CODI: Cornucopia of Disability Information

Rights of People with Disabilities:

INTRODUCTION 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. - 1,2 -