More than 20 percent of all Americans have disabilities. This is the largest,
fastest growing and most diverse minority group in the country, as well as one
which rapidly is entering (or re-entering) the mainstream of society.
Recognizing the need for a clear, concise review of rights of the individuals
in this group, we have focused on four main areas of daily life -- employment,
education, housing and public accommodations.
While written primarily for those without legal training, these pages are
sprinkled with citations to statutes, regulations and cases which will assist
at torneys in advising people with disabilities more specifically about their
rights and how to exercise them. Indeed, you may want to consult an attorney
when dealing with a specific issue since laws change and, especially in the
area of disability, cases turn on particular facts.
This edition has been revised to reflect significant changes in law
(particularly in the area of education) which have taken place since the
original April 1989 publication, to expand somewhat on the scope of that
earlier volume and to provide more references to other resources.
As this is written, the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") has just been
signed into law. The ADA will directly affect the areas of employment, public
accommodations, telecommunications and remedies; indirectly, it will affect
American society as a whole. While the ADA does not contain any substantial
additions to the rights already enjoyed by people with disabilities in New
York, its passage is important here as elsewhere in focussing attention on
existing rights and is likely to prompt progressive jurisdictions like New
York City and New York State to enhance their own disability rights laws.
Virtually none of the ADA's provisions will become effective until the
beginning of 1992 at the earli est; its employment provisions will be phased
in after mid-1992. For these rea sons, the ADA is reviewed here in an
appendix, with limited references throughout the text.
Before the ADA becomes effective, regulations interpreting the law will be
proposed, debated and adopted. All interested people should participate in
that regulatory process, as well as in the legislative process; the
opportunity for such participation is one of the most important rights of all
people in our de mocracy. Attorneys will want to examine the ADA's remedies
provisions to de termine what additional recourse might become available to
enforce the rights that Act recognizes; they also will be interested in its
provision for the awarding of attorney's fees. All will want to monitor the
progress in Congress of the proposed Civil Rights Act of 1990, which may
affect remedies under several civil rights laws, including the ADA.
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