Improving Employment Access

Reprinted from PN June 2011

Employment of people with disabilities gets boost from President Obama's executive order.

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In July 2010, I had the honor of kicking off the Obama Administration’s observance of the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and to then welcome hundreds to the White House as President Obama commemorated that extraordinary anniversary. It was a momentous occasion as we listened to the President’s speech and witnessed the signing of his Executive Order to increase the federal government’s employment of individuals with disabilities. As Americans, we’re imbued with those fantastic American values, embodied in ADA, of a strong work ethic and working together to find common ground—all of which keeps us moving forward, diligently working to win the future.

Today, those American values are once again on display. With bipartisan support, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found common ground and made available for public viewing final rules on the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) at Significantly, EEOC considered the interests of employees with disabilities and employers in carefully crafting regulations that will work for all stakeholders. Now, millions of Americans with disabilities, including veterans, will be able to take one step closer to that level playing field we all seek and have the full opportunity to contribute to one of America’s greatest traditions: hard work.

In 1990, President George H. W. Bush signed ADA into law. It remains a historic civil rights law designed to protect the rights and liberties of Americans with disabilities, whether that means curbing employment discrimination or ensuring accessibility on public transportation. However, in the years following the legislation’s passage, courts made a number of decisions that frustrated Congress’s intent and severely limited the definition of disability, leaving many people with disabilities excluded from the ability to work and contribute to our country’s growth and prosperity.

In 2008, the disability community, the business community, Congress, and President George W. Bush, in the spirit of the passage of the original legislation, once again came together in a show of incredible bipartisanship, to right the wrongs of the previous 20 years. ADAAA was passed unanimously in the Senate and by a resounding affirmative vote in the House. And, on September 25, 2008, President Bush signed into law ADAAA to restore Congress’s original intent regarding the scope of who would be determined to be a person with a disability.

ADAAA sent the message to the American people that people with disabilities must be full and equal members of our society. With the release of EEOC’s regulations, employers across the country will have a clear set of guidelines and rules of the road to ensure equality for Americans with disabilities. This will help ensure civil rights protection for people with “invisible disabilities.” Moreover, EEOC’s regulations restore the original intent of Congress to cover many disabilities that had been excluded by the courts such as multiple sclerosis (MS), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), epilepsy, diabetes, and many others, meaning more people will be able to reach for the American dream.

Approximately one out of every six Americans lives with a disability, and millions more have a family member or friend who has a disability. Thanks to a bipartisan spirit, with these EEOC regulations millions of people will be able to successfully put their American work ethic to use helping our businesses, governments, and schools out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the global competition to win the future.



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Improving Employment Access


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