What’s the Harm in Broadening Who Is Considered “Disabled”?

by Hans Bader on September 3, 2008

The Justice Department is proposing 1,000 pages of new ”guidance” expanding the reach of the Americans with Disabilities Act, at an estimated cost of $23 billion (not counting legal expenses).  The courts are defining it expansively to cover people who are uncomfortable pursuing romance or find it difficult to have sex.  And Congress is moving to expand the law to cover even more conditions.

But what’s the harm, you may say?  Well, the ADA doesn’t just ban discrimination against the disabled: it also mandates special “accommodations” for them, which take up limited resources.  And defining people who aren’t really disabled as such means less resources for people who truly do need accommodation of their disabilities, like war veterans left blind or crippled as a result of their service.

As a disabled commenter responding to an editorial in the Las Vegas Review-Journal noted,

“I am paraplegic and so use a wheelchair. I am not able to stand or even move my legs. I am disabled and have been this way since 1967. I can tell you the ADA law has been a failure. Anyone can get a handicap auto card to hang on the rear-view mirror; that’s why I seldom find a handicap parking spot. Bad knees are everywhere, heart conditions, sore backs, stubbed toes. You get the idea. ADA was misused by the general public at the expense of truly disabled people.”

The ADA is such a legal nightmare for employers that employers actually cut back on hiring the disabled after the ADA was passed, concluding that the law made it too risky to hire disabled employees who might later turn out to be unqualified.  As a result, the employment rate of the disabled actually fell after the ADA became law.

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