National Organization on Disability/Harris Poll Finds Strong Public Support for ADA on its 13th Anniversary

Civil Rights Law for America's Disability Community Protects Access Rights, Employees
Submitted by Mark T. Richards, ILRU Project

WASHINGTON, D.C. JULY 18, 2003 - The vast majority of Americans support the key elements of the Americans with Disabilities Act 13 years after its passage, a new Harris Poll study for the National Organization on Disability (NOD) finds. The findings are being released by NOD this week to demonstrate the high public support for the disability community's civil rights law as the nation celebrates the anniversary of the ADA's signing on July 26.

The survey of more than 1,000 randomly selected individuals, polled in June 2003, listed four key provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and asked whether they supported each one.

  • "Employers may not discriminate against someone who is qualified to do a job just because they have a disability." 85 percent support this statement.
  • Employers with more than 15 employees must make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities." 79 percent support.
  • New public transportation vehicles must be made accessible to people with disabilities." 87 percent support.
  • Public places like restaurants, hotels, theaters, stores and museums may not discriminate against customers on the basis of disability." 88 percent support.

"NOD and the entire disability community fought hard for years for passage of the ADA," noted NOD President Alan A. Reich. "We knew it would succeed in its implementation only if the public recognized and supported it. It is gratifying that this latest poll shows the public continues to be strongly supportive. This is a message to our nation's political leaders and the courts: America backs the ADA. Efforts to strengthen it will be applauded, while attempts to weaken it will meet with opposition."

The support for equal opportunity, reasonable accommodation, and non-discrimination toward employees with disabilities, as called for by the ADA, is critical in light of the employment crisis faced by Americans with disabilities. Only 32 percent of those who have disabilities are employed full or part time, an NOD/Harris Poll found in 2000. The majority of those out of work say they could be working and would prefer to work. While the ADA provides significant legal protection, there is still much need for innovations and progressive efforts to expand opportunities for this major segment of the population.

Public transportation is a problem in many regions and cities for people with disabilities who are both less likely to be able to drive and three times more likely than others in the population to live beneath the poverty line. Access to reliable, accessible transportation is critical for many people to be able to get to work and participate in other major life activities.

Since the ADA's passage, public places have become markedly more accessible to people with disabilities. It is noteworthy that this aspect of the ADA had the highest level of public support, at 88 percent. Yet not all restaurants, hotels, and theaters are as accessible as they should be. A bill that has been unsuccessfully promoted in the past several sessions of congress, the ADA Notification Act, would give violating businesses 90 days to correct violations of the ADA before they would be subject to suits. NOD opposes this modification to the ADA.

"Businesses have had 13 years to meet the ADA's requirements. There is no longer any excuse for violations at this time," said Mr. Reich. "It is important for anyone who isn't in compliance to recognize the overwhelming public support for accessibility. It is also foolish not to be accessible to all customers and potential employees who could contribute to that business's success."

Harris Poll Chairman Humphrey Taylor has noted, "Whereas Americans can be ambivalent about special legal protections for some minorities, they are overwhelmingly supportive of protecting the rights of Americans with disabilities."

NOD, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, advanced the cause of the ADA throughout the 1980s and played an active role in its passage and in the ceremony at which President George H.W. Bush, now NOD's Honorary Chairman, signed it into law.

The National Organization on Disability, founded in 1982, promotes the full and equal participation and contribution of America's 54 million men, women and children with disabilities in all aspects of life. NOD is funded entirely by private donations. For more information, contact NOD at 202.293.5960; TDD: 202.293.5968; or visit www.nod.org.

Point of Contact: Brewster Thackeray, NOD Director of Communications, 202.293.5960, thackeray@nod.org

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