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Tho dramatic change in my status that I have experienced
ovor the last sovoral years allows me to como bofore you today in
a number of capacities, and with a unique set of experiences that enables me to appreciate the critical importance of the legislation you are presently considering. First. I come to you as an American with a sevore disability a capacity that has profoundly affected my outlook as well as the course and content of my life. Second. I come to you as former resident of a
nursing home, a status that I was forced to endure as recently as
1980 by virtue of the inaccessibility of the community in which I was living. As such. I have a personal understanding of the unnecessary dependence and isolation wrought by the architectural and attitudinal barriers that exist in so many aspects of daily living for most Americans with disabilities. Third. I am here as
a practicing attorney with a disability
an honor that places
upon me a profound sense of responsibility for improving the
landscape of opportunities for other Americans with disabilities
that will come after me.
Fourth, as the Chair of the Disabled
Lawyers Committee of the ABA/YLD. I appear as a representative of other practicing attorneys with disabilitios, all of whom
collectively and individually experience nightmarish conditions
in their attempts to survive and advance in the profession due to
the pervasiveness of architectural, attitudinal, and communication barriors. Fifth. I am hore as an active member of
among law school graduates who have disabilities. See N.Y. Times. Dec. 31. 1988. (Section on the Law). A copy of the cited article is attached to this statemont.
the party of Abraham Lincoln. woll aware of the need for limited government. yet supportivo of woll-reasonod and craftod legislation dosigned to sorvo compelling federal interests in the causes of individual liberty. opportunity, and the recognition of human dignity. Finally, and most importantly. I am here as a citizen of the United States. entitled to the full enjoyment of the same rights and privileges that are enjoyed by able-bodied citizens. In every one of these capacities I strongly urge you to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1989 (the "ADA") as it is composed in the compromise Senato Bill.
The significance of the ADA to the population of Americans with disabilities, including myself. cannot be emphasized enough. My own experiences in fact paint a vivid picture of the need for this legislation.
It was only ten years ago in 1979, whilo engaged in my first
year of teaching junior and senior high school science after
graduating from college, that I was diagnosed as having multiple sclerosis. In 1980 I had to use the drive-through window at my neighborhood bank even in the rain and snow because I could not gain access to the front door of the building: in 1981. I was turned away from a movie theater without an attendant because of
the architectural barriers that I would have had to overcome at
the fire exit in case of fire: in 1982. I stayed in my van for
days at a time as I attempted to tour the west coast because I
could not find accessible bathrooms, restaurants, hotels, or retailers: in 1983. I had to transfer to a new law school because
I was unable to climb aboard a municipal bus to get to and from
developmentally disabled friond to another store to buy shoes
because she "might scare other customers away": in 1987 I was
business: in 1989 I was excluded from a significant portion of
the annual meeting of the American Bar Association even after I
had traveled all the way to Honolulu, because the facilities in
which the mootings, functions, and events were taking place were
Thus, inaccossibility in public accommodations has affected every aspect of my existonce. Not only does a lack of access in public accommodations deprive me of social and recreationa i opportunities, but it has a very real and very negativo impact on my ability to function as a practicing attorney. Among tho larger problems I have experienced in that regard are those that arise when I am required to travel on client-related business' and those associated with attempting to participate in activities of the organized bar such as continuing legal education programs. and local, state, and national bar association meetings. functions, or events.' Because these difficulties are so
'In addition to the difficulties I encounter in air travel. the largest impediments I routinely experience in my attempts to travel are the lack of sufficient numbers of truly accessible hotel rooms, my inability to obtain a guaranteed accessible room reservation under hotel industry standard reservation practices. a complete lack of reasonably-priced and reliable demandresponsive accessible ground' transportation in almost every major city in the country, and the general inaccessibility in restaurants and other public accommodations at many sites where business is being conducted. In fact, the effort necessary to determine in advance whether a particular location is physically accessible and to arrange adequate transportation is often extremely time-consuming and grueling. if not impossible. My need to investigate accessibility every time I have to attend a meeting away from the office results in a substantial increase in the number of hours I must work to achieve parity with my peers in overall productivity.
'The problems that disabled attorneys face in their attempts to become integrated into the organized bar are largely a result of vicarious inaccessibility: bar activities are generally inaccessible because they are reliant upon services and are conducted largely in facilities that are provided for the public at large. To the extent that these facilities and services aro inaccessible, the adoption of them for use by tho bar results in a lack of access for attorneys with disabilities. An unfortunate but necessary result of this pervasive pattern of vicarious inaccessibility in bar activities has been an inability for attorneys with disabilities to form an effective voice within the pervasive and enormous, and because they often engendor humiliation. ombarrassment. or stross on my part, when I am otherwise not required to patronize public accommodations for business reasons. I generally choose not to eat in restaurants, stay in hotels. fly on airplanes, ride on buses, shop in storos. visit museums. attond sporting or cultural ovents, or otherwise avail myself of the public accommodations in my own community.
If the employment provisions of the ADA are to have meaning. the public accommodations provisions must be seen both as freestanding provisions designed to eliminato isolation and segregation among all of America's disabled citizenry. as well as provisions necessary to open and maintain meaningful employment and corollary associational opportunities for persons with disabilities who also want to work.
To that end, it is important that the provisions in the ADA address the fact of inaccessibility rather than its cause. It is my firm belief that many. but not all of the inaccessibility problems that I have encountered are not so much the result of hostility or willful discrimination: rather, they are the result of benign neglect and a lack of understanding or concern about how particular policies or practices affect the disabled patrons
profession. We are highly underrepresented in places of legal