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Americans With Disabilities Act, Public Law 101-336

Has the ADA measured up? Legislation drafter weighs in 25 years later

ABA Journal
By Terry Carter
July 20, 2015


Robert Burgdorf was the right person in the right place at the right time at the birth of the Americans with Disabilities Act.


He contracted polio as an infant and lost much of the use of one arm and shoulder, regaining some through innovative surgery at age 11. During law school at the University of Notre Dame in 1972, he helped establish a now-defunct national center for disability rights advocacy. In 1984 he co-authored a "Statutory Blueprint," published by what became the ABA Commission on Disability Rights, which was a broad road map for the ADA. (He would go on the commission from 2002-2006.) As a staffer for the National Council on Disability, he authored draft legislation in 1988 that led to the Supreme Court citing him as "the drafter of the original ADA bill." The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed on July 26, 1990. Burgdorf is professor emeritus at the David A. Clarke School of law in Washington, D.C., and he is writing a history of the disability rights movement and the ADA. He also wrote "A Dozen Things to Know about the ADA on its 25th Anniversary." Read more

ADA Amendments Act 2008, Public Law 110-325

Link to the ADA Amendments Act 2008, Public Law 110-325

Three Formulations of the Nexus Requirement in Reasonable Accommodations Law 126 Harv. L. Rev. 1392 (2013)


Congressional Research Service, Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) March 22, 2012. Statutory Language and Recent Issues, by Cynthia Brougher and James V. DeBergh Legislative Attorneys


ADA suit says school district fails children living with violence, loss and poverty, ABA Journal Daily News, By Debra Cassens Weiss, May 21, 2015

The ADA, ADA Amendments Act 2008, Rehabilitation Act 1973


The Americans With Disabilities Act, as amended (ADA and ADA Amendments Act 2008), Legal Information Institute


Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq.; current through Pub. L. 113-185, 42 U.S.C. Chapter 126, EQUAL OPPORTUNITY FOR INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES. Government Publishing Office, Laws in Effect January 16, 2014; PDF and HTM


Link to the ADA Amendments Act 2008, Public Law 110-325


Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) Public Law 101-336
Signed by President George Herbert Walker Bush on July 26, 1990


ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) Public Law 110-325
Signed by President George W. Bush on September 25, 2008

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973


The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. §§ 701 et. seq.; 29 U.S. Code Chapter 16 - VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION AND OTHER REHABILITATION SERVICES, Legal Information Institute


Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Pub. L. No. 93-112, 87 Stat. 394 (Sept. 26, 1973), codified at 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq., is American legislation that guarantees certain rights to people with disabilities. Section 504 is widely recognized as the first civil-rights statute for persons with disabilities. It took effect in May 1977. Because it was successfully implemented over the next several years, it helped to pave the way for the Virginians with Disabilities Act in 1985 and the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. Wikipedia


Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was enacted to eliminate barriers in information technology, to make available new opportunities for people with disabilities, and to encourage development of technologies that will help achieve these goals. The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Under Section 508 (29 U.S.C. § 794d), agencies must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information that is comparable to the access available to others. Wikipedia

The White House
June 3, 2013 

President Obama delivers remarks to open the National Conference on Mental Health at the White House, part of the Administration’s effort to launch a national conversation to increase understanding and awareness about mental health.

Remarks by the President at National Conference on Mental Health

East Room, 10:00 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  Welcome to the White House.  And thank you, Janelle, for that introduction and sharing your story, and making such a difference through your organization.  We’re really proud to have you here.


I want to thank Secretary Sebelius, Secretary Arne Duncan, Secretary Ric Shinseki for their leadership and helping to organize this event.  And I also want to acknowledge some outstanding members of Congress who are here and who care deeply about this issue.


And finally, I want to thank all of you for participating in this national conference on mental health.  We wanted to bring together folks who’ve suffered from mental illness and families who’ve supported them.  We wanted to bring together advocates and educators, faith leaders, veterans, local officials.


All of you have shown an extraordinary commitment to what is a critical goal, and that is to make sure that people aren’t suffering in silence and that we have the capacity to pull together all the resources and support and love that’s out there to go after an extraordinary challenge in our society. Read more

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"Disability will affect the lives of everyone at some point in their life, it is time society changed to acknowledge this" Disabled World


A list of some famous and well known people with various disabilities and conditions including actors, politicians and writers who contributed to society.

Link Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum
Link Wikipedia

About the FDR Presidential Library


The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum is America's first presidential library -- and the only one used by a sitting president. It was conceived and built under President Roosevelt's direction and opened to the public in 1941.   


The Library's mission is to foster research and education on the life and times of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, and their continuing impact on contemporary life. Our work is carried out by four major areas: Archives,  Museum,  Education  and  Public Programs. Read more


Franklin D. Roosevelt Wikipedia

Brain injury suspension for lawyer Dale Thistle

SUSPENDED: Dale Thistle explains details of the car accident he suffered in 2011 that caused him a brain injury that led to suspension to practice law. Thistle was speaking from his home in Skowhegan on Thursday. Staff photo by David Leaming
OUT OF WORK: Attorney Dale Thistle speaks about being suspended to practice law because of a car accident in 2011 at his home in Skowhegan on Thursday. Staff photo by David Leaming

Newport lawyer agrees with his suspension over disability concerns
By Doug Harlow Staff Writer
June 20, 2014


Dale Thistle says he suffered a traumatic brain injury following a car accident in 2011, affecting his ability to handle court cases.


The effects of a brain injury from a November 2011 automobile accident got so bad for Newport lawyer Dale Thistle that he finally reported himself to the state Board of Overseers of the Bar.


That report and other complaints about his work led to Thistle’s indefinite suspension from practice by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court this month. Complaints to the bar included Thistle’s alleged mishandling of a divorce case, real estate litigation that took too long and on a couple of occasions, misspeaking to the judge in the courtroom.


The June 6 order of suspension, based on a recommendation by the Board of Overseers, refers to Thistle, 66, of Skowhegan, as a "disabled attorney" whose injury caused him to violate the rules of professional conduct and as someone who is "a threat to clients, the public and to the administration of justice." Read more

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Brain injury leads to suspension for Maine lawyer; 'I couldn’t stick to tasks,' he says, ABA Journal

By Debra Cassens Weiss

June 25, 2014


A Maine lawyer says he can no longer function effectively as a trial lawyer and he agrees with his indefinite suspension, imposed by a Maine Supreme Judicial Court justice on May 27.


Newport lawyer Dale Thistle, 66, attributes his problems to a traumatic brain injury caused by a November 2011 car accident, reports. Complaints made to the bar about his handling of cases "are serious and meritorious and directly stem from my brain injury," he told the publication. "I even self-reported a misfiling in federal court."


Thistle says his intelligence is intact but his ability to perform executive functions is impaired. He suffers from minor seizures and small blackouts. "I couldn’t organize my day-to-day life," he told "I couldn’t stick to the tasks. It’s just the result of the brain injury."


The Bangor Daily News calls Thistle a well-known lawyer in its earlier coverage of the suspension. He represented a former Newport official accused of embezzlement, a 14-year-old girl accused of stabbing her aunt 106 times, and class-action clients who claimed they were illegally strip-searched at the Knox County jail.


Thistle can regain his license if his condition improves, but he’s not optimistic. "I have no plans at the moment," he told "I don’t know what I’m going to do." Read more

Chief Justice Labarga honors ADA’s 25th anniversary with a statewide proclamation
The Florida Bar News
May 1, 2015


Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga signed a proclamation honoring the historic enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act 25 years ago and designating July 2015 as a month of commemoration for the anniversary within Florida’s state courts system.


"The very reason courts exist is to provide justice and fairness,’’ Labarga said. "Nothing could be more essential to our overall mission than to provide fair and equal access to citizens with disabilities."


Florida’s judiciary has a long-standing commitment to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was signed into law on July 26, 1990. The federal law establishes "a clear and comprehensive prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability" and bans discrimination in access to employment, governmental services and programs, public accommodations, transportation, and communications.


Examples of auxiliary aids or services that the courts may provide to afford effective communication include assistive listening devices, qualified sign language interpreters, or real-time transcription services for persons with hearing loss. They also include accessible formats such as large print or Braille documents, properly edited webpages, and qualified readers for persons with vision loss.


More information about court ADA accommodations and procedures can be found online at The ADA information page includes links to each of Florida’s 20 judicial circuits, five district courts of appeal, and the Supreme Court. Each court has an ADA coordinator, as does the state courts system as a whole.


Past Florida chief justices also focused attention on the requirements of the federal law. During a ceremony on September 9, 1999, former Chief Justice Major B. Harding signed a proclamation designating the year 2000 as a time to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the ADA.


In 2010, former Chief Justice Charles T. Canady issued a proclamation to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the law’s passage and dedicated a month to highlight compliance. In 2006, former Chief Justice Fred Lewis ordered a statewide survey of all state court facilities to identify and eliminate architectural barriers confronting citizens with disabilities.


Florida courts have also worked since 2007 to ensure that electronic documents and webpages are created and designed to be accessible to people using assistive devices like screen readers.


In the proclamation, Labarga noted that the "full promise of this important federal civil rights law as it relates to the justice system will only be reached if the Florida state courts remain committed to full implementation of the Act.

"I call upon judicial officers and court staff members to renew their efforts to eliminate obstacles that prevent full inclusion of all Floridians in the state courts system," Labarga said.


In addition to the ADA, Florida’s courts are bound by the Florida Constitution, which guarantees "full and fair access to the courts for all residents" in Article I, Section 21.


Labarga has made improving court access a priority of his two-year term as the head of Florida’s court system. The Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice, which he created by administrative order last year, is currently working on the unmet civil legal needs of poor and middle-class Floridians. Read online

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Chief Justice Canady Honors ADA’s 20th Anniversary with Proclamation, July 1, 2010
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Court urges all bars to get right with the ADA
The Florida Bar News
By Jan Pudlow, Senior Editor
March 1, 2014


Stephanie Woodward    One woman in a wheelchair — excluded from a voluntary bar social gathering in a basement wine cellar without an elevator — sparked a strong directive from the Florida Supreme Court: All bar meetings must be accessible to all.


Stephanie Woodward recently moved from Syracuse, N.Y., to Miami, passed the Florida bar exam, and awaits approval of her character and fitness check so she can be a full-fledged member of The Florida Bar.


As a "baby lawyer" new to town, she is anxious to make connections in the legal profession. So she was excited about an invitation to attend a Dade County Bar Association Young Lawyers Section event called "An Evening with the Judges" — described as "an informal gathering to promote communication among the legal community and the bench."


Sure, she was welcome, even though she’s not officially a lawyer yet, the Dade YLS president assured her.


But there was a big problem: The January 23 event was being held in the wine cellar — a former bomb shelter— of the restaurant Le Chat Noir, at 2 South Miami Avenue. There are a lot of steps and no elevator down to the the wine celler. And Woodward has a mobility disability and uses a wheelchair.


"If I hadn’t thought to ask, I would have shown up in a wheelchair and seen a set of stairs, which would be embarrassing," Woodward said.


"I think it’s a big deal for me to get in anywhere, not just local bar events. Access is not a convenience when it works best for them. Access is my civil right."


Chief Justice Ricky Polston agrees. When Woodward’s excluding experience came to his attention, the entire court gathered for conference, resulting in strongly worded letters Polston sent on February 3 to voluntary bars and leaders at The Florida Bar.


"Benign neglect, oversight, or indifference which produces this type of discrimination is simply not acceptable and will not be tolerated," Polston wrote.


"This event has demonstrated that we must do more to prevent similar discrimination in the future, and we shall take corrective steps to address the damage this type of discrimination inflicts."


After approval by the entire Florida Supreme Court, Polston directed The Florida Bar to "develop and implement a protocol for Bar-related activities at all levels to ensure compliance with all ADA and access requirements. We request The Florida Bar to report its progress to this court 60 days from this date and each 60 days thereafter until the directed protocol is implemented."


Similarly, the court requested that voluntary bar associations "immediately develop and implement protocol for bar-related activities to ensure compliance with all ADA and access requirements."


At The Florida Bar, Kathy Tucker, head of the Meetings Department, said she is well aware of the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements to make sure meetings are accessible, but acknowledged there have been bumps along the way. For example, she said, the Bar can no longer use a particular ballroom at the Boca Raton Resort and Club, accessible only via stairs or small service elevator.


"The Bar is very conscious of the need to avoid using space that is not accessible to all," Tucker said.


The matter came to the high court’s attention when Woodward, a new associate at the Disability Independence Group, in Miami, told her boss, Matt Dietz.


Dietz, a member of The Florida Bar Diversity and Inclusion Committee, let members know about the incident, as well as Justices Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince, and Bar President Eugene Pettis.


"This was a concrete example of a person coming to the door and not being able to access our bar," Dietz said.

Justice Lewis jumped into action.


"When this issue arose, I immediately scheduled this issue for conference with the entire court," Justice Lewis said. "We must work together to eliminate all types of discrimination, and it will start with the Florida Supreme Court."


Pettis, who made diversity and inclusion a cornerstone of his presidency, said: "As we continue our efforts of total inclusion of all lawyers at every level of our Bar, it is imperative that we include persons with physical handicaps. While this incident in Miami was unfortunate, it has shed light on our need to be more sensitive and intentional in making sure every member is included and welcomed."


Dade County Bar President Leslie Smith said she agrees completely. She said she views it as an opportunity for the DCBA to take the initiative, create protocol, and share it with voluntary bars throughout the state. Attorneys with a variety of disabilities, along with leadership of the DCBA, will be gathering on March 25 to brainstorm and craft the protocols, Smith said.


"Interestingly enough, before I went to law school, I worked for what was then called Florida’s Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, and I worked with the division that dealt with programming and funding for persons with disabilities," Smith said.


"The issues are not foreign to me, and though I am not personally affected and don’t have any disabilities, I am certainly aware that we could do more and we have an opportunity to do that. I’m very excited about it."


Smith said she was not surprised that the incident reached the highest level of Florida’s courts, because she was part of a dialog that went back and forth with Dietz, and she knew of his relationship with the Bar and Justice Lewis, "who has a very personal interest in this issue."


"I believe in advocacy. Get the word out. Things need to be changed and studied and improved. That’s what advocates do," Smith said.


But Woodward said, "It surprised me that it went that far. I’m thrilled the chief justice did say something about this, so that it’s on everybody’s radar. It shouldn’t be an issue between just me and the Dade County Bar Association."


Dietz said Florida Bar leaders have been very supportive, and he appreciates the strong directive from the chief justice.


"I’m glad it is being handled in a top-down fashion. It demonstrates a commitment," Dietz said. "To have a commitment from the chief justice, the head of your state courts, is phenomenal and shows true dedication to and commitment to diversity and inclusion." Read more


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Records Request, Thomas A. David, General Counsel-OSCA May 27, 2014
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Brian Sterner, a quadriplegic, was arrested on a charge of fleeing a law enforcement official in January. He was to appear on the Today show.


Treatment of disabled man attracts national spotlight

Tampa Bay Times
By Casey Cora and Rodney Thrash, Times Staff Writers
February 13, 2008


Sheriff's Office apology doesn't quell outrage.


TAMPA - Hardly anyone noticed last month when a Hillsborough County detention deputy unceremoniously dumped quadriplegic Brian Sterner out of a wheelchair and onto a jail floor.


Tuesday, everyone noticed.


Sterner's lawyer pushed for criminal charges and Florida's attorney general called for a civil rights review. The Sheriff's Office apologized, labeled the incident "indefensible," and sent four deputies home pending an investigation. The Today show booked Sterner; readers expressed outrage on newspaper Web sites; and a video of the jailhouse encounter landed on YouTube.


"It's a start," said Sterner, 32, whose ouster from the wheelchair was caught on surveillance cameras at the Orient Road Jail. He expressed dismay that the deputies had not lost their jobs.


"I don't think the question of them being fired should be asked," he said. "It should already be done."


The Sheriff's Office video shows Deputy Charlette Marshall-Jones dislodging Sterner from his wheelchair like cargo from a wheelbarrow, pushing up the handles as he falls forward. The other deputies in the video do not intervene. One walks away smiling.


Marshall-Jones, a 22-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office, was suspended without pay. A woman who answered the telephone at her Tampa house said the deputy had no comment. A note left at her door went unanswered.


Three others - Sgt. Gary Hinson, 51, Cpl. Steven Dickey, 45, and Cpl. Decondra Williams, 36 - were placed on administrative leave with pay. Hinson has been with the agency since 1984; Dickey, 1982; and Williams, 1994. None of the three could be reached.

- - -

Sterner, injured while wrestling 13 years ago, is paralyzed from the chest down and has limited use of his arms. He was laid off in January from a job selling wheelchair vans.


His Jan. 29 arrest was on a charge of fleeing and attempting to elude law enforcement officers, which apparently stemmed from a traffic stop three months earlier.


Sterner was driving a 2005 silver Mini Cooper fitted with hand pedals Oct. 25 when Tampa police officers on patrol in Ybor City saw him waving his arms and shaking his head from side to side as if dancing, police say.


He had been driving 5 mph in a 30 mph zone. But police lost sight of him until another officer spotted him at Florida Avenue and Columbus Drive. Their reports noted that he made "foolish" statements.


"Although I did not detect an odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting from Sterner's breath, based on his irrational behavior, I suspected the possibility he was under the influence of some type of illegal substance," wrote Tampa police Officer Peter Charbonneau.


Sterner allowed police to take a blood sample. No illegal drugs were found, police reported. But he was still arrested on a charge of fleeing law enforcement officers.


As he was booked, Sterner said he told Marshall-Jones several times that he couldn't stand up to be searched. She ultimately searched him as he lay on the floor.


"There's no reason why that deputy should not be charged with battery on a disabled person," said Sterner's attorney, John Trevena.

- - -

Twice before, in 1988 and 1990, the Sheriff's Office suspended Marshall-Jones without pay. Her personnel file documents those disciplinary problems and others.


In the first incident, she improperly conducted an inmate head count and was suspended for six days. In the later incident, she disobeyed a boss' order to complete a fire safety and sanitation inspection. The consequence: a one-day suspension.


Superiors have criticized her use of sick leave. Her record contains a few letters of reprimand for violations of Sheriff's Office procedure.


But most of the 345-page file offers no hint of the woman seen in the video. Year after year, supervisors recommended Marshall-Jones for promotions and boosted her pay. In page after page of annual reviews, they used words such as "dedicated" and "knowledgeable."


There are 22 pages of commendations, certificates and flattering letters from supervisors and Hillsborough residents. In 2003, the Sheriff's Office named Marshall-Jones one of the November "Employees of the Month."


Just nine days before the Sterner arrest, Marshall-Jones' supervisor praised her "excellent searches, handling of inmates and communication skills."


The supervisor was Sgt. Hinson, who was suspended with her Tuesday.

- - -

After he was booked, Sterner said, sheriff's officials placed him on his side in the back of a prisoner transportation van bound for the infirmary at the Falkenburg Road Jail, the site of one of two jail infirmaries in the county.


Sterner said he grimaced in pain on the nearly 4-mile drive to the facility.


On Tuesday, he showed reporters scrape marks on his knees that he said came from the fall out of the wheelchair.


"I don't know what's going on inside me, but my body hasn't been right since," he said.


Sterner and Trevena said they hope the incident forces the spotlight on the issue of jailhouse treatment of the disabled, a message Sterner plans to carry to the Today show this morning.


"I want a lot of exposure to what's been going on for probably a very long time in the jail system," he said.


Newspaper Web sites have already been flooded with reaction. On, more than 100 comments were posted about the day's stories on Sterner. Just hours after the video clip appeared on YouTube, more than 350 people had viewed it.


State Attorney General Bill McCollum also saw the video and was "very, very concerned," said his spokeswoman, Sandi Copes.


McCollum asked the state's Office of Civil Rights to review Sterner's treatment at the jail, an action Copes said could lead to a formal investigation of the Sheriff's Office.


"We're certainly going to try to identify exactly what happened and exactly who was at fault," Copes said.


At a Tuesday morning news conference, Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Jose Docobo said he was troubled not only by what happened to Sterner but by the lack of response from experienced supervisors.


"The fact that none of the supervisors acted upon what they saw or had knowledge of is of grave concern to us," he said. "The fact that no reports were written further concerns us.


"This is not how we do business here at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office."


Docobo also offered a public apology to Sterner.


"There is no excuse," Docobo said. "This is indefensible. And to the extent that we can make it right for this gentleman, we will do so."


Read online


Disabled man dumped from wheelchair
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Speech disability law case (Appendix 3 from VR paper)

Cooper v. Neiman Marcus Group, 125 F.3d 786 (9th Cir. Dec. 4, 1997)


Cooper v. Neiman Marcus Group, 125 F.3d 786

(9th Cir. December 4, 1997)

Keywords: ADA (constructive discharge)


Introduction: Carol Cooper sued her former employer, Neiman Marcus, under the ADA for disability discrimination based on an alleged constructive discharge.


  • The district court granted summary judgment on behalf of Neiman Marcus based on a finding that Cooper was not terminated.
  • Because the Ninth Circuit finds that Cooper was terminated, it reverses and remands for a determination of whether the termination was in violation of the ADA.


Facts: Cooper was a secretary for the executive staff at the Scottsdale, Arizona store. During the summer of 1992, Cooper began having trouble speaking. Her speech was slurred. No underlying medical condition has ever been discovered.


On July 9, 1993 Cooper was given two options. First, she could continue to be paid for 90 days, but agree that her employment would conclude at the end of that time; or second, she could be on probation for 90 days and if her speech did not improve, then
she would be terminated. There was no reason to believe her speech would improve and she chose the first option.


1. To establish a prima facie case of unlawful discharge under the ADA, Cooper must establish:


     A. that she is a disabled person within the meaning of the ADA;


     B. that she is qualified, with or without reasonable      

        accommodation, to perform the essential functions of the job; 



     C. that the employer terminated her because of her disability.


2. The district court held that Cooper was not constructively discharged because a reasonable person in her position would not have felt that she was forced to quit because of intolerable and discriminatory working conditions.


3. But the constructive discharge standard from other types of employment discrimination cases is inapplicable. In this case, Neiman Marcus gave Cooper two options -- either of which would lead to her termination in 90 days.


4. The district court also analogizes that this case is similar to ADEA reduction in force cases in which an older worker can choose an early retirement option or continue to work with no promise that he will be retained.


5. But Cooper was not given the option of continuing to work indefinitely under any conditions. One way or the other, Cooper's employment was to be terminated in 90 days.


6. Because the district court erred in determining that Cooper was not constructively discharged, this case is reversed and remanded for further proceedings on whether the discharge was in violation of the ADA.


Speech disability law case (Appendix 3 VR paper)
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