Fiscally responsible reforms for students, workers and retirees.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Alexa Marrero
McKeon Statement on H.R. 3195, the ADA Amendments Act
Thank you Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted in 1990 with broad bipartisan support. Among the bill’s most important purposes was to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination in the workplace.
By many measures, the law has been a success. I firmly believe that the employer community has taken the ADA to heart, with businesses adopting policies specifically aimed at providing meaningful opportunities to individuals with disabilities.
However, despite the law’s many success stories, it is clear today that for some, the ADA is failing to live up to its promise.
For example, the Education and Labor Committee heard testimony earlier this year from individuals who – I would stipulate – were intended to be covered under the original ADA. But in a perverse fashion, someone who was able to treat the effects of his or her disability, through medication or technology, was left without protection because they weren’t “disabled” enough.
I don’t think that is what the authors of the original ADA intended; I don’t believe it’s what we intend today; and I am glad that the bill before us addresses and corrects this issue.
Madam Speaker, we’re here today because some individuals have been left outside the scope of the Act’s protections by court cases and narrow interpretations of the law.
Still others have sought to massively expand the law’s protections, an equally dangerous proposition.
Our task with this legislation was to focus relief where it is needed, while still maintaining the delicate balance embodied in the original ADA.
In the months since this bill was first introduced, I am pleased to say that we were able to do so.
Because the ADA extends its protections to so many facets of American life, there were four separate committees with responsibility for moving the process forward. Equally important, this compromise was forged with representatives of many of the stakeholders who will be affected by this bill. It was truly a process of give-and-take.
For instance, even as we worked to ensure the law’s protections are extended to some who are currently excluded – such as those I mentioned earlier who are wrongly considered to be not “disabled enough” – we defined that expansion cautiously. Through the carefully crafted language of the bill, we will ensure, for example, that someone is not “disabled” under the ADA simply because he or she wears eyeglasses or contact lenses. That’s an important limitation, and necessary to maintaining the intent and integrity of the ADA.
Also importantly, this version of the legislation maintains a requirement of the ADA that to be considered a disability, a physical or mental impairment must “substantially limit” an individual.
As introduced, H.R. 3195 threatened to gut any meaningful limitation on the ADA by simply calling any impairment, no matter how trivial or minor, a “disability.” That was not the intent of Congress in 1990, nor should it be today.
Madam Speaker, I support this bill not because I think it is perfect, but because I think it represents our best efforts to ensure that meaningful relief will be extended to those most in need, while the ADA’s careful balance is maintained as fully as possibly.
In recognition of that achievement, let me simply thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for honoring our shared commitment to work together on this issue that has the potential to touch the lives of millions of Americans. I reserve the balance of my time.