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Mr. EDWARDS. Mr. Dannemeyer, do you have any questions?
Mr. DANNEMEYER. I want to thank you for what you have given to us today in coming here to testify, and I want to thank you also as a veteran of the Korean war for the sacrifices you've made in fighting for this country's principles. I just want you to know I appreciate the contribution and sacrifice you've made.
Mr. ADDESSO. Thank you.
Mr. DANNEMEYER. I want to ask you a question about your knowledge of this act, the ADA. I don't mean to put you on the spot. I don't know how much you've read it or studied it, or to what extent.
For instance, are you comfortable with the idea that within the definition of a disabled person this act would also extend the coverage to a drug addict or an alcoholic?
Mr. ADDESSO. I think it should go to all Americans, no matter what kind of disability they have. Everybody has that freedom. I wouldn't leave a certain class out of it.
Mr. DANNEMEYER. You are a paraplegic and, of course, I think are fully qualified to perform a variety of work tasks in that capacity, and would not, as I see it, present a hazard to yourself or coworkers in terms of safety in performing those tasks.
But let's think for a moment, if we, as a public policy, extend the coverage of this act to persons who are alcoholics, for instance, do you believe that a person who has exhibited or professes to be an alcoholic should be permitted to drive a bus in the cities of America?
Mr. ADDESSO. Let me say this, sir. A person with a disability overcomes it at a certain point. That shouldn't hinder his performance in the future. I mean, it happened in the past. If he has recovered from it, there should be no way that he should be turned away from society. He should be able to do his job as before. People overcome their disabilities every single day.
Mr. DANNEMEYER. What if the busdriver who claimed to be a recovered alcoholic becomes involved in an accident with the bus, injures or kills somebody, and an investigation discloses that that person had a blood alcohol level that fits the definition of intoxicated. Do you believe the act should then extend coverage so as to require the bus company to hire that person again as an alcoholic?
Mr. ADDESSO. I have to be honest with you. I have no legal knowledge of the questions that you're asking me. I mean, I think those are legal questions and I'm not qualified to answer.
Mr. DANNEMEYER. No, no. I think it's a public policy question about this act. What I think is happening here, quite frankly, or may be happening here, is that the proponents of this legislation, including yourself and other groups, are seeking to extend the coverage of the benefits of the protection that's desired, when a person is presented such as yourself in a wheelchair, who has suffered a tragic loss of limbs in defending your country, for groups of people that the American public I'm not sure is willing to extend that benefit for.
For instance, I used the illustration of somebody who is an alcoholic driving a bus. How about a drug addict who is an airline pilot? Do you believe an airline company should be required to hire a pilot to fly a plane, putting at risk the lives of people, who previously was a drug addict?
Mr. ADDESSO. Previous, that's the key. I mean, he probably overcame his disability. I don't think they should shut him out of that. I don't think there should be any limitation on it.
Mr. DANNEMEYER. What if he's a current user?
Mr. ADDESSO. That's a different story. I mean, if he's a current user, I wouldn't want him on a plane.
Mr. DANNEMEYER. I suspect that most Americans would not.
Are you familiar, sir, that this act extends the benefits of protection to persons with a communicable disease?
Mr. ADDESSO. Yes, I am.
Mr. DANNEMEYER. For example, HIV carriers, for instance, are included within the coverage of the act. HIV carriers, a high percentage of them, manifest dementia, a deterioration
Mr. ADDESSO. Personally, I feel we shouldn't discriminate against anybody. That's how I feel about it.
Mr. DANNEMEYER. How about to the airline pilot who is HIV positive, and we know that 40 to 50 percent of persons in that cate gory exhibit dementia, deterioration of the brain? Do you believe that person should be flying an airplane?
Mr. ADDESSO. If medical judgment has found him to be sound,
yes, I do.
Mr. DANNEMEYER. Well, at some point-
Mr. ADDESSO. I'm sure they're not going to just let him on a plane without having a medical clearance.
Mr. DANNEMEYER. That's the question. That's the question, sir. Who gets to decide; who has the burden of proof.
You know, if the person who is HIV positive comes to the airline and says "I want to fly this plane, even though I'm HIV positive," at what point do we know where the deterioration of the immune system as a result of the virus in that person's blood will result in deterioration of the mind, where it impairs their ability to safely fly the plane? I mean, is it sound public policy to say absolutely that being an HIV carrier gives that individual the right to compel that airline, under all circumstances, to let him fly the plane?
Mr. ADDESSO. Well, I think if the time comes, I think we should let legal counsel figure that one out. But I don't think-
Mr. DANNEMEYER. What I'm suggesting, sir, is that I suspect there may be groups seeking the coverage of this act that go beyond, far beyond what the sensibilities and sympathies of the American public are willing to do in the way of accommodations for persons who have suffered genuine disabilities. That's the only reason I'm raising these questions.
I thank you very much for your contribution.
Mr. EDWARDS. Mr. Addesso, there is nothing in this bill, to your knowledge, that would require somebody to hire somebody who is not qualified for the job?
Mr. ADDESSO. Not from what I've read.
Mr. EDWARDS. That's right. That's the whole crux of the bill. We're talking about qualified handicapped people.
Mr. ADDESSO. Exactly.
Mr. EDWARDS. And disabled people who are discriminated against despite the fact that they are qualified for the job. Mr. ADDESSO. That's right. Mr. EDWARDS. The gentleman from Florida.
Mr. JAMES. Thank you so much for your testimony. I have no questions at this time, thank you.
Mr. EDWARDS. Mr. Addesso, we are running into some opposition from the business community. If Mr. Brady was still here, I was going to ask him about that because he very proudly said--and he should be proud of it—that he's a good Republican and he has a lot of friends in the Republican Party and, generally speaking, that's a lot of the business community. But we're getting a lot of flak from the business community on this bill. They say it will cost too much money. The private bus companies say, “Look, we're going to go belly up if we have to make these changes."
What's your response to that? Mr. ADDESSO. There's a lot of things in this country that cost a lot of money. I think this is well worth the effort and the money, no matter what they have to restructure or change.
Mr. EDWARDS. Thank you very much, Mr. Addesso. We deeply appreciate your testimony. We're proud of you as a veteran and what you did for your country, and the wonderful way that you fought back. I know it hasn't been easy, but it's a privilege for us to have you here today. Thank you for your testimony. Mr. ADDESSO. Thank you.
Mr. EDWARDS. Our last witness is Chai Feldblum, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Ms. Feldblum formerly served as a clerk to Justice Blackmun and was of great assistance to this subcommittee during our consideration of the Fair Housing Amendments last year. We welcome you and you may proceed. STATEMENT OF CHAI R. FELDBLUM, LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL,
AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION Ms. FELDBLUM. Thank you.
I have submitted my testimony for the record and I'm just going to highlight the main points here today.
Mr. EDWARDS. Without objection, it will be made a part of the record.
Ms. FELDBLUM. I am very pleased to be here today in support of H.R. 2273, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1989, a bill that for the first time will extend to the private sector comprehensive Federal antidiscrimination protection for people with disabilities.
For so many years, irrelevant characteristics like race, gender, religion and national origin were used to judge people and then to justify discrimination against those individuals. Ever since the landmark Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968, there has been in place in this country a Federal policy and a Federal prohibition against discrimination against such individuals.
Having these laws in place certainly has not eradicated such discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or religion, but it has at least provided a source of redress for those individuals who have experienced such discrimination in this Nation's courts.
Unfortunately, there are some members of our society that still do not have that basic access to redress for discrimination. People with disabilities constitute one such class.
Mr. EDWARDS. Ms. Feldblum, may I impolitely interrupt just for a moment.
Ms. FELDBLUM. Certainly. Mr. EDWARDS. The chief sponsor and Member of Congress who is carrying the bill to all of the committees is here, and we are honored to have the gentleman from Maryland, Mr. Hoyer. Mr. Hoyer, will you come up and join the committee.
Mr. Hoyer was at an important official meeting of the leadership and missed the splendid testimony of James S. Brady and Mr. Peter Addesso of the Paralyzed Veterans of America. We congratulate Mr. Hoyer for the splendid progress that has already been made in this bill. As you know, it appears, Mr. Hoyer, in the Senate and at the White House, a lot of the details have been worked out and it looks like we might even have some smooth sailing except for some business interests who think that it's going to cost too much money. We have splendid testimony going on right now from Chai R. Feldblum, who is legislative counsel on behalf of the ACLU. While we don't want to interrupt her, I'm sure she wouldn't mind if you want to say hello.
Mr. HOYER. First of all, Mr. Chairman, I thank you for allowing me to join you. I apologize for being late. I just came from the Whip meeting.
I want to congratulate all of those in the audience and the literally thousands of others who have worked so hard over the past 2 years to get us to this point. I am expecting, Mr. Chairman, to have over a majority of the House of Representatives cosponsoring this legislation, hopefully by the end of business today. We have 214 cosponsors as of this morning. It looks now that all this work that so many in this room have done is coming to fruition. We join the White House and the Senate, Senator Harkin and others, in expressing our belief that this bill will be enacted into law hopefully before we go home finally for this first session of the 101st Congress.
I congratulate you, Mr. Chairman, for your leadership on this effort and thank you again. Mr. EDWARDS. Thank you, Mr. Hoyer. I again apologize, Ms. Feldblum. You may proceed. Ms. FELDBLUM. No problem at all. Thank you.
I was just saying something that I know Congressman Hoyer knows well, which is that while there is protection for people on the basis of race, sex and religion in this country, there is no such protection for people with disabilities. For example, while a private employer under this country's law could not refuse to hire or promote a person because that individual was Jewish, or black, or she was a woman, that private employer could refuse to hire a person with a disability because of that person's disability. Such discrimi. nation happens all too often, in situations where the person with the disability is otherwise completely qualified to do the job in question, and the discrimination that occurs is solely because of myths, stereotypes or fears about the disability.
The same type of discrimination that occurs in employment against people with disabilities occurs across the spectrum in all areas of society. People with disabilities face discrimination in a broad range of public accommodations. In some situations, the discrimination is attitudinal-the grocery store, the dress shop, the exercise club, simply don't want to open their doors to or provide services to persons with a disability. Sometimes the public accommodation simply needs to provide some sort of auxiliary aid or some modification of its policy in order to allow the person with the disability to use its benefits or its services. But that business or accommodation simply doesn't provide the aid or the modification in the policy. Sometimes the discrimination is one of simple physical access. The person with the disability can't even get into the public accommodation.
As someone who works on this bill a lot has often said, people with disabilities just want to get in, to get the same mediocre services that everyone else is getting, if that's what is going on in there. But simply physical access stops people with disabilities from getting in.
Problems with attitudinal discrimination and physical access discrimination exist in the sphere of private and public transportation as well. In order for the person with the disability to get to the job, or to get to the grocery store or the bakery shop or the shoe repair service, that person needs access to transportation. I think those people who are nondisabled take so much for granted our easy access to transportation.
Yet, in this country, many public buses are not equipped with lifts so that people with mobility impairments cannot get on them, and in private transportation, there are even fewer buses that are easily accessible.
People with hearing impairments experience a particular form of discrimination in our country. The basis of our society is communication, and a lot of that communication takes place on the tele phone. Well, we use a telephone to do everything-carry out our business, set up appointments, engage in such life-sustaining activities as ordering Chinese food. The telephone is our basis of communication. But for someone who is deaf, they don't have access to this most basic tool of communication unless the entity or person on the other side also has a TDD [telecommunication device for the deaf), which enables them to talk to each other.
The Americans with Disabilities Act offers the means to redress these various forms of discrimination. The bill is a historic piece of civil rights legislation that will finally extend to people with disabilities equal opportunity and equal access in this society.
Now, as a general matter, in prohibiting these various forms of discrimination, the bill draws upon the longstanding case law and regulations that we have developed under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, in which sections 501, 503, and 504 prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities by the Federal Government, people who have Federal contracts, and entities that receive Federal funds. For example, the definition of disability, who can gain access to protection under this act, the definition of disability in this act is exactly identical to that which is under the Rehabilitation Act,