Essay: American Disabilities Act

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American Disabilities Act

American's With Disabilities Act

In 1990 the United States Congress passed a body of legislation regarding the rights of disabled people in the United States. In 1995, Parliament signed a similar act into law also guaranteeing the rights of disabled people. Though each of the laws have been amended to various degrees since their initial implementation, there is still a great deal of room for improvement. Among the primary differences between the two pieces of legislation is the extensive structure and scope of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) relative to that of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA). Among the primary pitfalls of the ADA is its seemingly vague and relatively undefined language as well as several loopholes resulting from such poor construction (Stowe, 2000). For the DDA it is the exceptionally narrow scope which defines the vulnerability of the legislation. Because though the DDA is modeled to a degree on the ADA the five additional years of practical implementation of the legislation may prove probative in the further amendment and correction of the DDA.

Methodology

Both of the acts studied for this paper are part of the public record. Access to the acts in their entirety is available via governmental organizations as well as not for profit non-governmental interest groups working specifically for the rights of the disabled. A careful analysis of the acts themselves, court decisions, and scholarly works on the topic of the acts and their implementation provided the basis for the comparisons and conclusions drawn herein.

Literature Review:

Overview of the Subject Matter

With the Civil rights movement, which culminated in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, came an increased awareness of individual rights to protection from discrimination. The Americans with Disabilities Act passed by congress in 1990 is a civil rights law which protects the rights of those individual who are classified as legally disabled. This definition of disability includes a physical or mental impairment which significantly limits a major life activity (Stowe, 2000). This definition though has been amended overtime to correct for conditions which are within the power of an individual to correct such as poor eye sight immediately correctible using lenses as well as current substance abuse (Schwochau & Blanck, n.d.). It has also been amended to include formerly unclassified learning disabilities such as dyslexia. The definition of disability is necessarily broad, sighting the limiting of major life activity as the primary criteria for inclusion. The implications for an act protecting individuals against such discriminations are system wide throughout law, commerce, and entertainment. To enforce such a code requires the development of discrete sets of criteria which can be enforced locally, as well as nationally in the context of both public and private entities (DeLeire, 2000). In order to best serve the auspices of such an act, the language would need to include specifications regarding policy, practice, and physical space when applicable.

The act, composed primarily of five title sections; employment, public entities, public accommodations, telecommunications, and miscellaneous provisions. Each of these titles represents a specific functional area of the legislation which has been developed to ensure the most complete and effective protection for minority populations. Of particular interest in the context of this paper is the third title so called public accommodations.

Title III

Title three of the ADA is a complicated code to enforce. The ambiguous language present even in the name indicates that, while this area of legislation is necessary, perhaps an effective implementation strategy is still yet to be developed (Stowe, 2000). Title 3 specifically guarantees that no individual may be discriminated against on the basis of disability with regards to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, or accommodation of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns leases or operates a place of public accommodation (Stowe, 2000). Though the fact that construction on such sites after the successful passing of the ADA would have to comply with the code is expected, provisions within the legislation account for existing structures and the necessary renovation of those structures in order to comply, within reason. The specific definition of a place of accommodation includes; places of lodging, recreation, transportation, education, and dinning. Implicit within that listing are stores, care providers, and places of public display (Stowe, 2000).

Language of the act

One of the most significant problems facing the ADA is the ambiguous nature of the language. Though to a degree the ambiguity is necessary as to be specific, risks leaving part of the target population unprotected, the resulting disputes over what specifically "public accommodation" includes have been the cause of nearly all of the court decisions involving this title since its enactment.

The leading question remains whether or not a public place of accommodation is defined as a physical structure. Though the legislation provides numerous examples of "places of public accommodation," there is no specific definition of the term. Thusly, judges must decide based on terminology which currently has no existing definition (Stowe, 2000). It is within the purview of specific courts to determine the specific scope of the term. This ambiguity has lead to a number of significant precedents being set on either side of the issue. Further, the relative necessity of a physical location is disputed. With the advent and exponential growth of technology and the internet it has become legally relevant to determine whether or not a company's website or phone service is designed in compliance with the ADA (Grabois, Nosek, & Rossi, 2005).

Whether or not an individual or individuals may bring suit regarding websites was tried in California federal court in 2006 when the National Federation of the Blind brought suit against Target citing that because their website was not readily or fully accessible to the blind, they were n violation of Title 3 of the ADA (Stowe, 2000). Though the case was ultimately settled for more than $9million, Judge Patel stated that the case was precedent setting in that it broke ground in terms of developing limitations of the term "public accommodation."

Preeminent also in the debate is whether Title 3 includes organizations not specifically tied to a physical place as well as goods such as insurance policies which can be considered in the "Goods and services" part of the legislation. It is held that the spirit of Title 3 was to free the disabled from the discrimination imposed by public places either in terms of physical access to their premises or access to their services. This "spirit" of the law has not been upheld in some precedent setting cases, however it has been the consensus among those cases tried that a wider definition of public accommodation and the Goods and services accountable to the legislation there in is preferable than a narrower one (Stowe, 2000).

The ADA was amended in 2008 by George W. Bush. The amendments were signed into effect as of the first of January 2009. The most notable change resulting from this amendment is the broadening of the definition of disability. Previous to this amendment, there was a heavy burden of proof on the plaintiff to prove their disability. This burden of proof was pervasive present in not only businesses and recreational centers but in education as well. In cases such as those brought against Boston University, students who claimed disabilities were deemed ineligible unless they had documented proof of said disability (Stowe, 2000). Two landmark cases, Sutton v. United Airlines and Toyota Motor Mfg. v. Williams in which the plaintiffs cases were dismissed as being unable to prove grounds for ADA violation.

In the case of Sutton v. United Airlines, the plaintiffs' twin women who applied for jobs as airline pilots were denied the position as a result of their poor eyesight. They filed because with simple corrective surgery there eye sight would be such that they were able to meet the minimum requirements for flying. Because the women suffered a disability which was able to be corrected the courts dismissed the case stating that they could not be considered disabled. However, it was this disability which ultimately resulted in their denial of consideration for the job.

In the case of Toyota Motor Manufacturing KY Inc. v. Williams, is a case regarding specifically the responsibility of an employer to make adjustments to their facilities to accommodate disabled employees. The plaintiff Miss Williams was diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, a chronic disorder which requires special wrist supports in order to prevent further injury as well as the discomfort of continually repeating the stress which resulted in the injury initially. Miss William's employer, Toyota Motor Mfg did not provide her with the necessary equipment in order to facilitate her continued safe and healthy employment despite her injury. The case was dismissed as a result of a decision that regarded Carpal Tunnel as an injury which did not ultimately constitute a disability as it was deemed in the original decision that it did not substantially limit one or more of Miss… [END OF PREVIEW]

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