WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD) released the following statement on the floor in support of the ADA Amendments Act. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“We are here to build on the accomplishments of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act. But we wouldn’t be here at all without the hard work of former Congressmen Steve Bartlett and Tony Coehlo, as well as my former Legislative Director, Melissa Schulman. In 1990, The original ADA was the product of their vision and dedication. today, we are following in their footsteps.
“When the first President Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act 18 years ago, America became the world’s leader on a central test of human rights. The ADA was a project in keeping with our oldest principles and founding ideals. As President Bush put it at the signing ceremony: ‘Today’s legislation brings us closer to that day when no Americans will ever again be deprived of their basic guarantee of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’
“Thanks to the ADA, that day is indeed closer. Tens of millions of Americans with disabilities now enjoy rights the rest of us have long taken for granted: the right to use the same streets, theaters, restrooms, or offices; the right to prove themselves in the workplace, to succeed on their talent and drive alone. A cut in the sidewalk, or a ramp at a movie theater, is more than a convenience. Each one is a daily sign of the deeply American promise of inclusion.
“Sadly, though, we have yet to live up to that promise fully. Over the last 18 years, the courts have chipped away at that promise, and at Congress’s clear original intent. We said we wanted broad coverage for people with disabilities and people regarded as disabled. But the courts have narrowed that coverage to exclude entire classes of people. We never expected that people with disabilities who worked to mitigate their conditions would have their efforts held against them. But the courts did exactly that. Those narrow rulings have closed the doors of opportunity for millions of Americans.
“We are here today to bring those millions of our fellow citizens back where they belong: under the protection of the ADA. By voting for final passage of the ADA Amendments Act, we ensure that the definition of disability will henceforth be construed broadly and fairly. We make it clear that those who manage to mitigate their disabilities can still be subject to discrimination—and are still entitled to redress. And we recognize that those ‘regarded as’ having a disability are equally at risk—and deserve to be equally protected.
“This bill, which was approved by the Senate last week, has come so close to a signature thanks to the tireless work of members of the disability community, leaders from both parties, and business groups—a coalition as broad and deep as the one that created the original ADA.
“I especially want to recognize the co-sponsor of this bill, my colleague Jim Sensenbrenner. Along with his wife, Cheryl Sensenbrenner, he has been one of our strongest leaders for disability rights. I want to thank my good friend, Tony Coelho, for enlisting me in this effort so many years ago.
"And finally, it is my honor to dedicate this bill to a pioneering disability advocate and an inspiration behind the ADA, the late Justin Dart, as well as to his wife, Yoshiko Dart.
“I urge all of my colleagues to pass this bill and to keep our promise: the promise of an America that excludes none of its people from our shared life.”