Monday, September 15, 2008

Score one for Disability Rights

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day and finally Congress did something right. (Well the Senate anyway.)

On September 11th the Senate passed S. 3406, the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. This is a big fucking deal for people with disabilities. Now I'm gonna ask you to send a short email to you reps and ask them to vote for it (it had 77 cosponsors in the Senate (including my own, Patty Murray, who I love, and Hillary Clinton) so hopefully that's some indication that it will easily be passed in the House as well). What is so great about this? It changes the language, it removes some of the worse paragraphs, it gives people with disabilites (more) legal recourse if discriminated against, and it changes the definition of disability as well as putting in writing (thank god-this is something that means a lot to me personally as someone *on* disability who is mostly functional on medication) that the determination of whether or not one has a disability is made without taking into account things that aid in helping the person to lead a "normal" life. Observe:
'(E)(i) The determination of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity shall be made without regard to the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures such as--

'(I) medication, medical supplies, equipment, or appliances, low-vision devices (which do not include ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses), prosthetics including limbs and devices, hearing aids and cochlear implants or other implantable hearing devices, mobility devices, or oxygen therapy equipment and supplies;

This is important because the courts ruled in the past that there have been rulings that have said that if such assistive devices improve your life then, viola! you are no longer disabled as in the 1999 case Sutton v. United Airlines. My life is 10x better on medication and I'm continually scared of being kicked off of disability as a result which means no Medicaid and no medication. Whee. What a catch-22. I become almost fully functional with medication and then I am kicked off because I am only fully functional to fall back into my less then desirable state of functioning just to go back on SSI-D and medication. Whee again. And I'm not the only one who lives with this fear.

Back to the legal recourse. Many different types of disabilities were not included and were being discriminated against and not recognised by the courts under the current laws. Non-physical disabilities, i.e. the ones that most people think of when they hear the term 'disability' were generally discriminated against, because, well, if you can't see it it doesn't exist, right? Wrong. And this Bill is changing the laws to make sure that people like me are covered. If the government pays me disability why then am I not included in the ADA? Hmmmm.
In a statement, Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, praised the bill's introduction: "The ADA Amendments Act is the most significant civil rights bill of the 110th Congress. This act will correct narrow court interpretations that have restricted ADA coverage in the workplace, and taken away coverage for people with diabetes, epilepsy, serious heart conditions, mental disabilities, and even cancer."

I am writing first as a HURRAH that this was passed for the 43 million people in the US living with a disability, but also to ask that you do contact your reps (whether you actually vote or not-I don't care and they don't know) because this bill needs to pass the House. This amendment needs to happen. For me. For the 43 million others and all those undiagnosed. For the people who are usually left behind when talk of civil rights is brought up.

(Oh and while you're at it you should add something about HR 676 single payer healthcare-then no one would have to worry about going without medical care or medication.)

Also, currently there are Disability Rights Activists blocking all the doors at McCain's Campaign Headquarters (follow the happenings through Twitter) What are they asking for? Housing! Call McCain headquarters at 703-297-8900 to tell them to get the housing platform to McCain!


Anonymous said...

Sleep disorders included! Hallelujah, I exist! Thanks, US Senate!

Wonderful post; thank you for this.

lost clown said...

No shit! It's so frakkin' hard for me to explain that insomnia is really debilitating. I mean, I have a load of other crap that they all ready recognise, but until last night I hadn't slept well in a week and if I had been in school (starting next week) my schoolwork would have definitely been compromised.

Happens all the time. Can't concentrate and I have to sleep when I can. Cooking? Doing basic things like showering? All gone out the window. I gotta go to the Doctor again. (My medication stops working every few months and even with it I'm not guaranteed sleep at all.)

It's so nice that this is finally being recognised.

Anonymous said...

No shit! It's so frakkin' hard for me to explain that insomnia is really debilitating.

Seriously. People seem to think that having pulled two or three all-nighters in college, plus they had jet lag on that one trip to California, makes them total experts on sleep issues. NO. Though I'd hazard a guess that that phenomenon is true for most health issues.

lost clown said...

Especially mental health ones. The next person who tells me to "snap out of it" or something like it is going to get a cricket bat to the head.

(I have a weird obsession with cricket bats lately.)

Anonymous said...

theyre not as comfy to swing as a baseball bat..

Anonymous said...

Rock on, Lost Clown. I am covered by ADA and thank the (imaginary?) Deity every day. Let's protect and strengthen those rights, yes?

lost clown said...

EXACTLY. I am currently covered by the ADA and with this I will continue to be covered. (Though with my PTSD still being rather active the meds don't always help as this past week proves rather well. Blargh.)

Ann said...

Legally, they shouldn't be able to take away your SSDI unless something truly radical happens.

They'd have to get a doctor or specialist's say so that you are absolutely 100 percent able to function at the new level of mobility indefinitely.

My husband was told that by his soc. caseworker when he said his mobility was improving with some new meds. Caseworker also said that lots of people are put off with the excuse that 'you're better now.' and they do have legal recourse for appeal but don't know their rights.