Thursday, April 20, 2006

Disability is not Race

Sam quotes Jamie Leonard:
Title I [of the ADA] has been rendered ineffective because of reliance on traditional civil rights mechanisms. My thesis is that the integrationist goals of Title I are so different from those of traditional civil rights statutes that it was a mistake to use the latter's concepts and mechanisms in the disability setting. To put the matter glibly, Title I has fallen into the equality trap.

The paradigmatic civil rights statute, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, rests on the assumption that immutable characteristics such as race, gender, or national origin are irrelevant to valid workplace decisions; consideration of such traits is therefore irrational, whether or not tainted with hostile attitudes. With regard to the inalterable traits addressed by Title VII, we are all equal in the sense that membership in a particular group, ideally, should bear no adverse consequences.
The ADA's great innovation is the adoption of an active, integrationist plan in a civil rights context. By traditional standards it is hardly a theory of equality at all. While Title I of the ADA forbids consideration of irrelevant disabilities, its principal tool is the reasonable accommodation requirement. The command that employers alter working environments in favor of persons with disabilities, recognizes that the defining characteristic of the protected class is relevant to the statutory goals.
That's a nice, clear statement of the problem. Something to think about on my way to Blog Against Disabilism Day (May 1)

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