The Americans with Disabilities Act Becomes Law eText - Primary Source

Primary Source

President George H.W. Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 during a ceremony on the White House's South Lawn, July 26, 1990. AP/WIDE WORLD PHOTOS. REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION. President George H.W. Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 during a ceremony on the White House's South Lawn, July 26, 1990. AP/WIDE WORLD PHOTOS. REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION. Published by Gale Cengage AP/WIDE WORLD PHOTOS. REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION.

Bill Summary and Status for the 101st Congress, S.933

Report

By: U.S. Congress

Date: July 26, 1990

Source: Bill Summary and Status for the 101st Congress. S.933, sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin. U.S. Congress, July 26, 1990.

About the Author: The U.S. Congress is the legislative arm of the government and consists of both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Tom Harkin (1939–) sponsored the Americans with Disabilities Act. He was born in Cummings, Iowa. After earning a degree at Iowa State University in government and economics, Harkin entered the Navy, where he served as a jet pilot from 1962 to 1967. In 1972, after earning a law degree from Catholic University, Harkin moved back to Iowa. Two years later, Harkin, a Democrat, returned to the nation's capital as a member of the House of Representatives. In 1984, he was elected to the United States Senate.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

Law

By: U.S. Congress

Date: 1990

Source: The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 . U.S. Congress. Available online at ; website home page: http://www.dol.gov (accessed August 4, 2003).

Introduction

The disability movement was pioneered in the mid-nineteenth century by Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe of Boston, Massachusetts. At the time, anyone unable to attain the minimum education level—equivalent to a third-grade education by contemporary standards—was classified (and stigmatized) as "feebleminded." This term covered a variety of disabilities, including mental impairment, vision and hearing loss, speech impediments, or any ailment hindering the ability to socialize with peers, making it difficult to attend school.

In 1846, the Massachusetts legislature appointed Dr. Howe to head a commission to examine the problem. Based on Howe's recommendation, the legislature appropriated revenue to create the Massachusetts School for Idiotic Children and Youth in 1849. Initially, the school emphasized teaching students basic skills that would allow them to be integrated back into their families and communities. However, by 1874, against Howe's wishes, students were institutionalized permanently. Families either did not want to resume their disabled children's care, or they assumed that their child was better off in an institution.

In the early twentieth century, the "feebleminded" were threatened by the eugenics movement. Viewed as a burden and a menace on society, disabled women were involuntarily sterilized. From 1922 to 1938, thirty-three states passed laws that required the sterilization of feeble-minded, insane, epileptic, blind, deaf, and crippled individuals. From 1921 to 1964, over 63,000 persons were involuntarily sterilized. Further, in 1927, the United States Supreme Court, in Buck v. Bell (274 US 200), upheld a Virginia statute that prohibited the disabled to marry or become parents. This law was not repealed until 1972.

After World War I (1914–1918), returning blind veterans, who refused to spend the rest of their lives making brooms and cane chairs, spearheaded the disability movement. Founding the American Foundation for the Blind, they sought to educate the public that the blind can lead independent, fruitful lives. Next, World War II (1939–1945) veterans organized the Paralyzed Veterans of America, asserting their right to live independently. In 1950, parents who insisted that their mentally retarded children be mainstreamed into the public school system formed the National Association for Retarded Citizens. By the 1960s, the disabled had gained valuable organizing experience through involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam (1964–1975) anti-war movement, the women's movement, and grassroots Democratic and Republican Party politics.

After decades of hard work, the disability movement reached a milestone during the 1988 presidential election. According to polling conducted before the Democratic convention, Michael Dukakis held a three percent point lead over George H.W. Bush (served 1989–1993). Voters who identified themselves as being disabled provided much of this lead. That summer, Bush announced

his commitment to legislation mainstreaming persons with disabilities. In November 1988, he beat Dukakis by seven percentage points. Polling data suggests that almost half of his margin of victory consisted of disabled voters who had switched their vote to Bush.

Significance

On the morning of July 26, 1990, on the south lawn of the White House, with 3,000 disability rights advocates in attendance, President Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (P.L. 101-336), commonly known as the Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act. Afterward, he said, "Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down." Modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the act was the world's first comprehensive law that promoted equal opportunities by outlawing discrimination against people with disabilities. At the time of its passage, it provided an estimated forty-three million disabled Americans with the same civil rights protections provided to women and minorities in the areas of employment, transportation, public accommodations, and telecommunications. In addition, the law required every state to pass enabling legislation.

Primary Source: Bill Summary and Status for the 101st Congress, S.933

SYNOPSIS: In May 1989, when Senator Harkin introduced S.933, it had overwhelming bipartisan support. Nevertheless, even popular bills take a seemingly long time to navigate the unwieldy legislative process. In the Senate, members tried to amend the legislation sixteen times. The measure then stalled in the House, before being submitted to conference committee. Almost fifteen months after its introduction, the House passed the bill 377 to 28, and the Senate 91 to 6.

5/9/1989

  • Read twice and referred to the Committee on Labor and Human Resources.
  • Committee on Labor and Human Resources. Hearings held. Hearings printed: S.Hrg. 101-156.

5/10/1989

• Subcommittee on Handicapped (Labor and Human Res.). Hearings held.

5/16/1989

• Subcommittee on Handicapped (Labor and Human Res.). Hearings held.

6/22/1989

• Committee on Labor and Human Resources. Hearings held.

8/1/1989

  • S.AMDT.541 Referred to the Committee on Labor and Human Resources.
  • To amend the Communications Act of 1934 to require telecommunications services for hearing-impaired and speech-impaired individuals.

8/2/1989

• Committee on Labor and Human Resources. Ordered to be reported with an amendment in the nature of a substitute favorably.

8/30/1989

  • Committee on Labor and Human Resources. Reported to Senate by Senator Kennedy under the authority of the order of Aug 2, 89 with an amendment in the nature of a substitute. With written report No. 101-116. Additional views filed.
  • Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders. Calendar No. 216.

9/7/1989

• Measure laid before Senate by unanimous consent.

9/7/1989

• S.AMDT.708 Proposed by Senator Hatch. To end discrimination on the basis of disability in Federal wilderness areas.

9/7/1989

  • S.AMDT.708 Amendment SP 708 agreed to in Senate by Voice Vote.
  • S.AMDT.711 Proposed by Senator Harkin. To provide a technical amendment.
  • S.AMDT.712 Proposed by Senator Harkin. To provide for a technical amendment.
  • S.AMDT.711 Amendment SP 711 agreed to in Senate by Voice Vote.
  • S.AMDT.712 Amendment SP 712 agreed to in Senate by Voice Vote.
  • S.AMDT.709 Proposed by Senator Hatch. To provide a refundable tax credit for the costs of small businesses complying with the public accommodations requirement.
  • S.AMDT.709 Point of order raised in Senate with respect to SP 709.
  • S.AMDT.709 Motion to waive the Budget Act with respect to rejected in Senate by Yea-Nay Vote. 48-44. Record Vote No: 170.
  • S.AMDT.709 SP 709 ruled out of order by the chair.
  • S.AMDT.713 Proposed by Senator Boschwitz. To require a judge to consider if a defendant who is accused of discrimination on the basis of disability has acted in good faith.
  • S.AMDT.713 Amendment SP 713 agreed to in Senate by Yea-Nay Vote. 90-0. Record Vote No: 171.
  • S.AMDT.714 Proposed by Senator Hollings. To amend sections 304 and 305 relating to the accessibility of over-the-road buses to individuals with disabilities.
  • S.AMDT.714 Amendment SP 714 agreed to in Senate by Voice Vote.
  • S.AMDT.715 Proposed by Senator Helms. To clarify the definition of handicapped under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 relating to the uses of illegal drugs.
  • S.AMDT.715 Amendment SP 715 agreed to in Senate by Voice Vote.
  • S.AMDT.716 Proposed by Senator Helms. Providing that the term "disabled" or "disability" shall not apply to an individual solely because that individual is a transvestite.
  • S.AMDT.716 Amendment SP 716 agreed to in Senate by Voice Vote.
  • S.AMDT.717 Proposed by Senator Harkin. To make technical corrections.
  • S.AMDT.717 Amendment SP 717 agreed to in Senate by Voice Vote.
  • S.AMDT.718 Proposed by Senator Harkin. To exclude an employee or applicant who is a current user of illegal drugs from the definition of "qualified individual with a disability."
  • S.AMDT.719 Proposed by Senator Dole. To provide a plan to provide entities with technical assistance.
  • S.AMDT.719 Amendment SP 719 agreed to in Senate by Voice Vote.
  • S.AMDT.720 Proposed by Senator Grassley. To include Congress as a beneficiary of this Act.
  • S.AMDT.720 Amendment SP 720 agreed to in Senate by Division Vote.
  • S.AMDT.718 Amendment SP 718 agreed to in Senate by Voice Vote.
  • S.AMDT.721 Proposed by Senator Humphrey. To provide that an individual with a "disability" shall not include any individual who uses illegal drugs.
  • S.AMDT.721 Amendment SP 721 agreed to in Senate by Voice Vote.
  • S.AMDT.722 Proposed by Senator Armstrong. To more clearly define the term "disability."
  • S.AMDT.722 Amendment SP 722 agreed to in Senate by Voice Vote.
  • S.AMDT.723 Proposed by Senator Dole. To allow certain capital expenditures of small businesses for auxiliary aids and services and reasonable accommodations to be treated as expense items, and for other purposes.
  • S.AMDT.723 Proposed amendment SP 723 withdrawn in Senate.
  • S.AMDT.724 Proposed by Senator Harkin. To establish that should any provision in the Act be found to be unconstitutional by a court of law, such provision shall be severed from the remainder of the Act, and such action shall not affect the enforceability of the remaining provisions of the Act.
  • S.AMDT.724 Amendment SP 724 agreed to in Senate by Voice Vote.
  • The committee substitute as amended agreed to by Voice Vote.
  • Passed Senate with an amendment by Yea-Nay Vote. 76-8. Record Vote No: 173.

9/12/1989

• Message on Senate action sent to the House.

9/12/1989 2:41pm

• Received in the House.

9/12/1989 2:42pm

• Held at the desk.

10/16/1989

• Senate ordered measure printed as passed with amendments of the Senate numbered.

5/22/1990 3:04pm

  • Considered under the provisions of rule H. Res. 394.
  • The House struck all after the enacting clause and inserted in lieu thereof the provisions of a similar measure H.R. 2273. Agreed to without objection.

5/22/1990 3:05pm

  • On passage Passed without objection.
  • Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection.
  • A similar measure H.R. 2273 was laid on the table without objection.

5/24/1990 9:33pm

• Mr. Hoyer asked unanimous consent that the House insist upon its amendment, and request a conference.

5/24/1990 9:34pm

  • On motion that the House insist upon its amendment, and request a conference Agreed to without objection.
  • Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection.
  • Mr. Fish moved that the House instruct conferees.

5/24/1990 9:36pm

• On motion that the House instruct conferees Agreed to by voice vote.

5/24/1990 9:37pm

• Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection.

5/24/1990 9:38pm

  • The chair appointed conferees—from the Committee on Education and Labor for consideration of the Senate bill, and the House amendment, and modifications committed to conference: Hawkins, Owens (NY), Martinez, Bartlett, and Fawell.
  • The chair appointed conferees—from the Committee on Energy and Commerce for consideration of the Senate bill, and the House amendment, and modifications committed to conference.: Dingell, Markey, Thomas Luken, Lent, and Whittaker.

5/24/1990 9:38pm

  • The chair appointed conferees Except that, for consideration of title IV of the Senate bill, and title IV of the House amendment, Mr. Rinaldo is appointed in lieu of Mr. Whittaker.
  • The chair appointed conferees—from the Committee on Public Works and Transportation for consideration of the Senate bill, and the House amendment, and modifications committed to conference: Anderson, Roe, Mineta, Hammerschmidt, and Shuster.
  • The chair appointed conferees—from the Committee on the Judiciary for consideration of the Senate bill, and the House amendment, and modifications committed to conference: Brooks, Edwards (CA), Kastenmeier, Fish, and Sensenbrenner.

5/24/1990 9:39pm

  • The chair appointed an additional conferee on the Senate bill, and the House amendment, and modifications committed to conference: Hoyer.
  • The chair appointed an additional conferee for consideration of section 103(d) of the House amendment, and modifications committed to conference: Chapman.
  • Message on House action received in Senate and held at desk: House amendments to Senate bill and House requests a conference.

6/6/1990

  • Measure laid before Senate by unanimous consent.
  • Senate disagreed to the House amendments by Voice Vote.
  • Senate agreed to request for conference by Unanimous Consent.
  • Motion to table the motion to instruct the conferees rejected in Senate by Yea-Nay Vote. 40-53. Record Vote No: 110.
  • Senate Conferees instructed.
  • Motion by Senator Grassley to instruct conferees made in Senate.
  • Motion to instruct conferees withdrawn in Senate.
  • Senate appointed conferees Kennedy; Harkin; Metzenbaum; Simon; Hatch; Durenberger; Jeffords.
  • Senate appointed conferees Hollings; Inouye; Danforth from the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, solely for consideration of issues within that Committee's jurisdication (telecommunications, commuter transit, and drug testing of transportation employees).

6/7/1990

• Message on Senate action sent to the House.

6/25/1990

• Conferees agreed to file conference report.

6/26/1990 6:12pm

  • Conference report H. Rept. 101-558 filed.
  • Conference papers: Senate report and managers' statement and official papers held at the desk in Senate.

7/11/1990

  • Conference report considered in Senate. By Unanimous Consent.
  • Motion to recommit conference report with instructions entered in Senate.
  • S.AMDT.2118 Proposed by Senator Hatch. To permit the reassignment of food handlers with infectious and communicable diseases and to grant State and local food handling laws preeminence over Federal laws in this area.
  • S.AMDT.2119 Proposed by Senator Helms. To include the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) on the list of infectious diseases that may be transmitted through food supply, and to grant employers the right to reassign food handlers with HIV or AIDS.
  • S.AMDT.2119 Amendment SP 2119 not agreed to in Senate by Yea-Nay Vote. 39-61. Record Vote No: 148.
  • S.AMDT.2118 Amendment SP 2118 agreed to in Senate by Yea-Nay Vote. 99-1. Record Vote No: 149.
  • Conference report recommitted by Senate. Voice Vote.

7/12/1990 5:00pm

• Conference report H. Rept. 101-596 filed.

7/12/1990 5:49pm

• Mr. Hawkins brought up conference report H.Rept. 101-596 for consideration as a privileged matter.

7/12/1990 6:53pm

• The previous question was ordered without objection.

7/12/1990 6:54pm

• Mr. Dannemeyer moved to recommit with instructions to the conference committee.

7/12/1990 7:18pm

• On motion to recommit with instructions to conference committee Failed by the Yeas and Nays: 180-224 (Roll no. 227).

7/12/1990 7:25pm

  • On agreeing to the conference report Agreed to by recorded vote: 377-28 (Roll no. 228).
  • Conference papers: message on House action held at the desk in Senate.

7/13/1990

  • Conference report considered in Senate.
  • Senate agreed to conference report by Yea-Nay Vote. 91-6. Record Vote No: 152.
  • Cleared for White House.

7/16/1990

• Message on Senate action sent to the House.

7/17/1990

  • Measure Signed in Senate.
  • Presented to President.

7/26/1990

  • Signed by President.
  • Became Public Law No: 101-336.

Primary Source: The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 [excerpt]

SYNOPSIS: The Americans with Disabilities Act stated the findings and purposes of Congress in formulating the bill, defined discrimination, and established a number of regulations to ensure that people with disabilities are afforded the same opportunities and treatment as others.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS AND PURPOSES.

(a) Findings.—The Congress finds that—

  1. some 43,000,000 Americans have one or more physical or mental disabilities, and this number is increasing as the population as a whole is growing older;
  2. historically, society has tended to isolate and segregate individuals with disabilities, and, despite some improvements, such forms of discrimination against individuals with disabilities continue to be a serious and pervasive social problem;
  3. discrimination against individuals with disabilities persists in such critical areas as employment, housing, public accommodations, education, transportation, communication, recreation, institutionalization, health services, voting, and access to public services;
  4. unlike individuals who have experienced discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, religion, or age, individuals who have experienced discrimination on the basis of disability have often had no legal recourse to redress such discrimination;
  5. individuals with disabilities continually encounter various forms of discrimination, including outright intentional exclusion, the discriminatory effects of architectural, transportation, and communication barriers, over-protective rules and policies, failure to make modifications to existing facilities and practices, exclusionary qualification standards and criteria, segregation, and relegation to lesser services, programs, activities, benefits, jobs, or other opportunities;
  6. census data, national polls, and other studies have documented that people with disabilities, as a group, occupy an inferior status in our society, and are severely disadvantaged socially, vocationally, economically, and educationally; …

SEC. 3 DEFINITIONS

(2) Disability.—The term "disability" means, with respect to an individual—

  1. a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual;
  2. a record of such an impairment; or
  3. being regarded as having such an impairment.

SEC. 102. DISCRIMINATION.

(a) General Rule.—No covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability because of hte disability of such individual in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.

SEC. 222. PUBLIC ENTITIES OPERATING FIXED ROUTE SYSTEMS.

(a) Purchase and Lease of New Vehicles.—It shall be considered discrimination for purposes of section 202 of this Act and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. 794) for a public entity which operates a fixed route system to purchase or lease a new bus, a new rapid rail vehicle, a new light rail vehicle, or any other new vehicle to be used on such system, if the solicitation for such purchase or lease is made after the 30th day following the effective date of this subsection and if such bus, rail vehicle, or other vehicle is not readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs.

SEC. 302. PROHIBITION OF DISCRIMINATION BY PUBLIC ACCOMODATIONS.

(a) General Rule.—No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.

SEC. 308. ENFORCEMENT

(B) Potential violation.—If the Attorney General has reasonable cause to believe that—

  1. any person or group of persons is engaged in a patteron or practice of discrimination under this title; or
  2. any person or group of persons has been discriminated against under this title and such discrimination raises an issue of general public importance, the Attorney General may commence a civil action in any appropriate United States district court.

"SEC. 225. TELECOMMUNICATIONS SERVICES FOR HEARING-IMPAIRED AND SPEECH-IMPAIRED INDIVIDUALS.

"(b) Availability of Telecommunications Relay Services.—

"(1) In general.—In order to carry out the purposes established under section 1, to make available to all indivduals in the United States a rapid, efficient nationwide communication service, and to increase the utility of the telephone system of the Nation, the Commission shall ensure that interstate and intrastate telecommunications relay services are available, to the extent possible and in the most efficient manner, to hearing-impaired and speech-impaired individuals in the United States.

SEC. 502. STATE IMMUNITY

A State shall not be immune under the eleventh amendment to the Constitution of the United States from an action in Federal or State court of competent jurisdiction for a violation of this Act. In any action against a State for a violation of the requirements of this Act, remedies (including remedies both a law and in equity) are available for such a violation to the same extent as such remedies are available for such violation in an action against any public or private entity other than a State.

SEC. 503. PROHIBITION AGAINST RETALTIATION AND COERCION

  1. Retaliation.—No person shall discriminate against any individual because such individual has opposed any act or practice made unlawful by this Act or because such individual made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this Act.
  2. Interference, Coercion, or Intimidation.—It shall be unlawful to coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with any individual in the exercise or enjoyment of, or on account of his or her having exercised or enjoyed, or on account of his or her having aided or encourage any individual in the exercise or enjoyment of, any right granted or protected by this Act.

Further Resources

BOOKS

Bogdan, Robert. Freak Show: Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement and Profit. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988.

Gallagher, Hugh Gregory. FDR's Splendid Deception. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1985.

Shapiro, Joseph P. No Pity. People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement. New York: Random House, 1993.

PERIODICALS

"The Americans with Disabilities Act: Washington Prevails." Wall Street Journal, August 5, 1992.

Rovner, Julie. "Rights Bill Linkage, Turf Spats Slow ADA Progress in House." Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, February 24, 1990, 600.

WEBSITES

"ADA Home Page." United States Department of Justice. Available online at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/adahom1.htm; website home page http://www.usdoj.gov (accessed April 4, 2003).

"New Freedom Initiative." The President of the United States. The White House. President George W. Bush. Available online at http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/newfreedom/; website home page http://www.whitehouse.gov (accessed April 4, 2003).