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Groups Complain 'Opponents' of ADA Filling Crucial Government Positions

As the United States prepares to celebrate the 12th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), disability rights advocates are complaining the Bush administration is filling key government positions with ADA opponents.

"Many of these individuals have been given the responsibility to enforce the very laws they have attacked," said ," ADA Watch Executive Director Jim Ward.

Ward says that Bush-appointed "opponents" of the ADA and other disability rights laws include:

  • Ohio attorney Jeffrey Sutton, nominated to a lifetime position on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, who argued the University of Alabama v. Patricia Garrett case in the Supreme Court. The court found that state employees who suffered discrimination could not sue under the ADA to seek damages from the state. More that 400 disability organizations have united under the ADA Watch Coalition to oppose this nomination.
  • Attorney General John Ashcroft who, as senator, took the lead role in trying to weaken the due process protections afforded children and youth with disabilities by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
  • Gerald Reynolds, recess appointed by President Bush to run the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education (60 percent of OCR cases are disability-related). Reynolds told the U.S. Civil Rights Commission in 1997 that the ADA is one of the "statutes and regulations (that) are going to retard economic development in urban centers across the country."
  • D. Brooks Smith, a conservative activist nominated by Bush to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. As a judge, Smith dismissed charges against institutions in Pennsylvania where living conditions of individuals with mental disabilities included flies and ants on food, maggots and ants on residents, residents sitting in wheelchairs for hours without having their diapers changed, injuries due to neglect and overmedicating. Judge Smith concluded that the state had no constitutional obligation to "enhance the resident's level of functioning."
  • Eugene Scalia, Bush's controversial recess appointee to solicitor at the Department of Labor, who called federal ergonomics regulations proposed to prevent injuries in the workplace "junk science."
  • Bush's Interior Secretary, Gale Norton, who threatened to sue the federal government for forcing Colorado to add a wheelchair ramp to the statehouse under the ADA, calling it "a really ugly addition to the state capitol."
  • Linda Chavez, Bush's first pick for Secretary of Labor, who ridiculed the ADA as "special treatment in the name of accommodating the disabled."
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