Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Wall Steet Journal on ADARA and Proposed ADA Regs

See this very good article (subscription required). Some excerpts:

The U.S. is moving on two fronts this week to expand businesses' obligations to accommodate disabled people, in a legislative and regulatory push that risks a backlash from millions of businesses worried about costs.

On Wednesday, two House committees will finish crafting a bill that broadens the population entitled to employment rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, reversing Supreme Court decisions narrowing it. The bill could come to a vote before the July 4 recess, if lawmakers reach agreement. Also this week, the Bush administration will begin seeking public comment on 1,000 pages of proposed rules -- covering issues from hotel-room doors to theater seating -- clarifying existing regulations on physical access for disabled people.

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"It's not unrealistic to think that businesses concerned about economic conditions in the country would see what they consider more burdens on them as not welcome," said Curtis Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, a federally funded legal-advocacy group for people with disabilities, which has worked with businesses on the House bill. "We hope we have a bill they can live with and support."

Lobbyists for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation's largest business group, were more blunt. "We couldn't beat this bill so there was a need for a compromise and there was some sense that the court had interpreted the [law] too restrictively," said Randel Johnson, a vice president at the chamber.

The Chamber and big employers have been working with advocates for disabled people on the legislation, even as they differ on regulatory issues. In February, the two sides began crafting compromise language that would overturn what they agreed were restrictive Supreme Court rulings but not expand too broadly the definition of who is disabled, said Andrew Imparato, president and chief executive of the American Association of People with Disabilities, an advocacy group with more than
100,000 members.

* * *

In the House bill, the Chamber advocated for compromise language making people whose disability "materially restricts" life activities eligible for protection -- language weaker than Democrats had originally envisioned.

Neither business groups nor advocates for disabled people would delve too deeply into the specifics of the regulations, which are to be released Tuesday. More than 1,000 pages long, the rules are highly detailed, with drawings and figures specifying requirements for facilities from amusement parks to nursing homes.



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