Last updated on: 10/5/2007 | Author:

Is the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) a Good Law?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

The US Department of Justice posted a guide in its Disability Rights Section (accessed May 27, 2005), titled a “Guide to Disability Rights Laws,” that stated:

“The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, State and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. It also applies to the United States Congress. To be protected by the ADA, one must have a disability or have a relationship or association with an individual with a disability. An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered.”

May 27, 2005

PRO (yes)


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wrote in its Feb. 28, 2002 “ACLU Briefing Paper #21 on Disability Rights”:

“The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) represents the most comprehensive civil rights law in a generation. Based on Congress’ finding that people with disabilities have been ‘subjected to a history of purposeful unequal treatment, and relegated to a position of political powerlessness,’ its purpose is to extend to people with disabilities the same legal protections against discrimination available to women and racial and religious minorities under the 1964 Civil Rights Act…

Under the protection of the ADA, millions of disabled people can now seek legal recourse. A 1996 study by the United Cerebral Palsy Association showed that 96% of a sample of disabled Americans surveyed said the ADA had made a positive difference in their lives.”

Feb. 28, 2002


The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights wrote the following in the “Civil Rights 101” section of its Civil Rights website (accessed Nov. 11, 2005):

“In July 1990, President Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), potentially the most far-reaching civil rights legislation since the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Reports on the number of people covered by the law vary widely, from some 14 million to as many as 43 million…

The ADA has greatly expanded opportunities for persons with disabilities in its first decade. For example, 1996 Census Bureau data showed that an additional 800,000 people with severe disabilities joined the workforce in the first three years after the ADA’s enactment. The ADA has enabled the removal of barriers such as narrow doors or steps that prevent persons with wheelchairs from attending a town meeting, eating at a restaurant, or registering to vote; and has helped ensure that people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have speech impairments can access 9-1-1 emergency services.”

Nov. 11, 2005

Pro posted a paper (accessed July 26, 2004) titled “Opinion: Myths Persist about ADA – 14 Years Later” on its website, written by its president, Jim Ward:

“People with disabilities – and all Americans – have made major strides under the ADA… Yet 14 years after its passage, hostile attitudes and persistent myths about the law—and those it protects—threaten to undermine further progress. Those of us working to save and even restore the ADA have long ago discovered that these misconceptions are fueled not just by individual ignorance and prejudice but by well-financed political campaigns to eliminate the ADA and other labor, civil and human rights protections…

While people with disabilities have been talking in terms of empowerment and shedding the victim mentality, ongoing campaigns by right wing think tanks and some trade associations would have us believe that businesses and corporations are the real victims in this debate… [The] opponents often illustrate their arguments by pointing to the empty accessible seat in a movie theater, the extra spaces in a parking lot, or the unused lift in a motel…

Although attitudes about people with disabilities are generally improving, myths and ignorance linger. Hostile attitudes, like physical barriers, can block the doors of progress from being opened wide. All too frequently these same attitudes are held by the judges, policymakers, employers and others who impact our lives.”

July 26, 2004


The US Department of Justice (USDOJ), in its Sep. 19, 2000 “Faces of the ADA,” provided the following profile:

“Jackie Okin… [who] has cerebral palsy… needed an accommodation to take the [SAT]. She quickly learned that the SAT was offered on several dates for students not requiring an accommodation, but on only one date for her. So in 1994, [she] filed a complaint with the Department of Justice… [After investigation by the Disability Rights Section, changes] in the availability of the SAT exam to students with disabilities [were made]. Jackie was able to take the exam and went on to graduate from Tufts University in 1999… Jackie reflects on the impact the ADA has had on her life and her expectations for the future:

‘I often take the ADA for granted and forget that my life would be completely different if the law did not exist. There is no question that, without the ADA, I would not have been able to get a college education and pursue my dream of being an attorney. Yet, the idea of not being able to accomplish these goals because of discrimination is a foreign concept to me because of the ADA. I was only thirteen when the law was passed. I have been extremely fortunate to grow up in a society where my rights have been protected.

‘Although I am aware of how fortunate I have been, I have not lost sight of the fact that discrimination against people with disabilities still exists in our society, even though it is illegal… I know that if we continue to work and move toward achieving the goals of the ADA, one day we will be able to say that this country truly is accessible and discrimination is a thing of the past.'”

Sep. 19, 2000

CON (no)


Llewllyn H. Rockwell, president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, wrote in his Mar. 12, 1999 article posted on the Mises Institute’s website:

“It takes a shameless liar or a blooming idiot–take your pick–to come to the defense of one of the most destructive pieces of legislation passed in the last two decades. I’m talking of the regulatory madness called the Americans With Disabilities Act…

The ADA enshrined federal agencies and courtrooms as de facto dictators over all architectural plans in the private economy and poisoned every hiring and promotion decision with the threat of litigation… To top it, it has increased unemployment among the truly disabled, and converted public attitudes toward them from empathy to distrust and worse…

The ADA is utterly incompatible with a free society, which has ironclad rules against interfering with the right of free contract between employers and employees. In a free market absent any labor regulations on business, disabled employees would become a benefit instead of a drain.”

Mar. 12, 1999


Scott McPherson, policy advisor at The Future of Freedom Foundation, wrote in his Apr. 29, 2005 article titled “Equal Rights for the Disabled, Indeed” in the Freedom Daily:

“Never mind that the ADA was nothing less than another nail in the coffin of U.S. employers’ real right to control their workplace… Obviously no decent person could fail to empathize with someone with a physical or mental handicap… what right does one person have, simply by virtue of any impairment, to lay claim, enforceable by law, over the life, property, and conscience of another?…

Advocates for the disabled can certainly make much emotional hay out of the suggestion that without such protection persons with disabilities will be left to starve in the street, but this merely allows them to avoid the (more) uncomfortable question: by what divine right does a physical or mental disability grant the bearer arbitrary power over another?…

And how can a disabled person claim to have a shred of dignity so long as he must wield a government club over anyone not sufficiently ‘enlightened’?… No doubt those with disabilities have problems. But we all have problems. The ideal of America was that no man would be allowed to place his subjective desires, by force of government, over the liberty of another. Liberty and justice for all was once our credo — that was truly the best of America.”

Apr. 29, 2005


Greg Perry, author of Disabling America, wrote in a Dec. 2004 article titled “Disabling the Handicapped” in Liberty magazine that:

“My name is Greg Perry and I am a handicapped man. I was born with only one leg and a grand total of three deformed fingers… But I’m glad that I was born long before 1990, when a much more severe handicap — the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) — was signed into law. If I’d been born afterwards, I would not be writing this. I probably would not be what many consider to be a huge success today. I would not be married. I would be a loser on the government dole…

Besides costing every normal person money and grief, the ADA not only increases discrimination against the truly handicapped, it teaches them to be dependent when they could be independent otherwise… The ADA teaches America not to have compassion.

The ADA was supposed to stop discrimination against the handicapped — but people weren’t kicking crutches out from under crippled people before the ADA became law. People weren’t pushing folks in wheelchairs into traffic! It took the ADA to bring about discrimination against the handicapped.”

Dec. 2004