Thirteen Years of Independence

In Here's the Spin, News by David D. Good

In a July 25 statement, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson issued a statement regarding the 13th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In part, he said:

“Only 13 years after it was signed into law, it is difficult to imagine our country without the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA has transformed us, and it continues to transform us. Attitudes have already changed dramatically, barriers of all kinds are in the process of coming down, and opportunities are opening. ADA has helped all Americans to better understand our world through the experience and needs of others.”

On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law. For the past 13 years disabled Americans have celebrated greater freedom from barriers, legislated by this law. Contrary to Secretary Thompson’s glowing statement, it seems we still have a long way to go.

Businesses operating on the internet are not yet required to follow the ADA, because the ADA was written years before the Web became an important force in commerce. For the blind, there is the technology to read the text on pages aloud. However the nature of computers with various programs conflicting for whatever reason, it’s difficult for all to work together happily, and the problem of graphics is there too.

The United States Supreme Court continues to narrow and define the role of the ADA. In recent rulings the court said that disabled workers could not sue the State of Alabama for damages under the ADA, disabled workers cannot demand jobs that would threaten their health or safety, and workers may not demand special treatment due to partial disabilities.

A pending bill called the ADA Notification Act, would give businesses 90 days to correct ADA violations before being subject to lawsuits. The National Organization on Disability opposes this legislation, saying that businesses have had 13 years to become compliant.

Also from the NOD is a contest with a $25,000 award to “recognize exemplary practices that communities use to facilitate the comprehensive involvement of citizens with disabilities in community life and promote their replication.”

The deadline for entry to this contest is October 31, 2003. For more information, rules and entry form, visit

Handicap International reports there are more than 200 areas of unexploded ordinance in Iraq. To help reduce the number of civilian injuries, the organization in collaboration with Unicef, distributed 150,000 leaflets and posters with the simple message “Do not touch land mines and unexploded munitions!

Do not approach them!”

It is hoped that such action can prevent or reduce the 50-100 accidents a day that occurred after the first Iraq war, while coalition forces can remove unexploded ordinance.

The Wall Street Journal reported in their July 25 issue that the Department of Transportation has fined three airlines a total of $1.95 million for violating the 1986 Air Carrier Access Act this year alone. Ever since the act was amended in 2000 to require each complaint be investigated, the DOT has been focusing on violations more.

Last year, Northwest Airlines was fined $700,000 for “prolonged delays” in obtaining wheelchairs or passengers that were stranded onboard for “extended periods.” $600,000 of that fine was used to improve service for the disabled. In July of this year, now-defunct TWA was fined $200,000 for failure to help wheelchair passengers between 1999 and 2001, but that will have to go through TWA’s bankruptcy court.

Due to the crackdown on the airlines, complaints against them has dropped from 131 in the first quarter of last year to only 77 in the same quarter of this year, even though overall air traffic rose by 11%.