Reflection on 28 years of the ADA: What have we learned, where do we go from here?

Tuesday, July 31, 2018


With the 30th anniversary of the ADA fast approaching it is time to reflect back on the 28 years since the passage of the ADA and examine some of the milestones that shaped the direction that the law has taken. With the passage of the most significant piece of civil rights legislation impacting the lives of persons with disabilities there were many hopes and promises made for the future. This session will reflect on what it took to get where we are today as well as discuss different points of view in terms of where we still need to go and what may need to happen next in order for the full promise of the ADA to be realized. Join our distinguished speakers who collectively represent a wealth of knowledge and experience working directly with the shaping of the ADA from inception to implementation.

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Good Afternoon. My name is John and I will be your conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to their reflection on 28 years of the ADA conference call. All lines have been placed on mute to prevent any background noise. After the speaker's remarks, there will be a question and answer session. If you would like to ask aquestion during this time, simply press star,then the number one on your telephone keypad. If you would like to withdraw your question, press the pound key. Thank you. Ms. Jones, you may now begin your conference.

Robin Jones

Thank you. And welcome everyone to the ADA Audio Conference Series, which is brought to you by the ADA National Network in collaboration with the Great Lakes ADA Center. This is our July session and we moved it a little bit later in the month. And we typically do just to accommodate schedules and things. So I'm glad everyone was able to join us today. As we have just passed the 28th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act just a week ago. Right before we start, I'll introduce our speakers.

I want to go through some of the features on the webinar platform for anybody who might benew to the webinar platform. Those of you who are listening through the webinar today, make sure that your speakers are turned on or you had your head phones in and they're plugged in. You can adjust the audio through the audio and video panel by adjusting and sliding the little slide bar to the left or the right for louder or softer. If you're having any kind of quality problems with your sound today, first check what we call Audio Wizard. It's a little icon that looks like a microphone with a red star on it. If you click on that, that will run you through a series of tests on your system to check to make sure your sound is all connected correctly. You also can-- Some people I see are on mobile devices, you can also follow along. So please note however that-- it's some limited accessibility in the mobile app. We do have captioning data as well. There's a CC icon. It's in the audio video panel, upper right hand corner of your screen. If you click on the little CC icon, it will open up the captioning box and you can move that or read just that anywhere on the screenfor you to your own liking. It also allows you to change thesize of the font and the color and the background as well as you're saving the transcript. We will be taking your questions today. For those of you who are either on the telephone, our operator John will be giving you instructions later on in the session as to how to ask questions by telephone. If you're in the webinar platform, you will be able to submit your questions using the chat area. Your questions will not be seen by others, they will only be seen by myself and the speakers and we will be repeating them for everyone else as able to hear and know what the question is. If you're not connected by the webinar platform and you would prefer--or if you prefer, you can also email the question to us at So we'll give you a number of different options to be able to ask a question today. You also can customize your view, the default is for the white board show. We do not have any PowerPoint slides that are going to be showing for today other than these slides that I'm showing you right now, an introductory slide. But if you want to changethat view, you can do so. Right now, it's default with this page. But there's a drop down menu, allows you to increase the size or shrink the size of that particular area. You can also reposition anyof the boxes, the chat room, et cetera by detaching themor using your mouth to shrink or reposition itfor your own liking. Each panel could be detachedusing the little icon, which are referred to as theline from the sheet of paper on the upper right handcorner of each panel. If you experience any technical difficulties during today's session, you have acouple of options, one, you can send a privatemessage to me and I'm listed at Great Lakes ADA in thelist and/or you can email us at oryou can call our phone number at 877 toll-free 232-1990 voice or TTY and [inaudible] to you on the phone as well.

So as I said, we just celebrated the 28th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. And in keeping with that,we're looking at today kind of a reflection of whatwe've learned, where-- And joining us today is our two very distinguished speakers or presenters and people thatmany of you have been with us for a while would knowfrom past sections and things of that nature. One of our speakers is John Wodatch who is the former chief of the Disability Rights Section of the US Department of Justice. And we're thrilled to have him join us. And the second speaker is Sally Conway who is the former deputy chiefof the Disability Rights Section in the US Department of Justice. Both of them are now retired and out on their own but still very muchactively involved and still very much apart of what is happening and going on out there. And so, it seemed only fitting that we ask them-- call them back in to kind ofhelp us in this reflection, but also get their insightsas they are outside government at this time looking in and where-- you know, where we're going and what are their thoughts related to that issue. So please feel free to-- throughout the session ifthere's things that you would like to ask them that theymay not have touched on you like to hear them touch on orsomething, make sure you submit that question in the chat areaor save it for the operator when that time comes because we do want you to engage our two presenterstoday and a discussion as well. So at this time, I'm going to go ahead and turn the microphone over to John and Sally, so go ahead.

John Wodatch

Thank you very much, Robin. It is John Wodatch. I'm delighted to be with you all today and especially my colleague, Sally Conway, it's a delight to be able to spend time with all of you and with her. We thought we would talk a little bit about, since it's the anniversary of the ADA, the history of the ADA and how it got there and then some reflections on where we are about what we should should about where we are. So, let's start with a little history. U.S. history, especially in the past, we have a history of almost every American family had a member or friend who had a disability but we were trapped in a culture of stereo types and barriers, add taught national ones and -- attitude national -- People with disabilities were excluded from public schools. We had massive custodial institutions that warehoused people for life even with minor disabling conditions. Almost every state forced prohibitions on marriage and even compulsory sterilization. Many states refused the rights of persons with mental and physical disabilities to Mary, to enter into a contract and even to appear in public. If we look at the Supreme Court, the main case dealing with a disability for a long time was a case Bug versus Bell which upheld that the state law that enforced sisterrization of those with disabilities was Constitutional. I think telling to me one of our country's most honored and respected presidents, Franklin Deleanor Roosevelt felt it necessary to go to extensive lengths to hide the disabilities he had.I think we all know this bleak picture continued into the 1960s and 1970s. We had little accessible housing, few accessible -- almost no public accessible restrooms.

Many cities with limited curb cuts. Some cities with no curb cuts at all. Children with disabilities, if they were educated at all were in separate, inferior schools. Little public accessible transportation, very restricted employment opportunities and people with disabilities separated from their families and housed in separate, underfunded warehouse facilities.This picture began to change in the late 60s and early 70s. We had the architectural barriers act of 1968 and the rehabilitation act of 1973 were the first federal steps to change this dynamic. We were beginning to see what social scientist called the paradigm shift. We were advocating for writing and passing laws that recognized that persons with disabilities in and of themselves had rights. They were not persons who needed charity and pity. These concepts were adopted from other civil rights movements in the U.S. in the 60s and 70s. The movement of African Americans to claim their rights led by Martin Luther King junior and the drive of the woman's movement to claim equality of opportunity.Other laws joined these disability rights laws. We had what we now know as IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities E. can education Act had its president -- Education Act had its president accessors. 1978, the fair housing act was amended to provide for accessible housing. In 1986, the air care access act was amended, opening up air travel to a certain extent to persons with disabilities. In 1988, section 504 was amended to ensure that the reach of what the program's activities that were covered were dealt with extensively. Underlying all of these laws as they developed was that they weren't welfare laws, their fundamental place was nondiscrimination.

Not charity.Ordinarily, I would talk about 504 and how it got there but we don't have a lot of time today so I'm going to skip ahead to the 80s, if you'll allow me that, and start looking at the factors and trends that led us to getting the to getting the ADA in the 1990s. One of these is soldiers from Viet Nam. Medical advances notice field resulted in injured soldiers which would have died earlier. These soldiers were not content to be treated as second class citizens. For example, one of the hearings we had on the ADA Congress heard from a veteran in Long Island who's rehabilitation program included swimming. Unfortunately, the pools in his area were inaccessible and there were no plans to make them accessible. No law requiring that they be accessible. Another factor, I mentioned the IDEA and its predecessor before was that we had had for a number of years federal laws mandating free appropriate federal education in a mainstream environment. The first one was called the Education of the Handicapped Act but these laws had created a generation of students and parents with higher expect aces for their kids with disabilities. Some students had achieved high school diplomas, some had certifications of completion, but they were all ready to enter into mainstream life. They had been educated in a classroom, integrated with nondisabled peers. They wanted to continue their education, find employment, be involved.The successful civil rights movement for women and minorities provided a framework of action for people with disabilities. Leaders of the disability community and persons with disabilities themselves adopted the tools that were successful for those movements in bringing about social change using media to identify problems of discrimination.

Organizing for social action and and progress, working with Congress and the executive branch. These were all approaches that had worked before and our organization for people with disabilities were using them to change the public image of people with disabilities and their issues, to bring knowledge about how discrimination occurred, what was life like for people with disabilities.Another factor came from researching recommendations of two independent -- the national council on disabilities and U.S. council for civil rights. In 1966, under the leadership of -- Friedman who was then the Board's director, the NCD issued -- independence.

An earlier NCD report provided a study of the history of discriminatory practices in the United States. And the U.S. commission on civil rights issued a work in 1983 called accommodating the spectrum of individuals with disabilities, which made clear the concept of disability as a naturally occurring human condition encompassing a spectrum of abilities.What that's reports did was provide the analytical basis for a new civil rights law. There was another report, this one in 1988 from the Reagan administration and it provided further momentum.

In response to the aids epidemic in the United States, admiral James Atkins who was tasked by president Reagan issued a major report with recommendations on the AIDS epidemic. It was called presidential -- on the human immunodeficiency virus. The report had ten main recommendations and one of the main recommendations called for the passage of a civil rights bill to protect persons with HIV from discrimination and the need for laws to protect the the rights and privacy of those with AIDS.Importantly, it further suggested that such a bill should just not be about people with HIV, it shouldn't single them out.

It should be broader, including other persons with disabilities. And then there was the election in 1988. Which played a part in this short history of events leading up to the ADA. And I guess my message here as someone who worked in the federal government for 42 years, one shouldn't underestimate the power of a campaign promise. You may remember that in 1988, then Vice President George HW Bush who had been Reagan's Vice President for all eight years of his tenure was running for president and he wanted to establish his own credentials, show that he was his own man and now Vice President Bush had a longest riff of working with people with disabilities during the 80s.

During those years, Vice President Bush together with his legal council, Boyden Gray worked with disabilities groups including Evan Kemp who then was with the disability rights education fund to ensure the issuance of a number of section 504 regulations for both federally assisted and federally conducted programs. So, Mr. Bush understood disability, was comfortable with people with disability, understood the nature of discrimination.And it was a natural fit for him to promise that if he was elected, he would seek passage of "Comprehensive law protecting the rights of people with disabilities. There was one other factor I want to mention and that's economics. Because it played a key role in getting support for the ADA. Because if you look at the budget, Congress realized that the segregation and isolation of people with disabilities was a major waist of our resources and the federal government was spending billions of dollars in payment to people with disabilities in income support. But the idea was, they can't work, they shouldn't work, we're going to pay them money. But really, many of these people could work. They wanted to work. And proponents of the legislation made the argument that this civil rights bill would have a positive affect and eventually help the nation's gross national product, the idea being that we would allow people with disabilities to be independent, employed, tax paying citizens rather than at home, dependent, and a drag on the economy.

So, the view was this would increase our tax base and lessen the outcomes for income support. This was a natural fit for some of the Republicans in Congress who weren't naturally drawn to providing support for the civil rights but were drawn to this idea. And finally, I think the most important factor I've saved for last and I'm going to let Sally talk about that because she was instrumental in it in her career and that's the role of people with disabilities themselves, the organizations that represented them and the growth of the independent living movement. Sally, can I turn this over to you?

Sally Conway

You can. I'm still here. Thank you, John. And Robin, thank you for inviting me. It's nice to catch up with friends. The independent living movement was critical in terms of helping folks to organize and learn advocacy skills and things like that. It basically led to folks with disabilities having the where withal, having the skills to really pressure, put pressure on Congress, on business, whoever to pass the ADA and they really stepped up an took a role. If you think about, John mentioned, you know, folks with disabilities folks disabilities really were segregated and lived very isolated lives in the community. One thing that especially for you youngens listening is that this was all before the Don of the incident, social media, instant messaging. So, people were in pockets all around the country. But really, they hadn't met each other and they hadn't had the chance to coalesce and say, oh, my God. There's somebody who has experienced the exact same things that I've experienced so back at that time, public policy really still proscribed what life was going to be like if you were a person with a disability. You know, there was this, all of these benefit programs, segregation, all of these things. They were cloaked in good intentions and benevolence. It's better to be with your own kind. And you know, the other thing was don't dream or have goals. The American dream that we all know and love so well is not for you. You can't do it. So what it instilled was this, actually, it wasn't soft back then, but soft bigots rei of very low expectations for folks with disabilities and folks with disabilities internal sized that.

I mean, if that's all you hear and you're stuck by yourself, there's nobody else out there to say, no, no, no. You can do whatever you want.You can make your own decisions. So, gradually, folks with disabilities and really the person that started all of this was Ed rob erupts out in Berkeley, lovingly referred to as Special Ed was a polio survivor. And he was going to school, going to college, but every night after his classes were over he went back into a hospital because he needed to sleep in an iron lung back then to help him breathe.And there was no other place for him to live in the community. So, this really, bright, bright guy watched over civil rights movement. Said, you know, there is one common denominator and that is, by one characteristic, people all have a shared experience. Whether you're a person of color. Whether you're a woman. And that began to sort of percolate. And it's that folks with disabilities simply by the fact that they have a disability, that one trait really means that it's likely that they're going to be discriminated against on the basis of that have. But as we all know, you know, it's hard to do things if you're the only person in the forest screaming.And gradually, folks started gravitating, folks with disabilities, to more urban areas because there was a better chance of success. There were things like, you know, more than one school. And there was more than one grocery store, more than one doctor. And people started getting to know each other. Seeing that that one trait, just because I have a disability doesn't mean I know exactly everything that a person with a different disability has had to deal with but that trait of a shared disability was something that, there's nothing better than peer support.

And the independent living grew out of a grain of that, you know what? We have rights, too. So the independent living movement was a fledgeling little thing back in the mid to late 70s, but the idea hasn't changed, you know, half a century later. And the idea is that folks with disabilities have the right to make their own choices but to get information, to be given the information and to have access to the information that allows them to make a choice.Whether it's a good choice or a bad choice, that is just a condition of humanity. But, they were allowed to, they worked hard, they worked hard to allow folks to understand that we had the right to make our own decisions.

We were not going to sit and have everybody tell us what was best for us but in order to do that, you have to learn some skills. So, there are, was a core principle called skills training.And that can be as simple as, you know, how to get around your community. It can also include things like, how do you write a check? How do you balance a checkbook? How do you pay your bills, all of those kind of things. So you have skills training then you have advocacy which is such a remarkably important concept and advocacy and the independent living movement, really there's two parts of it. One is self-advocacy. If any of you have had to face something and file a complaint or say to somebody, that's just not right. You know, especially when you're alone and haven't done it before, that's a really scary thing to do and by teaching folks with disabilities how to advocate for themselves, it made the process so much easier.And I certainly learned this, you know, when I was young 30 or so years ago the first time I advocated on my own behalf and filed a complaint, it was really scary. And I was like, oh, my God, what's going to happen?But the next time I did it, it was easier.And each time, it got easier. The other part of advocacy was systemic advocacy. Sometimes individual advocacy, you can do it one on one with someone and you can assert your rights and say, look, I need to get in here. You can put a ramp in here. But there are such systemic issues. You look at things Medicaid, you look at housing. You look at laws that protect people with disabilities, those are very systemic things and learning how to advocate to exchange the system, and to change minds and hopefully hearts, but, you know, who cares if hearts really change. That was a really important lesson that was learned and that really allowed folks with disabilities to, number one, have the skills.

Number two, be able to talk with folks who know exactly where they're coming from, develop a strategy and then make a choice of what was going to work and what we're going to try and then use those advocacy skills to move forward. Independent living has changed the lives of millions of people with disabilities and you know, it sure did for me. I didn't know what was going to happen to me. Doctors says, oh, you know. You're probably never going to work. You're never going to do this. I still wanted an education and I still wanted my definition of the American dream and that was simply to work, to be in my community and be a vital cog in my community. To have friends. You know, to enter into relationships, to Mary. To pay bills, all of the things that everybody wants. And learning those skills really allows the change to happen on a macro level that filters down and gives me rights to do business in my community. To find a job. To find transportation to get housingful all of those things and I think had we not will independent living and the idea that the simple trait -- well, it's not simple. But the one trait of having a disability binds you in some way to everybody else that has that trait was just, we so overuse the word empiring these days, but it was incredibly empowering. And it allowed us to sort of developmentally grow up. It allowed us to have the confidence and the ability to talk with you are or local members of Congress or as simple as, you know, talking to your neighborhood grocery store that has one step and won't put a ramp in. Change comes. And change can be incremental. Change can be little in each of our communities. And change can be huge, like the ADA.

Like 504, like all of those.So, the independent living continues and this is one of the things that I have always had to explain to folks, independent living center doesn't mean it's residential. And the folks that work at independent living centers the majority have to be cross section with disabilities. People on the boards, the Board of directors, have to be majority people with disabilities. So, this is, you know, nothing about us without us. And that's a great thing but you have to have those skills before you can move forward and really articulate what is the change that we need so that in a nutshell is the independent living movement. I owe a great deal to it back in the, well, let's just say last century. And folks that are out there, independent living centers, if you are not somebody with a disability but you need some information, one of their other core services is they need to offer information and referrals.And call your independent living center if you have a question. They're really good at knowing the community, knowing the culture, who can you talk to so that's my pitch for independent living centers and they continue and they are just fabulous.So, I think I'm going to turn it back over to John.

John Wodatch

Okay. Thanks, Sally of and the, keep in mind in the 80s, as we were developing the ideas that led to the ADA, the advocacy part of the independent living movement was crucial. I think you may remember the role that people with disabilities played across the country in getting the idea about the ADA across. You may remember Justin Dart traveled to every state in the union and had persons with disabilities create discrimination diaries which were lists of every day discrimination and the indignities that they faced.These diaries were brought forward and given to Congress and provided a factual basis for the kind of discrimination that existed in our country. Now, I could go through all the legislative give and take about getting the ADA enacted but what I would like to do is talk about three concepts that were vital because I it think the ideas and concepts of the ADA led to its passage. The things wasn't to talk about are parallelism, comprehensiveness and integration. What do I mean by parallelism? I mean the concepts that the leaders of the disability community used approaching Congress and approaching the administrations was they wanted was something simple. Merely to give to people with disabilities the same rights and federal law, federal shiv rights law that women and minorities already had. This approach made what seemed to be revolutionary just evolutionary. And to do this, Congress used the existing laws. Thus, title seven of the civil rights act of 1,964 applied to both public and private employers but only those with 15 or more employees. And title was enforced by the E, OC so for the ADA, we would have the same thing.

The employment division of the ADA would use the structure for employment. Okay. But what about the desertion of disability and the definition of discrimination on the basis of disability was.Well, we had section 504. There were over 1504 considerations for federally conducted programs. Now, because of the oversight of the department of justice, these detailed regulations had a common approach and common language and furthermore, most of these regulations were adopted from Republican associations so Republican members of Congress felt a sense of security in adopting these approaches so the second idea for parallelism was used the coverage, the scope nondiscrimination, the definition of disability, and the enforcement provisions of section 504 as a basis for the ADA.Okay. So what's the next overarching principle? And for me, that's comprehensiveness. For the ADA to work to transform American society which was one of the objectives of the new legislation, it had to be brought in scope. It had to apply to all aspectses of American life so here's the basic idea. We need nondiscrimination provisions to ensure that a person with a disability with get a job. But that person can't get to work without accessible transit so we need to have provisions that apply to transportation and that person can't enjoy the fruits of the job without access to entertainment, sports, travel. So it's necessary to apply to the -- and this person can't participate in his or her own community without access to the local government so it's necessary to cover all aspects of state and local government and finally, that person can't participate in anything without access to state and local education, therefore the ADA must address all of these.

The final I wish to talk about was integration, which was vital. The integration of the disability laws affecting education had already proven successful. Integration is a standard feature of the nation's other standard civil rights laws but here it was even more essential because of the nation's history of segregation and isolation of persons with disabilities and it was necessary to help dispel the stereo types and prejudicial assumptions of the public at large.I'd like to focus on two other new ideas that were in the ADA that I think have been very important to its success. And one of them is a new requirement, the idea that every federal agency with ADA responsibilities had to engage in what the law called technical assistance to provide the public, people disabilities, state and local government and businesses with information about the rights and responsibilities.And in a separate action, Congress established ten regional centers around the country to provide how-to information and cost-effective ways on how to comply, what we now know as the ADA national network and what is the basis for this phone call today.The second idea that was different from other civil rights law was to use the tax code to help businesses, particularly small businesses comply with the ADA. Congress recognized there would be costs and that they weren't providing money to help them so how do you help businesses businesses. It was understood maybe by, ensuring that cost compliance would be spread out more thoroughly across the country thus as a tax credit for any business with less than two -- as well as tax deductions for up to $15,000 a year for businesses making ADA changes without regard to size.

So, as a result of all of these the leadership of the disability community, ADA became a strong bipartisan law advocated by a Republican bipartisan president. Now, this is usually when we talk about where we are now and where we're going and I think for me as a starting point to do that, I'd like to go to the wordses of the ADA itself and how it envisions this goal. The idea of this law is, quote, to ensure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living and economic self-sufficiency. For the past 28 years, much of the ADA success has been in the areas of equality, opportunity, and participation. We have created the structural network for opportunity. What I think we need to do and what I'm positing is for the next generation of time, we need to work on the other two statements of this which is independent living and economic self-sufficiency.For the past 28 years, we have soon a growing inclusion for people with disabilities in every day life. We certainly have not achieved full participation but we are in a very different place than we were 28 years ago or even even if we think about the ADA where we were in the early 70s. Now, we're in a different era. I looked at some comments did I a couple years ago and I think we're in a very different era now than we were when we optimistically celebrated the 25th anniversary of the ADA.

One of the most disspiritting things with me is Congress' efforts to amend the ADA to make more difficult for people with disabilities to enforce their rights under the law.Now, we all know, we have heard, at least, about this increase in ADA lawsuits and Congress responding to pressure from business groups, particularly owners of shopping malls and Congress, as I hope you know, passed an IDEA amendment, the House of Representatives, passed an amendment that would require persons with disabilities to notify any business before filing a lawsuit and give them up to 180 days to make substantial progress to making their facilities accessible. This proposed are called notice -- amendment. In my view, would unnecessarily limit a person's ability to obtain much needed barrier removal and flies in the face that the fact that American businesses have been subject to the ADA's barrier removal requirements for more than 28 years and it seriously undercuts the ADA's requirements and takes away any incentive for business to comply with the ADA. In my view, it's not even appropriate response to what they think is a probable of too many lawsuits. If you forgive me, the numbers between 2016 and 2015. In 2016, there were 600,000 ADA lawsuits filed which was a third increase over the years before but in all honesty, a third of these lawsuits were filed by 38 people and 42 percent were filed in only two districts, one in Los Angeles and one in Miami.So, I don't think it's appropriate, this is a pretty limited picture and I think amending a national statute doesn't deal with whatever the they think is the real problem, which is not the ADA. Also, in my view, this is not an alarming number of lawsuits.

If we realize there are 7 million businesses and over 56 million people with disabilities, six, to seven, to 8,000 lawsuits a year is really a small number.Further, businesses had 28 years to comply with the ADA. We have provided incredible information to them through the ADA national network and through the agencies and giving them more time just really rewards the scoffla ws who have violated the law. So how do we deal with the attack? I think we all know, there are more. Social program cutbacks, cut back enforcement and regulation. How should the disability community respond to what I see as an attack on the ADA? I think disability writes history, gives us the answer. If you forgive me taking you back to history again in 1981 at the start of the Reagan administration, I was at the department of justice, the White House established something called the task force on regulatory relief. And the education of all handicapped children act, the precursor to IDEA. And what they said was, you know, let's just get rid of these laws.So, we have faced this kind of opposition to the rights of people with disabilities in the past. So, how did we respond then?Nationwide, the disability community responded by organizing. -- led an organized response. Reached out to Congress and the White House. People coming to Washington. The pressure worked and section 504 and IDEA were allowed to continue and remained potent forces today. What I say to you is that we need similar action today if we want the IDEA to remain a viable force in our lives. So what that means is no the just treading water or not just keeping on, keeping on. We really need through our organizations to organize, to get involved.

If we want our goals of self-sufficiency and independent living. If we want to develop community support so people can live independently and make their own choices in the community. We have to organize and put pressure. We have to find our allies. There's a Congressial election. We certainly should all know who are the people in the House of Representatives who voted to limit the rights of people with disabilities and work to make sure that information is known and that we support people who support the rights of p 'em with disabilities. There are going to be people running for president, certainly in the Democratic party, maybe even in the Republican parties.We need to find those who support disability rights and healthcare for people with disabilities, for our veterans and work to ensure that they are successful.So, I think that is one role for our community. Another role being carried on now is continuing of lawsuits. We can talk and I know Sally and I are talked about the new issues affecting people with disabilities. That certainly includes making websites accessible and ensuring that technology as it's developed includes people with disabilities so that the march of technology is a force for good for people with disabilities and that may mean lawsuits.

There are an increasing number of lawsuits dealing with websites, kiosks and ensuring they're accessible. There's putting pressures on federal agencies which under the trump administration have retreated from issuing regulation. The department of justice has announced that it's not going to proceed with its efforts to develop regulations dealing with website accessibility and with accessible medical equipment. The access board stopped short on finishing its guidelines on public rights of way. The Department of Education has pulled back on its ability to, or on its willingness to investigate complaints. We need to organize again and fight and put pressure to ensure that there is a response to this, at best, inaction, and at worse, takes on people disabilities Sally, I've been talking much too long. Let me turn it over to you for a little bit.

Sally Conway

You never talk too much, John.(laughter)

John Wodatch

I always talk too much.(laughter)

Sally Conway

I think, you know, one of the things, and John and I were at the symposium in Pittsburgh and it always sort of does my heart good when John says, you know what? We've really kind of lived through this before and it just makes me feel better and makes me calm down add makes me look back to see what worked then informant and I and had of in and I do think that the -- -- -- and I do think that the smart use of social media messaging, I think that disability community and our allies, I think we have to haven't consistent message. I think that's a really, really important thing and that we're not trying to run at cross purposes with each other. We can't afford dilution of our strengths. But one of the other things is that while we're fighting all of this stuff and I think filing lawsuits is terrific. I think people also need to look to filing and looking to state and local laws as well as a means of achieving access and integration but I think certainly I speak for myself, one of the things is when you're working so hard on this bigger picture, you know, and protecting rights is a full-time job and it takes all this menuia but you have to did it.

One thing I will plead guilty to is that sometimes I forget the things that are important right now and I think that it's really important that we make sure while we're doing these things to protect and, I'd love to say expand civil rights, but at the very least protect what we have. We still have to pay attention, making sure that people with disabilities remain mobile, that they can go from place to place to place. Without that, you can't visit your Congress person. And staying involved, invested so that community living stays vibrant and I know people out there are rolling their eyes. I know it. But I think these things are important to also be mindful of with the bigger things and one of the other things is thatville rights -- civil rights generally in this administration have come under attack and I think that it's important for us as a protected class for folks with disabilities to also support those of us to maintain their own civil rights. I think we are all parts of disability rights or civil rights, yes, we have our own struggle but also, every civil rights group is under attack to some extent. You know?And I think we need to support each other. If one group gains, it doesn't mean that I lose. The other thing is pushing for regulations, it's so critical. Pushing for the continued drafting of technical assistance materials. That is such a good way to help people understand what it is they have to do.

There's an awful lot of noise out there and we nead to be able to pay attention to the noise that matters and I do think that regulations that lawsuits, you know, invigorated enforcement. And if it's not a federal agency that can do it, then it's going to have to be us that does it on our own.I was going to say something else. But education, technical assistance education is really, really important. And there's been a huge pull back. All the agencies. Certainly with DOJ, a number of documents have basically been pulled and there isn't any new material going out. And now is a really important time to make sure that gets done so I think keeping our eye on what is going on in the big picture and organize, have a competent message, know our facts when we go to talk to people. I think that's so incredibly important but don't let the chat sort of fall like little things like, well, my town doesn't have any curb cuts but we're dealing with this bigger thing. You still interest -- have to deal with that. So, it's vigilance, and it is exhausting, and it is a pan rammic view of things that need to be attended to.But I do think that the disability community is so smart, so savvy. And they know how to make the argument. They know how to use social media effectively so I think those are really my sort of parting comments. On, you know, where do we go from here. And I guess, you know, that's about it for me.

John Wodatch

This is John again. I think we wanted to leave time for your questions and to engage in a conversation with you about any of these issues or answer other questions about history or where we are o Robin, is this an appropriate time to open it up to questions that might have been coming in?

Sorry, my phone was on mute. Yes, I think there was a question, you talked about ADA, would people explain the discrimination laws, would there be other laws we could use, so that was the question. So, let's say that, you know, the ADA language went into effect, that ADA notification, the education act and format went into effect because the Senate did pass it, et cetera. Would there be other laws someone could use? I mean, obviously, 504? If there was a relative entity covered by 504?

John Wodatch

That's correct. 504 and keep in mind what this HR 620 does is notice and cure. Keep in mind, at this point, it just deals with the removal of architectural barriers. It doesn't deal with issues like website access, new construction, alterations, effective communication. So, the ADA is still there without the notice provisions for this there. I think the damage it does is takes away any incentive for businesses to comply but people with disabilities and the organizations that represent them can still use the ADA itself but there is certainly section 504. There are other laws that can be relied upon and as Sally pointed out, there are state and local laws that will continue to be in existence. Although I think we know from efforts in Florida and Arizona and other places that there are efforts to amend the state law to try and decrease the number of lawsuits that are filed.I am hopeful, I should point out, that the law will not pass in this Congress. I have to salute the work of Senator Dukworth from Illinois who has put together a band of 43 Senators who want to propose the ADA education act. Even if it doesn't pass in this term, I think it will rear its ugly head again in the next term so I think we have to be vigilant about that.

Sally Conway

Well, I think, John, and this is not the first time we've had legislation that is addressed it. I think there were six, at least, other bills at some time in the 28 years history of the ADA. Not gone as far as this one has. To put limits on it.

John Wodatch

That's correct. And this is not the first time. This is just the one that made it through a committee and through a house, which is shocking to me in just that, but, you are correct, there have been those who have opposed. It's the right target, I guess. It has been from the beginning. From the mid 90s.

Well, yeah, and I think if you look at it from the other shiv rights laws per se that have been passed, et cetera, the ADA required a type of response that other laws have not. You know? In regards to like actual physically changing hang environment, per se. Or providing a specific service or program that you might not otherwise have done so it just had a different flavor to it that has obviously gotten different reactions from the public, this particularly. So.Well, you knew we couldn't go a section without questions about service animals, right?(laughter)

Yes, I assumed that would be the case. And this is all very fitting, John, since service animals were something very fitting to your work, especially with work you did in amendments in 2010. This is asking you both about your perspective on the increased attention that has been given to the attention for service animals especially even though the airlines are not covered by ADA but a lot of this had has risen from the airlines at least from the trust perspective, per se. But what your take is or where you're thinking of heading or going with the service animals debate and the growing public shame for these issues.

Okay. I'll start and I'll let Sally continue after it. I think one reason for, we now, you know, when we started, certainly with 504 a long time ago, we when we talked about service animals, we really talked about dogs that were used to help people who were blind in wayfaring. What has really happened is we've learned that service animals can provide a whole series of functions. There are hearing dogs, seizure alert dogs, dogs that help people with post traumatic stress disease. Dogs have been able to be trained to assist people with disabilities. One of the things growing is in the use of animals to assist people with disabilities. I think another thing has happened, we have to be tranq, is the fraudulent use of service animals by people without disabilities who want to pass offer their pet as a service animal.And that was part of the reason that the Department of Justice limited service animals in 2010 from any animal that is trained to carry on to perform work or do a function to just dogs to deal with sort of the issue of service snakes and other animals, monkeys and other animals. I naively thought when we passed the ADA that this would be an issue we would deal with for a couple of years and then people would accept animals and we would go forward.

I'm not very good progress innovate Kateor is what that -- prognosticator is what that shows. What we are also seeing in our society is aside from people with disability animals r other people are using animals much more broadly. There have been studies showing that having a dog with someone in the hospital helps them heal faster so there are hospitals that are allowing dogs who are pets for people to help with the healing process. So, I think in our society, there is a more generous allowance of dogs, really, some of it comes from abuse of what the regulation has allowed. But, I think this is it e despite all the questions that always rise up manageable thug. People with disabilities who require the use of under the ADA, a service dog, are entitled to have them go with them wherever they go or the general public goes, which is a very broad category. People who -- but other similar devices related to this issue has really assisted a lot of people disabilities and we have to have businesses understand that they have to have new ways of allowing people with disabilities to participate.They also -- people with airlines that allow dogs but also allow intrusive questions. I think we are having a general dogging of American life, dogs are becoming part of every's everyday life and I think we should just get used to it.(laughter)

Sally Conway

I realized I wasn't on mute when I laughed when you said the general dogging of America. It's very true. But, you know, I do think that part of what John has said is that service dogs are used by so many people with disabilities. Many of those disabilities are not visible. And I think that has really changed and I think that's added into the mix about, well, are you really a person with a disability?I mean, that's what it comes down to, I think, most of the time. I think that there are still places that just say, no dogs allowed. I don't care if you are clearly, if you're blind, if you are using a wheelchair, if you have some outward manifestation of your disability. There are still some of those places to say no. But I think the difficult part is the acceptance that not everybody that that uses a legitimate service animal, you can't tell by looking at them. That they have a disability. And I think that has become hard but nonetheless, the law still says that people disabilities, and that's a broad range, have the right to have a service animal with them in, you know, wherever the general public can go. And the question with it fraud, there have been issues about fraud with everything to handle issues in my life and there has been a way to handle that, but somebody else's perpetration of in my mind, what is a crime, doesn't mean that you don't allow me in. And I think that it's an overreaction. And I think there's a fear and I think the fraudulent stuff is part of it, but you don't, the fact that somebody is a creep or this is a legal term, a slime ball, that passes off an animal that isn't highly trained like a service animal is. You know, it's just a horrible thing and the backlash on everybody else. But there needs to be a way to deal with the fraud issue. A lot of states have laws. Some of them are criminal. of somebody who, you know, fraudulently passes off an animal as a service animal but I to think that despite the noise, I agree with John, that this is going to be okay. And you know, we did think that this was going to be the easiest thing to solve because it wasn't a money issue.

This was related to veterans with people with PTSD or people who have disabilities, and it was full of stories of denial from their service animals servicing from restaurants to hotels to stores to airlines to whatever. And there are groups that kind of have come together and looking at development of a registry. I know different times have been discussion about registries and things of of that nature, but what are your thoughts about registry type of approaches to this issue?

John Wodatch

I'll start. When we look at this issue with 504 and then with the ADA when we were doing regulations and dealing with passing laws, there were no such registries available and so, there was no such thing as being able to register your dog. Now, most local governments are required -- not most. I don't know if it's most. But the one I live in requires any pet to be licensed, whether it's a service animal or just a pet and to have certain vaccinations. I mean, those are the local requirements. So, the idea that you could have something like this is not apparent to me. I mean, it is a possibility. I would want it to be a process that was ease yes and not expensive. I would -- it would violate, I think our notion that people would have to pay large amounts to deal with this. But I'm not opposed to the concept of it. You know, I don't like the concept. It leads me to something that is abhorrent to me, which is the idea that to be a person with a disability you have to be a card and be a card carrying person with a disability. It's, to my view, the next step to that and I've been doing a lot of international issues and I see this in other countries and it's something that I think violates my notions of freedom and liberty. But, I think if done the right way, it might be the way to deal with some of the problems. But, it's going to have to be universal, it's going to have to be inexpensive, it's going to have to be easy. And I'm not sure that those criteria would work.

Sally Conway

Yeah, this is Sally. I agree with John. It just, there's something that in the pit of my stomach that sort of clenches up when I hear about a registry. And I think that there are a couple of things. I mean, I know that at DOJ, at least when I was there, especially in the context, like of emergency preparation. Like having volunteer registries for any number of things.I think a voluntary registry sounds fine, but what I think the logical experience of that would be -- extension of that would be is that, you know, covered entities are going to look at that as being, you know, everybody has to have that. It will be used as a reason to exclude, I think. I think it may cause more confusion, as well. Because if you choose not to be in that registry or to become a part of the list somewhere, and there are many people who don't want to be part of a big database, I think you could become more difficult -- it could become more difficult for them. Because they would be have to have a tag or a cashed. I do worry about that. Not everybody lives in an urban area. Not everybody has transportation. And getting folks to be able to get a non-driver's license in their state is a hard enough task so I do worry about the imposition of a tag to be able to get card or something that would gain you admission to something that is already your right to enter. I don't know the answer to this. It worries me and I understand that it would give solace to Pex. But the other question is, how do you prevent fraud in that so I don't know that it solves the problem and it seems fairly intrusive and a little scary to me.

Yeah and the NPR evaluator was very extensive process, one of one of them was using Petco. Obviously, there's a lot of things that would work out, it was interesting. But this was very targeted, the story and register was really targeted more toward the invisible disabilities. That was the big emphasis, you know, and the use of the service animal and of course veterans being a large portion of that, especially with PTSD. Anyway.All right. So, we will go on and move off of service animals which I know are just a favorite topic of all and always are. Let's see. Another question, this is a question specific about public entities. What are the ADA responsibilities for a public entity if they're leasing space and providing funds to a third party that has a program that's open to the public. Would it be the third party's program, not the public's program?

I can take a stab, John.

John Wodatch

Go ahead, Sally.

Sally Conway

I think what would happen is that if a title II entity is leasing a space to, you know, a Title III entity their program is really leasing of that space. Now, it if it's also their, if they conduct their own programs there, then they have the private access. Let's just say the private group that's going to be leasing that and carrying out a program, they have their own responsibilities for their own activities that they are doing.So, say it's a play. It's an arts group and they're leasing space from their local town. And somebody needs an interpreter. You know, I would, for that play, which is that title III program, I would argue that it would be the title III entity that would have that obligation for their activity that they are holding there.

So, let me throw a thing in there and say, what if the space is an inaccessible space. Physical, I'm sorry. Well, here's the thing. There is nothing in the ADA that requires -- well, I guess the question is, title II entity, and let's assume a building has been around for a while. But a Title II entity has an obligation unless it's new construction or unless they do alterations that would then mean that that, the altered area would have to meet the 2010 standards.

That they have an obligation to provide program access. If it's a facility that they own but they're not carrying out programs there, then it would become, I believe, that it is the title III entity still it's their obligation but a title III entity probably shouldn't be considering leasing an inaccessible location. I mean, they need to look somewhere else.I know that's a simple, stupid answer but John?

John Wodatch

Well, it's better than my answer, which always begins with, it depends.

Sally Conway

I know.(laughter)

John Wodatch

Because it depends on a lot of facts. But I think the main thing and Sally went through this is if they're leasing to an entity and they're carrying out a title II program, if it's a program, service, or activity privilege or whatever of the local government, then they have an obligation for program accessibility. Then it has its own obligations. Another factor to keep in mind is that there's this one provision that people don't often pay attention to in this regulation called significant assistance. And if a title II entity is providing significant assistance to some entity, it will carry with it title II obligations.So, it's going to depend on a number of factors factors but the way the ADA is written, if we are talking about programs and services that are traditionally title II entities or traditionally title III entities, there's going to be coverage and the obligation is going to be for the title II entity, it's going to be accessibility from a title III entity, it's going to be barrier removal unless they do an alteration then it's the alteration standard.


If someone who has that specific question has it fleshed out, we'd be happy to play.

All right. So let's see. You talked about economic self-sufficiency in the beginning. You talked about that, one of the goals for the future. That's two areas that we really need to be working on, et cetera. This person saying, you know, well, what are your thoughts about how do we do that?

John Wodatch

How to we do that? I know. Well, I think one of the keys to that is employment. And if you look at the employment statistics, even in this era where we are having almost full employment for people without disabilities, we are still in a terrible situation for unemployment for people with disabilities or underemployment. Now, I am optimistic that that is changing because we are having a generation of people disabilities who have gone to high school and are now going to college and they're graduating and have the skills and abilities to meet the needs of jobs that are being created but I think what we're learning and some of the work that was done by the department of justice. Some of it is mentoring by mentoring people disabilities. I think as well as all the training programs that the Department of Labor funds. I think we are getting a much better idea on how we move people starting early on. Starting with kids in middle school and high school and mentoring them there about opportunities and how they preserve them, how they work in an environment. That mentoring can come from businesses, but it can come from people with disabilities who are employed themselves.I think we are beginning to see avenues for how we employ people with disabilities in larger numbers and not all of it is just education and training but these other aspects, particularly job coaching, mentoring, going into institutions and having an individualized work plan for getting someone out of an institution into a paying position and part of that is getting rid of in my view the fair labor standards act allowance of allowing people disabilities to be hired at less than minimum wage


It's a very obviously complex issue for sure.

John Wodatch

Well, if I can reflect. I have several grandchildren and I have an 18 year-old grandson. I've worked -- he's not a person with a disability, and I've watched how the education system has guided him and provided him with mentoring and support I don't see that same kind of support in our institutions for kids with disabilities kids with disabilities. That's where I think we have to put a lot of effort to give kids with disabilities the tools to start understanding what their jobs are and what can develop and what the skills and opportunities are for them and I know a lot of work is being done in that area.So, I'm beginning to be optimistic but we have so far to go because we are this, that not only people disabilities are not employed but those that are employed are often underemployed or employed part-time.

Yeah, a lot of it has to do with the low expectations that have been held for this group which is somewhat paternalistic and there's a lot of factors that play into it.

And well, and I think one other thing that we can't overlook are the continuing work dis incentives for folks with severe disabilities who require, you know, a personal assistant or something and the choice, it's this horrible Hobson's choice. You get somebody to get you out of bed in the morning or you take a job and you lose that benefit. I mean, think the work disincentive that is continuing is a huge issue as well.

I agree. Yeah, definitely more work has to be done in that area. In the attack arena as well. So, I want to circle back because the person that we were talking about who asked a question earlier and before we do, I've been remiss. John, is there anybody on the phone who has a question?

We'll pause for just a moment to compile the Q&A roster.

While we're waiting for that, that person circling back on the public entity question, this is specific to a city who leases a lot for third party for use as an urban garden and they're feeling like there should be language in the lease agreement that the third party would need to provide some type of equal access to that urban garden that there would be some responsibility on the title to or the public entities part to at least have some language related to that issue. What's your thought?

John Wodatch

I would support that. I am a member of an urban garden that my city runs and I can tell you that it is significant assistance and certainly carries with it, it becomes, really, a title 2 program and they should ensure that there is some language to ensure accessibility. Especially because gardening should be an easy thing to make accessible. But, it's a legal principle, I think, is what they're after. And I think that person is correct.

Yep. John, did we have anybody on the phone?

We didn't have questions ought this time. You may continue.

You didn't have any?

John Wodatch

We don't have a question.

Okay. Thank you. Sorry, I'm having trouble hearing you. All right. Well, we are at just about the bottom of the hour so I'm just going to say at this time to John or Sally, do you have any parting thoughts or any words of encouragement, wisdom, et cetera for people today as we look forward to, obviously, with learn from our history. We learn from where we've been. Someone says, they're scourged by what they're seeing, currently, but as you said, there's always tomorrow so do you have anything additional or last minute you'd like to say before we close out this session?

I guess I'm an would optimist and I would like to say, we have new governments froms and outright opposition to civil rights but I think we can deal with those. We've dealt with them in the past. We can deal with them if we are organized and are savvy about how we proceed, I think we can continue. Twenty-eight years has provided a solid base for us to move forward and I think we can do it. It's just going to take more effort than maybe we wanted to do.

Sally Conway

Yeah, I agree. It can be very discouraging but I do think that the fact that we have done it before, it's different now than it was in the 80s because of the 24/7 news cycle but I do think we, as a group, have the skill have the competence, the professionalism and the will to continue working to make sure that the gains that we have made so far aren't just ripped out from under us. And I do think it's going to be okay, but it's going to take a lot of work. We sort of were able to be complacent for a while and I think that time has really changed. But, people can do it, we can do it. But everybody who is listening in, thank you for listening in. Advocate in ways large and small in your own communities. Whether you have a disability, or don't, I just, we have been through it before.

Robin Jones

Well, great. Thank you, and really do appreciate both of you spending time with us today, providing us a little bit of insight in sections we recognize and celebrate the 20th anniversary of the ADA and look forward to what the 30th anniversary might bring to us as the next big milestone marker even though we still have the 29th to get through before we get to the 30th. But, you know, got to look ahead to that big three-Oh. And breaking point for most people in their lives is their 30th so that could be interesting as well.So, again, thank you everyone who has joined us for today's session. Thank you to our presenters. We will be senting you out an evaluation at the close of today's session. We do value your input. We also value your thoughts and ideas about future sessions that you would like to have. Again, on behalf of the ADA national network and the Great Lakes ADA center, want to thank everyone for participation. At this time, we are ending the session and you can close out your computer by either just closing your browser or using the platform exist in your browser or just hanging up the telephone. So, again, thank you everybody and have a good rest of your day. This concludes today's conference call. You may now disconnect.