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tions with the Senate on this bill. These discussions led to revisions in S. 933 and eventually to the bill that passed the Senate on September 7, 1989, with broad bipartisan support.
I am therefore pleased to reiterate the administration's support of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This bill is fair, balanced legislation. It will ensure that persons with disabilities in this country enjoy access to the mainstream of American life. It builds on an extensive body of statutes, case law and regulations to avoid unnecessary confusion; it allows maximum flexibility for compliance; and it does not place undue burdens on Americans who must comply.
The administration asks that you consider the Americans with Disabilities Act expeditiously and the administration hopes that the bill will be signed into law before the end of this year.
President Bush has consistently supported efforts to bring persons with disabilities into the mainstream of American society. As Vice President, he stated that we must develop programs and policies that promote independence, freedom of choice, and productive involvement in our social and economic mainstream.
This means access to education, jobs, public accommodations, public services, and public transportation; in other words, full participation in and access to all aspects of society. This year, in his remarks to the joint session of Congress, the President reiterated this commitment.
We believe that S. 933 successfully incorporates the President's goals. It provides an effective means of combating discrimination and yet gives latitude to employers, public accommodation, and other entities covered by the bill to allow them the flexibility to achieve compliance without placing an undue burden on their operations.
The comprehensive scope of the Americans with Disabilities Act will fill serious gaps in the patchwork quilt of existing Federal laws protecting disabled persons. Perhaps the most glaring gap in the fabric of existing disability rights laws is that there is little in the Federal law that prohibits discrimination in employment in the private sector against those with disabilities.
While persons who work for the Federal Government, who work ir federally assisted programs, or who work for certain Federal contractors are protected from discrimination on the basis of handicap, most other workers are not. Each year in this country, over 150,000 young men and women with disabilities complete their education under the Education of the Handicapped Act, some receiving high school diplomas, some receiving certificates of completion.
This education law has been one of our modern success stories in the disability area. But if our investment in the education of these students is to bear fruit, we must ensure that they face a labor market similarly free of discrimination on the basis of handicap.
The Americans with Disabilities Act wisely parallels in the disability area title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the landmark statute that prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, or religion.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, as passed by the Senate, appropriately phases in its coverage. When they go into effect 2 years after enactment, the employment provisions will cover only those employers with 25 or more employees. Two years later, coverage will be extended to include all employers with 15 or more employees.
Under this phase-in approach, the more immediate burdens of compliance will fall on those larger businesses most able to bear them. We also believe that the 2-year implementation period will ease any initial confusion regarding compliance requirements by giving the administration adequate time to craft regulations and engage in wide-reaching technical assistance efforts.
Furthermore, the administration is pleased that the employment provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act closely follow the standards provided by section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, including the concept that nondiscrimination includes the require ment that an employer make reasonable accommodation to the known mental or physical impairments of qualified disabled persons as long as making the accommodation would not result in an undue hardship on the operations of the employer.
The fact that many of the employment provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act are drawn directly and, in many instances, even taken verbatim from the Federal regulations, implementing section 504 represents a particularly wise choice. The section 504 standards are familiar to large segments of the private sector already covered by the Rehabilitation Act. Experience has shown that these standards do not result in undue costs or excessive litigation.
The administration is satisfied that the Senate-passed Americans with Disabilities Act is consistent with Federal drug-free workplace initiatives. I need not remind this committee of the scourge of ille gal drug use in this country and its frightening impact on daily American life.
Under the Senate bill, individuals who are illegally using drugs are not included within the protections of the bill, and the legality of drug testing is not affected. The bill is fully consistent with this administration's commitment to the eradication of substance abuse in the workplace and elsewhere.
The inclusion of public accommodations in the Americans with Disabilities Act is a Federal recognition that an opportunity society provides access to the mainstream of everyday life. Just as title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 opened up hotels, restaurants and theaters to black Americans, the Americans with Disabilities Act promises to persons with disabilities the right to enjoy full participation in our American way of life.
The administration endorses the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability in public accommodations and its extension to a wide range of entities. Persons with disabilities should not ve discouraged from attending concerts, going to restaurants, and attending movies. And they should not have to face insurmountable obstacles in accomplishing such vital tasks of daily life as grocery shopping or visiting a pharmacy or doctor's office, or going to the dry cleaners.
We recognize that imposing an unlimited requirement that public accommodations make themselves accessible to persons with mobility impairments and provide auxiliary aids to those with visual and hearing impairments could result in significant costs.
However, the ADA, as passed by the Senate, provides a series of limitations on compliance requirements. For example, physical barriers need only be removed when the removal is "readily achievable," and auxiliary aids must be provided only if they will not result in an undue burden.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, for example, a restaurant would not be required to provide menus in braille for blind patrons, if the waiters in the restaurant were willing to read the menu. The act also has minimal requirements for retrofitting existing facilities. In fact, the act's "readily achievable" standard requires that existing architectural barriers be removed when doing so is easily accomplishable or able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense.
As an essentially forward-looking bill, the legislation reserves the most rigorous accessibility requirements for new construction, resulting in an estimated increase of construction costs of no more than 1 percent. Even this new construction requirement has certain limitations that attempt to mitigate costs.
The Americans with Disabilities Act contains an exception for placing elevators in new or altered buildings, perhaps the most costly capital expense for making buildings accessible under the bill in its present form.
Any building that has less than 3,000 square feet per story or that is less than three stories in height need not be constructed with an elevator. The administration believes a more prudent course would make the requirement apply to new construction of buildings with more than three stories.
Only multistory shopping malls, professional offices of health care providers, and other categories of buildings designated by the Attorney General would be required to have elevators.
The administration also supports the Senate bill's exclusion of religious organizations and entities controlled by religious organizations from the reach of the public accommodations provisions. Places of worship and the activities of entities controlled by religious organizations have been prudently excluded from the bill.
The administration is well aware of the costs that litigation de signed to test novel theories can impose on business in this country. In order to avoid unnecessary and costly litigation, the Americans with Disabilities Act, in most cases, rather than attempting to develop new terms and standards, incorporates terms and concepts from section 504, a law that now has a 16-year history.
We are pleased that the Americans with Disabilities Act, as passed by the Senate, does not create additional monetary incentives for private litigation. Earlier versions of the bill would have unduly encouraged private suits by offering the prospect of jury trials, large monetary awards, and punitive damages.
Under the Senate bill, the remedies available in suits by private litigants against public accommodations are limited to injunctive relief, attorneys fees, and court costs. Authority to seek monetary damages and civil penalties is given only to the Attorney General and, even then, only in pattern or practice cases or suits of general public importance.
The Department of Justice intends to limit its requests for monetary damages to compensation for out-of-pocket losses and would not include speculative damages or damages for pain and suffering.
In fact, it is only in the employment area that any monetary relief is available to private litigants, and that particular relief, in the form of back pay, has been available under other civil rights employment statutes for the last 25 years.
The provision of accessible transportation for persons with disabilities has been one of the most complex issues faced by Congress and the executive branch. Four statutes and a series of current Department of Transportation regulations present an interrelated, complicated set of obligations. Several Federal circuit courts have interpreted these statutes and rules.
The President agrees that additional legislation is needed to bring certainty to this area and believes that the Americans with Disabilities Act appropriately clarifies transit requirements.
Our goal, and yours, is to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to adequate transportation in this country. The Americans with Disabilities Act would, for the first time, guarantee that public bus systems in this country are accessible to persons with mobility impairments by requiring that all new public buses be accessible to persons with disabilities with the Department of Transportation empowered to grant waivers in the narrow circumstances where such buses are unavailable. No retrofitting of existing buses is required by the bill.
Requiring that all new buses be accessible is a major change in Federal transportation policy and a welcome one. The unavailability of accessible public transportation in areas served by public transit continues to be a major barrier to the employment of persons with disabilities and a significant factor in continuing their isolation from everyday American life. The administration views this provision of the Americans with Disabilities Act as a key component of the bill.
Approximately 35 percent of the buses used in urban mass transit in this country are already accessible. Because the average life of a bus is 12 years, accessible bus transportation would become a reality in this country in a relatively short period of time.
In addition, the administration is pleased that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires the provision of supplementary paratransit services. Approximately 75 percent of all transit agencies already provide paratransit services.
The Americans with Disabilities Act would permit paratransit services that supplement, rather than duplicate, the fixed-route bus service. Further, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, paratransit services need only be provided to those disabled persons who are unable to use mainline accessible transportation.
Thus, those persons whose physical or mental disability is so severe that they are unable to use the accessible mainline bus system will be eligible to gain access to their community through paratransit services.
Again, the Americans with Disabilities Act wisely recognizes the cost implications of paratransit service. If providing paratransit services at a level that is comparable to the accessible fixed route system is so costly that it results in undue financial burden on the
local transit authority, the local government can provide a reduced level of services.
The Secretary of Transportation will issue regulations on what constitutes an undue financial burden and, in doing so, can use a "flexible numerical formula" that incorporates appropriate local characteristics.
In this era of fiscal constraints, the paratransit provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act strike a responsible balance between providing accessible transportation and protecting the economic viability of local transit providers.
During negotiations between the Senate and the administration, the exact nature of the accessibility requirements for intercity bus services by private entities proved to be a thorny issue. The administration believes the indepth 3-year study to be done by the Office of Technology Assessment will provide valuable information on cost effective ways to provide accessible intercity bus transportation and can provide a basis for further legislation in this difficult area.
Because there is substantial evidence of the financial fragility of private intercity bus operators, the administration expects that the study will provide detailed analyses and recommendations on a wide range of accessibility strategies and their relationship to the provision of bus service, particularly in rural areas.
We think that delaying the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act's requirement that new intercity buses be accessible until 7 years from the date of enactment for small providers—6 years for other bus service providers—is necessary.
The 3-year period between the completion of the OTA study and the effective date of the Americans with Disabilities Act's require ments will give more than ample time for the Department of Transportation and the Congress to make appropriate regulatory and statutory changes based on the study. Maintaining the act's accessible bus requirement during this interim period will act as a spur to the development of technological advances in this area.
On another matter, the administration strongly supports the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements mandating that our Nation's telecommunications system be made accessible to deaf persons. The inability to communicate by telephone renders the routine tasks of daily living-such as making a doctor's appointment or inquiring about a job opportunity-difficult or even impossible to accomplish. Establishment of a telecommunications relay service is clearly a vital step toward full integration of deaf persons into the mainstream.
The administration particularly endorses the technical assistance provisions in the Americans with Disabilities Act that were added to the bill in an amendment sponsored by Senator Dole. It is our belief that the entities covered by this landmark bill-employers, public and private transit agencies, State and local governments, telephone companies, and public accommodations-will comply with the law voluntarily. We, therefore, expect that Federal efforts to provide information on the law's requirements and on how to comply in a cost-effective manner will be well-received and reduce the total cost to society of complying.