Changes in the American with Disabilities Act
By Greg Bell, Policy & Outreach
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Restoration Act of 2007 is
currently working its way through Congress. The House of Representatives has
passed H.R 3195 by the staggering vote of 402-17, and the Senate has taken up
the bill (S. 1881). Congress has long felt that the courts were reading the
definition of "disability" too narrowly and subsequently created a new definition
that will be broader and more inclusive.
The ADA Restoration Act of 2007 amends the ADA of 1990 to
remove from the definition of "disability" a reference to "substantially limiting
one or more major life activities." In determining whether an individual has an impairment,
it prohibits considering whether the individual uses a mitigating measure, the
impact of any mitigating measures, or whether the impairment is episodic, in remission,
or latent. It also declares that an adverse action taken because of an individual's use
of a mitigating measure constitutes discrimination under the Act.
Under the current reading of the law, an individual with a disability
that is mitigated with medicine or other assistive efforts are considered to no longer
be disabled. Thus they are not protected under the ADA. The original intent of the
ADA was to prevent discrimination against disabled people. However, the courts have
defined disability so narrowly that the alleged discrimination is rarely discussed.
Accordingly, plaintiffs bringing ADA suits in federal courts have lost 97% of the time.
This was never the intent of Congress in drafting the ADA, and the new act will correct that.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is also proposing changes in the rules
that they use to enforce the ADA. Seven million business and all federal and local
governments will be affected and the DOJ expects compliance with these rules to
cost $23 billion during the period of their implementation. Some of the rules
changes are substantial and will have a profound effect of those who use or enforce the ADA.
One example of local significance is that service animal protection
under the ADA will only be extended to those animals that have been trained to
offer assistance to the person with the disability. Thus, companion, comfort and
therapeutic animals will no longer receive service animal protections. The DOJ
is awaiting public comment on the matter right now, and will review the comments to
help determine which rules they will keep or change.
Tribute to the Veterans of Fort Lawton Court-Martial: Seattle Honors Soldiers and their Families
By Brenda Anibarro, Policy & Outreach
On Saturday, July 26th the City of Seattle, King County, US Representative
Jim McDermott's office, the US Army and a number of dignitaries and more than
500 community members came together to pay tribute to the African American soldiers
who were wrongly convicted of murdering an Italian prisoner of war in 1944 at
Fort Lawton, now known as Discovery Park.
Seattle journalists Jack and Leslie Hamann were instrumental in raising evidence
in their book On American Soil that caused Representative Jim McDermott to encourage
the Army Board for Correction of Military Records to re-examine the case. The tribute
was an opportunity to make public the Army's apology and give honor to the men and
their families who had been served an injustice.
Ronald James, the Assistance Secretary of the US Army, made a public apology
on behalf of the Army. The families of eight of the veterans, who had since passed,
were exonerated and received honorable discharges. One of two surviving veterans,
Samuel Snow, flew to Seattle to attend the ceremony but was taken to the hospital on
Friday night due to heart problems. He died on Saturday night. His son Ray Snow
accepted the papers in his father's place, and Mr. Snow was able to hold his papers
the night before he passed away.
The tribute brought our community together to honor these men and their families.
It is up to us to keep their stories alive and remain constant in our work for racial
justice so that we learn from history; making the changes we must, so as not to repeat our past.
Miami-Dade County seeks Seattle's Assistance on Race and Social Justice
On July 10th, Miami-Dade County held a Social Equity Summit. SOCR Director
Julie Nelson, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) Assistant Director Sharon White and
Ron Harris-White, Climate Action Now Coordinator, were invited by Miami - Dade County
leaders to participate. They knew of Seattle's work on Race and Social Justice and
wanted to learn from the experiences of a municipality working actively to
end institutional racism.
Miami-Dade County's Social Equity Summit was convened under the leadership
of Commissioner Audrey Edmonson and staffed by the Office of Community Advocacy.
The Summit brought together governmental leaders, academics and community members
to discuss and develop strategies to address issues of racial disproportionality.
Julie, Sharon and Ron shared the vision of the Race and Social Justice Initiative: a
city where racial disparities have been eliminated and racial equity achieved. Julie
spoke about the strategies of the overall Initiative, and Sharon and Ron shared their
experiences implementing the Initiative within SPU. Participants were eager to hear
about Seattle's emphasis on our own institution, and about how we are confronting the ways
in which racism can be unintentionally perpetuated through our institutions.
The experiences in Miami-Dade County are not unlike the experiences Seattle faces
in struggling for racial equity. By sharing strategies and lessons learned, we
strengthen our ability to create more equitable institutions. Seattle welcomes
the opportunity to partner with other cities to bring about systemic change, and
ultimately, more equitable communities - communities where race and social justice truly exists.
Marta has worked as a Planning and Development Specialist for the Seattle Office for
Civil Rights for 5 years as liaison to the Seattle Human Rights Commission and the Seattle
Commission for Sexual Minorities. Marta enjoys working as a team with co-workers on
projects and the unique cultural diversity of the office. Marta enjoys reading, helping
people, working on auctions, cooking, traveling and very passionate about the work we do in
Civil Rights around race and social justice issues and fairness for all.
What is your position at SOCR and how long have you been with the office?
HR, Finance and Administrative Manager (what a long name!)
What do you love most about working at SOCR?
The people and the culture luncheons which gives us the opportunity to learn more about cultures, each other and of course the amazing food.
What hobbies or passions do you have outside of work?
My passion is simply taking the time just chill with family and friends.
In addition to investigating civil rights cases, our Civil Rights Analysts also provide
trainings on civil rights law in relation to employment and housing. The following kudos
arrived in our office after several recent trainings.
We received the following kudos for Karina Bull and Monica Beach from our Enforcement
division, which provided training to a local housing management company:
Hi Karina - I just wanted to send a thank you to each of you, including Monica Beach---for taking
the time to come and speak at our annual manager's meeting yesterday. The feed back that
we received was that the training was interactive and topics were relevant to our every
day experiences. It also helped that you all portrayed yourselves as approachable which,
I think, made the discussions more natural for our staff.
Other evaluations from the training included the following:
"You guys did a great job with such a dry subject!"
"Presenters were knowledgeable and very friendly. I liked that you guys were not 'stiff' and 'stuffy.' I liked your jokes. It kept it fun."
"It covered the biggest problems to a site manager"
"It was a great informative and helpful presentation. The team was great! Can't think of any improvements it was perfect!"
"I've been to these presentations for 20+ years. Excellent presentation."
"Having more than one speaker made it interesting."
"Great speakers - kept the info they provided interesting. Very easy to listen to and actually learn something when the speakers are fun."
"Straightforward, casual and useful."
"Very informative! Examples made things easy to understand and fun. I have been to several meetings. Yours has been outstanding."
We also received kudos for Chenelle Love and Merle Weiss from our Enforcement
division for their presentations at July's Fair Housing Workshop and Fair Housing Seminar.
"This contains a lot of information that is important for any landlord."
"It was very informative...good, well planned and laid out."
"Speakers were knowledgeable and articulate."
"I thought each part had value and each presenter was well versed."
"Yes, the presenters were great. I am a realtor and yes, this did apply to my job. I would recommend this to others."