The progressive blogosphere has been absolutely critical in recent months in helping Democrats keep the pressure on the Bush Administration and Republicans on a wide range of issues. I witnessed the incredible power of your efforts first hand last week when I spoke with you about the Republican filibuster of the Levin-Reed Amendment. The words of encouragement and gratitude that you expressed towards me in that post were truly overwhelming and I cannot thank you enough for your kind words.
I am writing to you today because an issue that is very dear to me is under attack and I need your help.
As many of you may know, my late brother lost his hearing at a young age and I witnessed firsthand the difficulties people with disabilities endure everyday. It was that experience that drove me to work hard to ensure civil rights protections were extended to every individual regardless of a current, past, or perceived disability through the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act seventeen years ago.
Unfortunately this hard work is being undone as the ADA has come under attack from a series of court decisions that have ignored Congress’ clear legislative intent regarding who should be protected. The courts have drastically narrowed the category of who qualifies as person with a disability.
That is why I have offered the ADA Restoration Act of 2007 to undo the damage done by the courts and to clarify the intent of the ADA.
I hope that you show your support for my bill and for disability rights by blogging about this issue and encouraging your friends and family to sign my petition to tell Congress to restore the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Thanks to the decisions of the courts, many people whom Congress intended to protect under the ADA – such as those with epilepsy, diabetes, and cancer – are no longer protected. For example, a person suffering from epilepsy is now forced to choose between treating their condition and forfeiting their protections under the ADA or not taking their medication and being protected.
This was not the original intent of the ADA and I hope you will help me send a loud and clear message to the courts that a person with a disability lives with that disability regardless of whether or not they are currently treating their symptoms.
The ADA has done so much to break down barriers so that people with disabilities can fully participate in our society, have equal opportunities, experience independent living, and become economically self-sufficient.
However, the attacks on the ADA from the courts threaten each of these four extremely important pillars and unless Congress takes action to restore and strengthen the original intent of this critical civil rights law, I am afraid that Americans with disabilities will no longer be protected from discrimination and able to freely experience everything our great nation has to offer.
Thank you for your continued support.
–Senator Tom Harkin
P.S. My staff and I will be monitoring the comments on this post and I will try to respond to some of your questions as soon as time permits.