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Public Policy and Legislation

 

We design and carry out strategies that strengthen public policy and that lead to the enactment of federal and state laws protecting and advancing civil rights for people with disabilities such as the Handicapped Children's Protection Act, the Civil Rights Restoration Act, the landmark 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, and the IDEA Amendments Act.

 

2011—2012 Initiatives

Federal Policy

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – DREDF helped to coordinate a national response to proposed changes in the ADA architectural accessibility guidelines. We also authored model comments in response to DOJs ADA advance rulemaking notice on equipment and furniture in health care settings.

Affordable Care Act – DREDF advocated for policies to increase access to care and decrease health disparities during the health reform debate. As regulations are being written for the ACA, we are advocating for the rights of people with disabilities. Read our comments and letters:

Transportation and Paratransit Policy – DREDF prepared issue briefs on federal transit accessibility rights and obligations for riders, advocates, and transit authorities for the Federal Transit Authority and authored a report on the need for paratransit as an integral part of a multi-faceted transit system.

 

State Policy

5.3.12SB 1186 is pending legislation in California that would require, among other things, attorneys to send a notice letter to defendants at least 30 days before filing a access lawsuit. DREDF strongly opposes SB 1186.

Special Education – DREDF is following SB 462, which proposes a certification program for special education advocates. Read our April 25, 2011 letter in opposition to the SB 462.

Medicaid Managed Care – States are shifting Medicaid-eligible seniors and people with disabilities into mandatory managed care to achieve cost savings. DREDF is working to ensure patients rights are protected and that California plans can accommodate an influx of new beneficiaries and have trained Health Plans, providers, and accessible facilities and programs. Click on Health: Access to Care to the left for more information.

Diabetes in School – In concert with a class action lawsuit that improved school conditions for children with diabetes, DREDF is working with diabetes groups to develop legislation to ensure that children receive care when school nurses are unavailable. For more information, contact Charlotte Lanvers, clanvers@dredf.org.

Assisted Suicide – DREDF joins with many national disability organizations in opposing state efforts to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia, arguing that legalization mixes dangerously with a profit-driven health care system.

 

Other Public Policy

Reproductive Justice, Disability Justice, and Bioethics – With other organizations, DREDF promotes national and local conversations about new reproductive technologies and genetic developments using the lenses of feminism, disability rights, and disability justice. We also respond to bioethics controversies.

 

2009 Initiatives

Comments on the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) Proposed Regulations

On November 23, 2009, DREDF filed comments on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Proposed Regulations on the ADAAA.

The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) was signed into law on September 25, 2008, specified to become effective on January 1, 2009. The Amendments focus on the ADA definition of disability. As in the original ADA, the Amendments continue to define disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. People with a record or history of disability, and people regarded as having disabilities are also included in the definition. Though the basic definition remains the same, Congress enacted the Amendments to restore a broad definition of disability that the courts had not honored when interpreting the original ADA definition.

DREDF Comments on the EEOC Proposed ADAAA Regulations PDF

DREDF Comments on the EEOC Proposed ADAAA Regulations HTML

Congress has given the EEOC authority to issue regulations to implement the ADAAA. On September 23, 2009, the EEOC published proposed regulations. Full text is available at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/E9-22840.htm. The public was invited to comment on the proposed regulations.You can view all submitted comments at http://www.regulations.gov and searching for Document ID EEOC-2009-0012-0001.

 

2008 Policy Initiatives

  • ADA Restoration

    In a series of cases in the past few years, the US Supreme Court has severely narrowed the definition of disability, thus limiting who can use the law to challenge discrimination. These cases have resulted in lower court rulings denying individuals with a wide range of disabilities - including diabetes, epilepsy, mental illness, breast cancer, carpal tunnel syndrome, multiple sclerosis, and amputations - protection from discrimination under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Because the cases have been dismissed on the definition of disability, the courts never even addressed the discrimination claim.

    To read our analysis of these cases, see "Too Disabled or Not Disabled Enough? The Supreme Court Creates a Catch-22," by DREDF Directing Attorney Arlene Mayerson,and "Defining Disability in the Aftermath of Sutton: Where Do We Go from Here?" also by Mayerson and colleague Kristan Mayer.


  • President Bush signed the ADA Amendments Act

    President Bush signed the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADA 2008) (S. 3406) into law on September 25, 2008. The ADA 2008 redefines the term "disability" by rejecting the limitations imposed by US Supreme Court decisions. While the ADA 2008 retained the three prongs of the definition of disability [1) an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, 2) a record of such an impairment, or 3) being regarded as having such an impairment], it directs a broad interpretation of the definition when considering whether an individual is disabled. The ADA 2008 states that:

    • a major life activity also includes the operation of a major bodily function, including but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.

    • the determination of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity shall be made without considering mitigation measures (other than ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses)

    • An impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active

For more information on the legislative process on restoration of the ADA, please see our Archives.