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I am here to expross my doop concoms about the Americans with Disabilities Act, H.R. 2273, in both its present form and in the substituto Senate bil marked up on Aug. 2. 1989 by the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee. While I come from a family which had to dod with a handicapped person's difficulties in getting around in the public area betore the term handicapped accessible' was oven known, and while I thus must agree wholeheartedly with the ideal and goal of the logislation in this act, I am among the majorthy of business persons who have a number of real problems with this act as wiltton.
Botore I got into the specifics, I would like to speak about the general change in philosophy of the U.S. House and Sonate in recent years. Too many members of Congress have been introducing legislation to correct certain social problems which are to be pold for through specific costs to small businewas as opposed to bolng pald for by the general population through taxation methods already in place. I am speaking about logistation such as Section 89, the Kennedy type health bills and now the H.R. 2273 and S. 933 authored by Ropresentative Steny Hoyer and Senator Tom Harkin.
Tho trend seems to hit business with the cost of social 'advancos' that rightfully belong to the obligation of the general population I tho poople want to pay for them. We h business clearly see the reasons for this. Government is having dimcully selling the population on additional taxes, 80, the thought is to hit a relatively small group which is perceived as having enough money to cover such changes, but in reality most small businesses struggle to meet a wookly budget Just like every family in America. I am sorry to express these cynical thoughts. but they are arrived at only through the examples government has created.
Now. If you will put yourselves in the place of a business person, you will quickly see how Impossible H.R. 2273 ks. How can a business owner make physical changes in the work place even before a specific disabled person begins work? The ADA Cratters themselves envisioned some 900 types of disabilities to be covered. And the business place is to provide for the needs of all 900 plus? Having done a considerable amount of lobbying in the Minnesota Legislature, I am well aware of the difficuttles created by legislative language. It is bad legislation when general terms and expressions leading to difficult and indefinite definitions are used. For example, in H.R. 2273 we find expressions such as 'undue burden.' 'readily available," reasonable accommodation, 'readily achievable.' 'benefit,' full and equal enjoyment,' and 'essential functions' What do those really mean? Isn't that maldng a lot of work for lawyers, courts and Jurles?
Let's take, for example, publishing businesses such as mine. Many are located in older plants that were built before many of the technologically advanced alds to the disabled were invented or pertected. Many have no elevators or ramps, and narrow doorways and limited space are the rule, not the exception. All plants contain presses that require fairly robust workers who can I heavy objects and work sometimes cumbersome equipment with speed and dextertty. Hearing is an important sotety tool due to the use of waming bells and burzzers for various phases of printing. Sately is extremely important so the use of an individual's ful faculties are absolutely necessary in many publishing jobs.
While I have given you a brief look at the publishing business, every business in the nation will face serious problems in complying with H.R. 2273 - namely, what do we do specifically in order to avold Injunctions, lawsuits, exhorbitant fines, and the like. Do I need one ramp or ten? Does every door need to be widened or only certain ones, and if so, which ones? Which auxiliary alas do I need for the blind and the deat In my particular plant? What sort of training do my employees need to deal with certain types of disabilities? When am I sate from the fear of legal action against my business?
We have seen the contusion created by OSHA in the workplace over what is really required and who is responsible for it. There are already different requirements among federal and state laws in confilct with ADA, so what do we follow? What do we do it we have already proceeded with one set of laws, rules and regulations?
Are chemical obousers really disabled? In our management of personnel, chemical abusers are treated as il persons who must follow their presectbed treatment plan or be discharged. Is that unfair?
My company ronts some building space to another business, as a number of small town business people do. What liabilities do business owners have who rent their facilities? If cost is a factor in compllance. at what point is the owner within legal requirements bullding a new building, enlarging an existing one or remodeling?
Is it automatic discrimination If an employer hires a person without a disability if that person and a disabled person appear to have the samo qualifications? Why must the very small forms in all kinds of social and geographical areas comply with the same requirements as the large ones and those located in largo metro areas?
And even more importantly than all of the cost and compllance factors, why does the Act adopt a punitive approach in its philosophy which only encourages lawsuits, including those of a frivolous nature, Instead of providing Incentives to accomplish the retrofitting and hire the disabled? And, finally, why is there no distinction between Intentional and unintentiond action?
This Act like so many others is impossiblel When logislation puts any segment of our population at a disadvantage or forces them into real financial hardship, I can hardly be called fak. With the ADA legislation, # appears that falmess is the goal as far as the treatment of the disabled, but does that mean that we must be untair to those who in the end result provide the jobs for the disabled? I, for one, certainly think noti