Washington, D.C. — As the country marks the 30-year anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a new column from the Center for American Progress Action Fund looks at how conservatives have misapplied the ADA to suppress marginalized communities.
The ADA is the most significant civil rights legislation of the past 50 years and mandates that the 61 million Americans living with disabilities have “equal opportunity” to participate in American life. However, in “Hands Off the ADA: How a Landmark Law To Protect the Rights of Disabled People Is Being Twisted To Oppress Others,” authors Rebecca Cokley and Valerie Novack explain that in recent years, conservatives have misused tenants of the ADA to further oppress other marginalized groups. The column focuses on three ways the ADA has been weaponized to oppress marginalized communities:
- Voter suppression in communities of color: Republican officials have cited the ADA as a reason to close polling places in Black communities in Georgia and on tribal lands.
- Harassment of people experiencing homelessness: Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX), who is ironically the only governor to use a wheelchair, is trying to invoke the ADA to remove people experiencing homelessness—many of whom have disabilities themselves—from the streets of Austin.
- Skirting coronavirus mask ordinances: So-called anti-mask groups are encouraging people who don’t want to wear face masks for civil disobedience reasons to invoke the ADA whether they have a disability or not.
“The ADA is essential civil rights legislation that ensures the well-being of tens of millions of Americans,” said Cokley, director of the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. “But when it’s weaponized to hurt marginalized communities, it disproportionately affects the people with disabilities inside those communities, compounding the inequalities these individuals face. The ADA’s policies are intended to increase access to services and support people at many stages in their lives—not strip rights away from marginalized groups.”
Read: “Hands off the ADA: How a Landmark Law To Protect the Rights of Disabled People Is Being Twisted To Oppress Others” by Rebecca Cokley and Valerie Novack
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