I noticed just now at Memeorandum that it wasn’t enough for Rand Paul to fail to clarify the objections the libertarian philosophy has regarding the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for Rachel Maddow. No, no, no. He was in a hole and kept digging. To wit, in an interview on NPR on Wednesday, May 19, he denounced the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 for imposing costly burdens on businesses THAT THE ADA DOES NOT IMPOSE — the quote is taken from a Yahoo News story from Memeorandum):
I think if you have a two-story office and you hire someone who’s handicapped, it might be reasonable to let him have an office on the first floor rather than the government saying you have to have a $100,000 elevator. And I think when you get to solutions like that, the more local the better, and the more common sense the decisions are, rather than having a federal government make those decisions.
Then he repeated these false claims the next day on CNN.
Bearing in mind that I spent 19 of the 20 years I was with my late life partner pushing her wheelchair, the antipathy of conservatives towards the Americans with Disabilities Act DRIVES. ME. CRAZY!!!!!
Yahoo News did an extremely thorough and competent job of exposing Rand Paul’s false assertions about the ADA and providing the truth about its requirements. The only important point that Yahoo News missed in its story is that it is difficult to retrofit a building to meet access standards — they really have to be designed into the building from the beginning. And frankly, that’s WHY the federal government is legitimately involved because it sets the access standards for the whole country — the Americans with Disabilities Act Access Guidelines (ADAAG) and before that the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS). It would be crazy to require each state or local jurisdiction to have to figure out how to invent this wheel. This is NOT an area of life where local solutions and small government are better.
I recommend reading the entire Yahoo News story, especially for its explanation of the requirements of the ADA and its limiting phrases, “readily achievable,” “undue burden” and “reasonable accommodation.” Here is the part the provides the truth regarding Rand Paul’s false claims about the ADA:
The ADA imposes a slightly different burden on employers, forcing them to make workspaces accessible unless it imposes an “undue hardship.” But again, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces the ADA’s employment provisions, installing an elevator is generally considered an undue hardship under the law. “We are not aware of any case where a court required any business — let alone a small business — to install an elevator as a reasonable accommodation for an employee,” said EEOC spokesperson Justine Lisser.
Robert Dinerstein, a professor at American University’s Washington College of Law and an expert on the ADA, concurs: “I’m not aware of any cases where an elevator had to be installed. There’s certainly no leading case out there that says that.” Indeed, courts have found just the opposite. In Association for Disabled Americans v. Concorde Gaming, a U.S. District Court judge in Florida ruled that a gambling boat didn’t have to build a $200,000 elevator to allow wheelchair-bound patrons access to the upper floors: “Installation of an elevator is, therefore, not readily achievable and Plaintiffs are entitled to no such relief.”
Not even the ADA’s most vocal opponents, who presumably would be busy collecting tales detailing the law’s onerous requirements, could point to a single case where an employer was forced to install an elevator to accommodate an employee under the ADA. “I don’t have a bunch of anecdotes,” said the Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk, who has written of the ADA’s “burdensome accommodation process.” We called the libertarian Cato Institute to ask if anyone there could corroborate Paul’s stories, and were told, “We don’t have anyone.” We eventually contacted Walter Olson, a Cato scholar who decried the legislation in his book “The Excuse Factory: How Employment Law Is Paralyzing the American Workplace,” on our own. “I did a little Google searching and didn’t immediately come up with one,” he said, “but I think you’ll find them.” When we told him that the EEOC and Justice Department couldn’t, Olson pointed out that the ADA does force property owners to bring buildings into compliance with the law when they make renovations — in other words, some building owners may have to install elevators if they are spending enough money on other repairs to render the additional cost less of an “undue burden.” But those requirements would be triggered by substantial renovations, not by the hiring of an employee with a disability, as Paul claimed.
The people who are using the ADA as an example of big government regulations run wild need to spend a month in a wheelchair. Or a lifetime.