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Watkins, Adm. James, Chairperson, President's Commission on the Human
Prepared statement (with an attachment) ........
AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT OF 1988
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 1988
THE COMMITTEE ON LABOR AND HUMAN RESOURCES,
Washington, DC. The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 10 a.m., in room SH-216, Hart Senate Office Building, Senator Tom Harkin (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Present: Senators Harkin, Kennedy, and Weicker, Representatives Owens, Coelho, Martinez, and Jeffords.
OPENING STATEMENT OF SENATOR WEICKER Senator WEICKER (presiding]. The joint committee hearing of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives on the Americans With Disabilities Act will come to order.
It is a great pleasure to welcome my colleagues from the House, to welcome all those in attendance, whether as observers or as witnesses. This is a historic occasion.
I have a prepared statement, which will be submitted in its entirety for the record. I would just like to make the following comments.
I, like you, have lived through weeks, indeed months, of those earth shattering, heartstopping issues such as patriotism and Pledges of Allegiance and all those things which are of deep concern to America. Somehow, I have heard absolutely nothing about 36 million Americans with disabilities.
I think it is to the credit of both candidates, both the Governor and the Vice President, that they support the legislation that is the subject matter of this hearing. Yet, I think the time has come for the Nation, never mind the candidates, to insist that we start to discuss the realities of the world around us. Those realities include 36 million of our neighbors who have particular problems with discrimination.
As is well known I have spoken in the past, not only as a U.S. Senator, but as the father of a disabled child. Within the last several weeks, I find I have another disabled child, this time a learning disabled child. As we grow older, the discrimination that takes place against the ailments of infirmity become more obvious and more frequent.
As new situations confront us, such as AIDS, discrimination once again raises its head, a discrimination which so many of you in this room know all too well, insofar as your particular disabilities are concerned.
Now, the agenda of the Nation is going to be set in the next several weeks, not after the election is over. If both parties and their candidates can tiptoe off the stage without mentioning the Americans With Disabilities Act and its passage immediately, in the next Congress, if they can do that then there will be no Americans with Disabilities Act enacted by the next Congress. If there is silence now, there will be silence later. If there is indifference to discrimination now, there will be indifference later.
This is the moment in the time of all Americans when they set the priorities and the goals of this Nation. Foremost among them should be the fact that for 36 million, and growing in number, Americans, the time has come to end all discrimination, in whatever form. If we do that, that is a patriotism of which we can all be proud.
[The prepared statement of Senator Weicker follows:]
September 27, 1988
I am very pleased to join my colleagues this morning in convening a joint hearing on a subject of deep concern to ne : discrimination on the basis of disability.
In its 1986 report, Toward Independence, the National Council on the Handicapped noted: "People with disabilities have been saying for years that their major obstacles are not inherent in their disabilities, but arise from barriers that have been inposed externally and unnecessarily." That report went on to recommend that "Congress... enact a comprehensive law requiring equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities, with broad coverage and setting clear, consistent, and enforceable standards prohibiting discrimination on the basis of handicap."
Earlier this year, in direct response to the Council's recommendation, Senator Barkin and I introduced 8.2345, the
sabilities Act. Drafted principally by the Council, this legislation would prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, public accommodations, transportation, communciation and public services. And it goes a step further in describing specific methods by which such discrimination is to be eliminated.
The bill has strong, bipartisan backing in both houses of Congress, including 25 cosponsors in the Senate and 114 in the House. It has been endorsed by more than 50 national organizations representing people with a wide variety of disabilities. It is also supported by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, an umbrella group of 185 organizations active in the area of civil rights.
As a prelude to further Congressional action on s.2345, we look forward this morning to hearing expert testimony on the types of discrimination experienced by people with disabilities. Most of our witnesses cane by their expertise the hard way. They know first-hand what it is like to be shunned in the mainstream and shunted off into the margins of American life. They know first-hand that a disease like AIDS or a condition such as cerebral palsy can not only rob individuals of their health but also be used to deny them a table in a restaurant, a job, a home, and -- finally -- any shred of human dignity.
This hearing is also about fighting back and the rewards reaped as a consequence. We will learn of the difference early intervention has made in the life of a mentally retarded youth. We will revisit the triumph experienced by the students at Gallaudet when they succeeded in their battle for a deaf university president.
Their stories offer us a glimpse of a nation changing for the better. But the transformation has been much too long in coming and is proceeding at too slow a pace. It took the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and subsequent statutues to make plain this nation's opposition to racism, sexism and discrimination based on a person's age. It will take the Americans with Disabilities Act to set the record straight as to where we stand on discrimination based on disability.
Senator WEICKER. I understand that Senator Harkin, who is the chairman of the subcommittee and cosponsor of the legislation, is here.
But first, however, we will let Congressman Owens proceed, and then we will get to Senator Harkin. STATEMENT OF HON. MAJOR R. OWENS, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NEW YORK Mr. OWENS. Thank you, Senator.
On behalf of the Subcommittee on Select Education of the Education and Labor Committee, I want to thank Senator Harkin and his colleagues for hosting this very important hearing. I have a brief opening statement.
*For some of us, the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1988 represents the next giant step in the American civil rights movement. This legislation grants full rights to Americans with disabilities and moves our great Nation from a respectable position of official compassion for those with impairments to a more laudable position of empowering disabled Americans.
This legislation grows out of a vast movement for disability rights and empowerment, a movement made highly visible this spring when the students and faculty of Gallaudet University successfully campaigned for the installation of the first ever deaf president, and more deaf board of directors members of the university. One of the campaign student leaders is a witness in this morning's hearing, and he will testify as a participant on the third panel.
During the Gallaudet campaign, a faculty member characterized that historic effort as “our Selma." As of 1965 the Voting Rights Act was the legislative outgrowth of the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, AL, the Americans with Disabilities Act is part of a journey toward full empowerment for Americans with disabilities.
The 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. To guide the journey toward full empowerment of disabled Americans, I have, in my capacity as chairman of the House Subcommittee on Select Education, created a task force on the rights and empowerment of Americans with disabilities.
I have 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, and he has made several unique contributions to the field of disability rights.
The task force and the selection of its membership was designed to be broadly representative of people with various disabilities. It has convened forums of public meetings of disabled consumers, re. habilitation professionals, parents, advocates, and Government officials in 44 States. Since May 23 of this year, over 500 people have been present at the forums and 10,000 people have attended the · public meetings. Many of them have presented publicly aspects of the discrimination that they have faced on the basis of disability.