Congress wants to make Americans with disabilities second-class citizens again

On May 28, 1988, Lisa Carl went to her local movie theater, something millions of Americans can do with ease and comfort. Yet when Lisa tried to go into the theater, the manager refused her ticket, denying her entry because Lisa had cerebral palsy and used a wheelchair. When an advocate called the theater owner about the incident, the manager coldly stated, “I don’t want her in here, and I don’t have to let her in.”

Lisa later testified before Congress, “I was not crying on the outside, but I was crying on the inside. I just wanted to watch the movie like everyone else.” While the cruelty is heartbreaking, the true outrage was that in 1988, the law actually sided with the theater owner, who was free to legally discriminate against Lisa and deny her access to a public theater because she was born with a disability.

Fortunately, millions of Americans with disabilities and their families refused to accept this discrimination. They shared their stories and pushed and prodded a bipartisan coalition of legislators to end decades of legally sanctioned discrimination through passage of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.

At the signing ceremony, President George H.W. Bush noted that before the ADA, “tragically, for too many Americans, the blessings of liberty have been limited or even denied. The Civil Rights Act of ’64 took a bold step towards righting that wrong. But the stark fact remained that people with disabilities were still victims of segregation and discrimination, and this was intolerable.” Bush declared, “Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.”

Decades later, the forces of discrimination are working hard to rebuild that wall. Led by the hospitality and retail industries, special interests want to shift the burden of ADA compliance away from business owners and onto individuals with disabilities. They’re backing a bill that has already passed the House Judiciary Committee, the so-called ADA Education and Reform Act, which would reward businesses that fail to comply with the law. The bill would allow businesses to wait until they are notified of their failure to meet legal obligations before they even have to start removing barriers that prevent Americans with disabilities from leading independent lives.

– The Washington Post

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