The Americans with Disabilities Act plus a History book

The Americans with Disabilities Act, 2nd edition, revised and updated by Margaret C. Jasper. Oceana’s Law for the Layperson Legal Almanac Series (2008)

It has only been since 1990 that the ADA was signed into law “to give civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those prohibiting discrimination on the bases of race, color, sex, national origin, age, religion.”

This Almanac examines the ADA, and entitled to under the Act. The areas governed by the ADA are explored, including employment, transportation, public accommodations, state and local government services, and telecommunications. This Almanac also gives a brief overview of legislation designed to protect the disabled in areas not covered by the ADA.

The Appendix provides selected provisions of the ADA, sample forms, and other pertinent information and data. The Glossary contains definitions of many of the terms used throughout the Almanac.

The book includes information on some other legislation and programs on related to disability. At 8 years past date, it serves only to describe what was written then. I don’t know what all possible additional laws or programs have been implemented, but one of the most critical has to be the 2014 passage of the ABLE Act now coming online for a number of states. There are three amendments in Congress that would amend the passed legislation to “fix” some issues, like the modification from the proposed original bill that had NO AGE LIMITATION to one that requires severe disability before the age of 26; this is just wrong on so many levels. Wrong because it means that if you get in a car crash two days before yours birthday and become paralyzed, you MAY OPEN an ABLE account. If you get in a car crash on your 26th birthday, though equally disabled, you may NOT open an Able account. The ABLE account allows disabled individuals, their family, and anyone else that would care to, to give up to $14,000 a year tax free into a disabled person’s ABLE account to be used for necessary expenses (quite broadly defined). For example, new tires, dental work, even vacations. But the real purpose is to exempt the ABLE money from counting against the mean-spirited conservative policy of requiring MEANS TESTING to prove substantial impoverishment in order to access any government services, including Medicaid. So if I as a disabled person could use  weekly help to manage vacuuming and other household actives, I have to pay out of pocket until I have only $2,000 (varies by state) in assets leaving no funds for ANYTHING that would be common expenses like copays, deductibles, possibly insurance for the 20% portion not covered by Medicare, and a host of other costs necessary to stay in my home and keep my car payments up and the car running so that I can still live a life beyond mandatory reduction of all assets so that I would be completely dependent for housing, transportation, food and count myself lucky to get any assistance at all given the new regime in the federal government. I did make a concerted effort to try to get the amendments passed (they remain stalled in committees) before the new Congress but to no avail. There seems very little likelihood that anything for a social safety net will be passed under the new administration.

To save myself from having to detail how the book is organized, here are some little images for you to get a sense of the content. There is no index so the only way to guess where a topic might be covered is from the Table of Contents.

The book is very legalese and thus hard to understand anything it says. It tried to group topics together, like employment or public transportation, but in the end reading this book has not been helpful for me to understand what my rights are and seems to rely on litigation to define the rights.  Phrases like “undue burden” are too subjective and if it depends on the authority of a business to decide what are undue burdens, then pretty hard to argue with that.

book jacketThe New Disability History: American Perspectives, ed. Paul Longmore and Lauri Umansky (2001)

p. 375

On January 22, 1907, the Committee on Pensions of the US House of Representatives held a hearing on the subject of pensions for disabled veterans of the Civil and Mexican-American Wars. The hearing began…

lawyer lobbyists spoke for veterans as being worthy and moral and having done their duty thus deserved pension.

First, Brown justifies assistance to disabled veterans not MERELY in terms of their NEED but also as repayment for past military service. He bases their claims before the government not on their impairments alone but also on the MORAL WORTH and SOCIAL WORTHINESS of these men. A survey of modern US disability policy reveals that Brown is far from alone in this view. Many public disability programs were, and ARE, based on PAST CONTRIBUTIONS. For example, the largest federal program that provides case payment to people who have a disability, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), is a social INSURANCE program available only to those who have PARTICIPATED in the PAID WORKFORCE and have PAID PAYROLL TAXES into the Disability Insurance trust fund. While Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a federal income maintenance program, provides cash benefits for those who have never worked, SSI benefits are significantly lower than payments made to most SSDI beneficiaries. In every type of disability policy and program, from veterans pensions to vocational rehabilitation, from social insurance to civil rights, notions of MORAL WORTH and SOCIAL WORTHINESS have played a central role in determining what individuals have qualified for benefits or protections.

Brown also distinguishes among people who are “maimed” and blind, whom he says have been well provided for, and those with rheumatic difficulties, who have not. This kind of distinction has appeared frequently in disability policy in the US. Because of the often piecemeal and ad hoc maker in which public policy has been mae, different levels of benefits ma have been available to people with different types of impairments, even if those differences have not reflected the severity of condition or the economic and social need with which it was associated. For example, blind people have long enjoyed special status in public policy, including vending opportunities in federal facilities and unique tax advantages. This disparity in part reflects the political mobilization of blind people, in which organizations such as the NFB have played a pivotal role. It may also relate to some special cultural meaning of blindness, because of which policymakers and the public have been more willing to extend assistance to blind people than to individuals with other disabilities.

p. 378 –

These veterans disability pensions constituted a “precocious” American welfare state that anticipated Social Security. They reflected what Theda Skocpol refers to as “institutional” cultural oppositions between the MORALLY  ‘UNDESERVING’ and the less deserving that run like fault lines through the entire history of American social provision. (fn 8) By contrast, the first European social insurance and pension programs were offered as categorical entitlements to broad categories of workers and the indigent. Skocpol  notes the distinctive MORAL COMPONENT of the American disability pension programs: they were restricted NOT TO THOSE OF THE MOST NEED but to those who “b their own choices and efforts as young men had EARNED AID.” She concludes that in American public policy, “no matter how MATERIALLY NEEDY, the morally UNDESERVING or less less deserving were not the nation’s responsibility.

Subsequent to the pension program for disabled Civil War veterans, workers’ compensation, originally referred to as workman’s compensation, became the first public policy initiative of the early twentieth century. Workers’ compensation rested on the precept that an injured worker was entitled to redress by his or her employer. While this concept was not new in the twentieth entry, the rise of idustrial capitalism and the ideology of laissez had led to an erosion in workers’ common-law rights to compensation. With the increasing mechanization of industry and accompanying loss of workers’ control over their working conditions, workplace injuries increased substantially. Yet, early in the twentieth century, many workers injured in industrial accidents typically could not obtain either medical assistance or financial compensation from their employers.

In response to this situation, Progressive Era reformers argued for the passage of workers’ compensation laws. These laws required both medical and financial assistance to workers injured on the job. The statutes were modeled on the compensation already being provided to disabled military veterans. But, unlike disabled veterans’ compensation programs, workers compensation initiatives focused on the states rather than the federal government. This state-centered policymaking followed the pattern of pre-New Deal American social policy. It had appeared earlier in the asylum movement. The first state laws were passed in 1909. By 1921, forty-five states and territories had enacted workers’ compensation laws. Later in the century, after extended debate between advocates for worker and the business and insurance industries, industrial diseases were added to the list of conditions eligible for coverage. (p. 379)

In the post-World War II prosperity of of 1956, Congress amended the Social Security Disability Insurance, for workers who acquired long-term disabilities. Though SSDI is a federal ENTITLEMENT, the states have had the responsibility for determining eligibility for the program. Payments are provided to an individual whose impairment, in the language of the 1967 amendments, is of “such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannon, considering his age, education, and work experience engage in any kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the immediate area in which he lives or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him or whiter he would be hired if he applied for work.

Disability insurance had been a goal of earlier social insurance reformers in the 1930s and 1940s, but its potential cost and the opposition of business and medical interests had prevented its passage. [fn 14] At first, Congress limited SSDI to disabled workers between the ages of fifty and sixty-four, but in 1960 it removed the lower age limit; nonetheless, to receive full SSDI benefits, individuals must have paid work experience of a least ten years. The attractiveness of the program increased as automatic eligibility for Medicare coverage was tied to SSDI enrollment. Despite its narrow definition of eligibility, participation in SSDI expanded rapidly from its creation on through the late 1970s. Attempts in the early 1980s to reduce the rate of increasing participation by making it more difficult to qualify for SSDI benefits proved controversial. Ultimately, those efforts failed, in part de to political pressures heightened by dramatic media accounts, and in part because the rate of program expansion leveled off in the 1980s. (p. 380)

Some analysts have viewed the SSDI program as a ticket out of the worked for displace workers with limited educational credentials or technologically obsolete skills. Many other have objected to the all-or-nothing work disincentive in the program’s eligibility requirement that force applicants to choose, on the one hand, between receiving income support and medical insurance and, on the other hand, accepting employment, often at low-paying jobs without medical benefits. (in 1999, some of these disincentives were reduced with the enactment of the Work Incentives Improvement Act, although the impact of this law remains unclear.


In 1972, an additional federal cash benefit program, Social Security Income, was created under the Social Security Act amendments. SSI replaced previous federal-state welfare programs for people with disabilities (and a separate set of programs for blind people) because Congress considered them too inconsistent and, in some states, inadequate. SSI provides cash benefits to eligible individuals with disabilities who have very low incomes, regardless of their work history (unlike SSDI). SSI’s determination of work disability in similar to SSDI’s, with many of the same ambiguities and problems. Because SSI beneficiaries have very low incomes and the cash benefits themselves are quite modest, individuals eligilble for SSI also automatically qualify for Medicaid, the federal-state health program for low-income and  individuals and families. Like SSDI, few SSI beneficiaries enter the paid workforce after they are enrolled in the program. In recent years, an increasing number of SSI applicants have had psychiatric and addiction disorders, complicating issues of building work incentives into the program.

Once again, didn’t get to finish the post but this is good information so I am going to post anyway.

When re-reading some of it just now, I was struck by the “required wage work” concept cited. Without returning to the text, it does make me wonder if this is an area of little research from back in the day when women were unpaid chauffeurs, caregivers, housemaids, cooks, and bottle washers.

You can buy reasonably priced long-term disability insurance (be sure to pay the whole premium yourself because it is NOT taxable as income when you do this) as an employee at larger businesses and corporations, but as a stay-at-home mom, I am not sure what happens if you become disabled or if you can even by the insurance for an affordable amount as an individual. I will have to look into it once I get caught up (ha ha).