, just as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 influenced the shaping of title Y of the Rehabilitation Act, so should our experience with title V influence our crafting of the ADA to extend civil rights in the private sector for those with disabilities.
Thirty-five States, including Texas, have legislation which prohibits discrimination against and promotes accessibility by those with disabilities. These State laws to varying degrees impact on the private sector. It is important that new Federal policy that would set the acceptable standard for providing civil rights to those with disabilities, take into account such State variation, and provide reasonable and effective ways of achieving nationwide consistency given the scope of the ADA -private sector employment, services, transportation, public accommodations, and telecommunications, as well as areas of the public sector which to a large extent is already covered by other Federal statutes.
Thus, as we set about drafting the final version of the ADA, we should strive to develop standards that are as much as possible uniform or at least consistent, so that none of us needs to spend time in court in order to clarify what such standards mean in the real world away from Washington, D.C.