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The task force is preparing an interim report documenting evidence of discrimination on the basis of disability in America, which will be ready by late October. An executive summary of the interim report is currently available for distribution. The final report of the task force is scheduled for release next year.
The task force is also recommending options for short and long term actions related to Congress, the executive branch, and the public. The information collected by the task force will be invaluable to my subcommittee and to Congress as a whole, as we consider the Americans with Disabilities Act and subsequent legislation to implement the integration of disabled Americans into the production mainstream of our society.
In the America of 1988, people with disabilities understand that democracy and self-help are synonymous. Americans with disabilities are mobilizing to help themselves. Power is their greatest need. With empowerment, all problems can be resolved, all public officials and programs can be held accountable.
Passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1988 will greatly help in the empowerment of disabled Americans. With the power and authority of their Government fully behind them, combined with their own energies, Americans of disabilities can become the masters of their own fates.
(The prepared statement of Congressman Owens follows:]
OWENS SAYS DISABILITY RIGHTS ACT WILL HELP "EMPOWER" DISABLED AMERICANS
"The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1988 represents the next giant step in the American civil rights movement," says Congressman Major Owens (D-NY), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Select Education. The Subcommittee, along with the Senate Subcommittee on the Handicapped, will hold a hearing on the legislation Tuesday, September 27, 10 a.m., Room 216 in the Hart Senate Office Building. Among the scheduled witnesses are Gregory Hlibok, a student leader of Gallaudet University demonstrations for a deaf president and deaf board members earlier this year, and Jade Calgory, a star of the film "Mac and Me" and the first disabled child to be featured in a commercial movie.
The disability rights measure prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in such areas as employment, housing, public accommodations, travel, communications, and activities of state and local governments. It covers employers engaged in commerce who have 15 or more employees; housing providers covered by federal fair housing laws; transportation companies; those engaged in broadcasting or communications; and state and local governments. Congressman Owens notes that the Act will not repeal Sections 503 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and all regulations issued under those sections will remain in full force and affect. Enforcement procedure for the Act includes administrative remedies, a private right of action in federal court, monetary damages, injunctive relief, attorney's fees, and cutoffs of
The measure is being sponsored in the House by Congressmembers Owens, Tony Coelho (D-Calif.), and Silvio Conte (R-Mass.). Its Senate sponsors are
In addition to the measure, congressman Owens, in his capacity as the House Select Education Subcommittee Chairman, has created a Task Force on the Rights and Empowerment of Americans with Disabilities "to guide the journey toward full empowerment of disabled Americans." He appointed Justin Dart, a former Rehabilitation Services Administration Commissioner, to chair the Task Force. "Mr. Dart is one of the most committed advocates for disabled Americans in this country," says Congressman Owens, "and he has made several unique contributions to the field of disability rights."
The Task Force is gathering evidence of discrimination against disabled Americans, and is seeking examples of successful local, state, national and international efforts to overcome barriers to self-realization.of disabled people. It is also recommending options for short and long-term actions relating to Congress, the Executive Branch, and the public. "The information collected by the Task Force will be invaluable to my Subcommittee and to Congress as a whole, as we consider this and subsequent legislation to implement the integration of disabled Americans into the productive mainstream of society," says Congressman Owens.
OPENING STATEMENT OF SENATOR HARKIN Senator HARKIN (presiding]. Thank you very much, Congressman Owens.
Again, I want to welcome all of you here. I want to also welcome my colleagues here. I would say without hesitation that you see in front of you really the vanguard in the Congress of those who care about and fight for Americans with disabilities. Senator Kennedy, Congressman Coelho, Congressman Owens, Senator Weicker, and Congressman Jeffords. I am really proud that you are all here.
We are holding this joint hearing on the pervasive problem of discrimination in our Nation against Americans with disabilities. This hearing will go down, I believe, in history as another significant step in Congress' effort to ensure equal opportunity for our 42 million Americans with disabilities.
People with disabilities, like racial and ethnic minorities and women, are entitled to obtain a job, enter a restaurant or hotel, ride a bus, listen to and watch the TV, use the telephone, and use public services free from invidious discrimination and free from po lices that exclude them solely on the basis of their disability. Every American must be guaranteed genuine opportunities to live their lives to the maximum of their potential.
Almost a quarter of a century ago, Congress took the historic step of passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which, among other things, bars discrimination against persons on the basis of race, color, and national origin by recipients of Federal aid, and in such areas as employment and public accommodations. Americans with disabilities were not protected by this landmark legislation.
In 1968, the Congress and the President took another historic step when it passed the fair housing legislation barring discrimination in housing. Once again, people with disabilities were not extended protections by this legislation.
In 1973, some 15 years ago, the Congress finally adopted section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of handicaps. However, this legislation only prohibits discrimination by recipients of Federal aid. It does not cover discrimination by private employers; nor does it prohibit discrimination in public accommodations.
Thus, today under our Nation's civil rights laws, an employer can no longer say to a prospective employee, “I will not hire you because of the color of your skin, or because you are a woman, or because you are Jewish.” If they did, a person could march over to the courthouse, file a law suit, win, and collect damages and attorney's fees.
Yet, to this day, nothing prevents an employer or an owner of a hotel or restaurant from excluding Americans with disabilities. The courthouse door is still closed to Americans with disabilities.
On April 28 of this year, several Senators and Representatives introduced the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1988 and took the first step in opening up the courthouse door to Americans with disabilities. The Americans With Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in areas of employment, public accommodations, transportation, communications, and public services.
It is my expectation that this legislation will become the law of the land during the 101st Congress. However, the road to enactment will be filled with potholes and roadblocks. But if we stick to gether as a community, and we work with the groups representing employers and the hotel, restaurant, communications, and transportation industries, I believe we can succeed.
We have momentum on our side. When this Administration vetoes the Civil Rights Restoration Act, this Congress overrode it overwhelmingly. When the Fair Housing Act Amendments came before the Congress, we worked closely with the realtors and the homebuilders. We put together a broadbased coalition to get this passed. Again, overwhelmingly, we did it.
We can do the same with the Americans With Disabilities Act. It is good legislation, important legislation, needed legislation, and it is the right thing to do. Almost a quarter century after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is long overdue. (The prepared statement of Senator Harkin follows:)