The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1991 was created to provide individuals with disabilities equal access to programs, activities and services received by non-disabled Americans. However, the lack of implementation of this access is, in part, due to the deficiency of funding provided by the Federal government in order to uphold the regulations established by the ADA. Many businesses and organizations were required to implement changes to accommodate access for the disabled, but were given no financial assistance in doing so. An overall problem is the lack of disabled legislation; an even greater problem is the lack of funding for programs, services and activities for individuals with disabilities. We have made an attempt to address this need and take notice that other legislation, such as the Older Americans Act of 1965, has been granted appropriations for legislation. Even though many older individuals are covered by the ADA and receive the same access as the disabled, the younger disabled (ages 18 - 54) have been discriminated against, not able to gain access to programs and services established under the OAA.
The lack of legislation to provide funding for programs for the disabled is becoming ever so obvious. In 1991 the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in order to provide people with disabilities equal opportunity in employment, State and local government activities, public transportation, public accommodations and telecommunications. However, the ADA lacked in establishing funding for these opportunities, unlike the Older Americans Act (OAA). The OAA not only established new and improved programs for older Americans, but provided funding for those programs as well. This revelation between the OAA and the ADA reveals a prejudice concerning disabled individuals ages 18 through 54 who are not included in the funding for programs provided by the OAA. In the following editorial, we will examine the ADA and the OAA to further the justification surrounding our concern with the lack of funding for programs for the disabled.
Title I of the ADA concerns the employability of Americans with disabilities. This topic is not covered in the OAA based on the fact that most people covered by the OAA are retired. However, older individuals with disabilities are covered by Title I of the ADA in regards to employment. Title I requires that organizations with 15 or more employees not discriminate against the employment of people with disabilities. Specifically, an organization cannot discriminate in the recruitment, hiring, promotions, training, pay, social activities and other privileges of employment. Also, in the recruitment and hiring of a person with a disability an organization is restricted to asking certain questions pertaining to the disability until a job offer is established.
After a person with a disability is hired, a company must make reasonable accommodations for this individual, unless it will cause the business undue hardship. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is responsible for providing information to businesses in order for them to learn of their regulations and rights under Title I. The ADA establishes a process for organizations to assess an individual with a disability and his or her ability to perform the job functions. This allows individuals with disabilities to overcome barriers that may limit them in obtaining a job due to their disability, but is based on the same performance standards as those without disabilities.
As mentioned previously, employment rights are not covered by the OAA. Older individuals with disabilities are covered by the ADA and laws regulating age discrimination in the work place. However, there is a lack of programs and funding for individuals with disabilities that need to obtain the education and skills training to become competitive in the job market and enable them to perform at the same standards as individuals without disabilities. It appears that it is simplistic to give a group of individuals the right, but then fail to provide the means to obtain that right. The disabled need more funding for programs surrounding education and training to increase their chance in the job market. With the lack of resources the disabled currently face, it can be almost impossible for them to compete.
In addition, the ADA grants access to people with disabilities to obtain equal employment opportunities, but then these individuals can be sanctioned for acquiring employment. If these individuals are receiving healthcare benefits from the government, they can lose their benefits if they earn over a certain amount of income. This has prompted additional legislation about employment, including S.331 the Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999. This legislation benefits individuals with disabilities by not penalizing them for working by allowing them to earn more money without losing healthcare benefits. Once again, the weaknesses of current legislation and programming becomes apparent.
Title II of the ADA examines State and local government activities and public transportation. Title II requires that State and local governments must enable people with disabilities to benefit from all programming, despite the size of the agency or funding received from the Federal government. These programs, services and activities include public education, employment, transportation, recreation, health care, social services, courts, voting and more. The buildings of these governments must be accessible to the disabled and need to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices and procedure in order to avoid discrimination.
Title II of the OAA is for grants for State and community programs on aging. In 1999, this section received approximately $952 million dollars in funding. This included support services and centers, preventive health, nutrition services, and in-home services. Also, in 1999 approximately $18 million dollars was granted to Native American governments. As mentioned above, the State and local governments received no additional funding and the ADA states that regardless of the amount of Federal funding, these changes in accessibility to buildings and programs must be made. This blatant prejudice becomes more revealing. We cannot deny State and local governments additional funding and expect them to be able to make all of these changes. We need funding for disabled access. There are millions of dollars every year that go to State and local governments for the elderly, but there is almost no money dispersed for the disabled.
Title II requires access to programs, services and activities of the State and local governments, such as public education, employment, transportation, recreation, health care, social services and others as described above. However, this access is still lacking due to the need for funding. Children with disabilities are not receiving public education because of lack of funding. Now, legislation, such as H.R.1672 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is being proposed. This legislation amends the Social Security Act to require States' Medicaid plans to provide payments of costs of medical services under individualized education programs under IDEA after they exceed $3,500 in a school year. This would allow individuals with disabilities, who are attending school, still afford to receive medical coverage while they are getting an education. Also, this title does not insure people with disabilities are able to vote. Therefore, legislation like S.511, the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act, is being proposed to guarantee the right to vote for people with disabilities. The need for Federal funding for rights provided to the disabled by the ADA is greatly needed as well as a guarantee of those rights listed under the ADA.
In addition, Title II of the ADA gives people with disabilities the right to have access to public transportation. This public transportation includes city busses and public railways. Also, if individuals are unable to use public transportation systems, paratransit must be provided. In many cities the argument regarding the quality of public transportation and paratransit systems is a long and continuous one. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, lawsuits have been filed against the Milwaukee County paratransit service due to the poor quality and sometimes lack of service altogether. There is very little funding received for these programs and the quality of the employees of these organizations is lacking due to the funding problem.
Recently, the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) received a National award for being one of the best public transportation systems in the country. Many disabled activist attended the ceremony to demonstrate their dissatisfaction of the transit system. Many individuals depicted stories of mis-treatment by drivers of the MCTS. How adequate are the regulations provided by the ADA, if there is no funding to support them and no one rigorously enforcing them? This problem affects not only disabled individuals, but older individuals as well. $1.456 billion dollars were appropriated for the fiscal year of 1999 for the OAA. None of that money was directly facilitated to transportation accommodations.
Title III of the ADA requires public accommodations for people with disabilities. This spreads across private entities who own, lease or operate facilities such as restaurants, retail stores, hotels, movie theaters, private schools, convention centers, doctors' offices, homeless shelters, transportation depots, zoos, funeral homes, day care centers, recreation facilities and private entities that offer transportation services. These organizations must comply with architectural standards and make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures; effective communication with people with hearing, visions, or speech disabilities; and other access requirements. Barriers must be removed where it is easy to do so without much difficulty or expense.
The cost for the ADA requirements again falls on the businesses' shoulders and ends up being at the cost of the disabled. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) disperses information regarding these requirements and handles any disputes. Because of the intensely high number of disputes, the US DOJ has turned to contracting independent mediators. These mediators participate in a short training seminar on the ADA requirements and are required to settle disputes between businesses and individuals that have brought forth a grievance. This is a step inserted into the grievance process in an attempt to cut down on costs and the back log of pending cases. However, the Federal government should provide more funding to these businesses in order to comply with standards set by the ADA. This would cut down on the cost and expense of grievances. The ADA needs to have funding appropriated similar to the OAA. To require access to programs, services, and activities and not to allow funding as the OAA has, is a never ending battle of consequences.
Title IV of the ADA addresses the rights of individuals with disabilities to access telephone and television services. People with hearing and speech disabilities require telecommunications relay services (TRS) to use telephones to communicate. The ADA requires that telephone companies must establish TRS at all times. Also, the ADA requires closed captioning of Federally funded public service announcements, but lacks the requirement for all programming. The Federal Communications Commission is responsible for these standards, but there is no direct appropriations for these changes. There are grants available, but the disabled need a piece of legislation that not only enables their rights, but their privilege to programs and services with appropriations.
The OAA is a very large piece of legislation stemming from 1965 that enables older individuals to receive appropriate and improved programming through Federal grants. The ADA is a piece of legislation that announces to the world that disabled individuals are equal to non-disabled individuals. It is disappointing and sad after the civil rights movement in the late 1960s, to realize it took until 1991 to obtain a piece of legislature that made all Americans equal. Yet, the disabled still do not have any of legislation that grants appropriations to necessary programs, services and activities. It took us decades after every other American was declared equal to declare the disabled as equal; let's not take any more time to grant individuals with disabilities their right and funding to programs, services and activities as demonstrated in the OAA. The OAA was appropriated $14.795 billion for 1999, the ADA was not appropriated any funds.
Contact your Representative or Senator to express your concerns on this issue by clicking on U.S. House of Representatives or U.S. Senate. Each website provides contact information such as e-mail addresses, mailing addresses, telephone numbers and websites of each Representative or Senator.
Legislation and the Law
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