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DISABLING AMERICATHE UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES OF GOVERNMENT'S PROTECTION OF THE HANDICAPPED
By GREG PERRY
WND BooksCopyright © 2007 Greg Perry
All right reserved.
Chapter OneCompassion or Coercion
An elderly lady struggles with her wheelchair to cross a busy Manhattan avenue. Moving alongside her you say that you are crossing also and together you can both cross safely. She lets you guide her as the two of you maneuver across the thoroughfare. Now consider another scenario: A government official first sees the elderly lady approach the crosswalk, points a gun at you, and demands that you help the lady across the street. One is an act of compassion, and one is an act of coercion. Coercion can never produce compassion.
In 1990, President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law. The law was strongly encouraged by fellow Republican Senator Bob Dole, who had taken a prompt interest in the ADA from its inception perhaps due to the injury he sustained in World War II.
In his final speech to the Senate in 1995, Dole proudly announced that the Americans with Disabilities Act was one of his three proudest accomplishments while serving in the Senate. The only accomplishment he listed as being more important to his career than the ADA was strengthening the United States Food Stamp Program. TurnLeft.com listed the ADA as a "rare nod in favor of liberalism by Mr. Dole." In retrospect, some conservatives have brought into question the site's use of the term rare.
As declared on the ADA's Web site, ADA.gov, the Americans with Disabilities Act is intended "To give civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications." That's the intention, sure enough, but the unintended consequences of the law and its many abuses guarantee the intention is not the reality. The ADA infiltrates the lives of average Americans in ways far beyond what we usually think-wheelchair signs in parking lots and grab bars in public restrooms-but most do not know its full effects.
Once you see how the Americans with Disabilities Act really and fully affects both disabled and non-disabled alike, you then can gauge the effectiveness of this much-vaunted law and determine if the means justify-or even comes close to achieving-its stated goals.
CARING BY GUNPOINT
Before venturing further, please remember that the Americans with Disabilities Act is a law. If one violates this law, the best one can expect is a lawsuit and possibly an arrest depending on how egregiously its requirements are ignored.
Considering its goals, you might expect the Americans with Disabilities Act to be regulated by the Department of Health and Human Services. Actually, while the HHS has some control over the ADA's administration, the ADA falls directly under the United States Department of Justice. ADA.gov greets its visitors with the official seal of the DOJ, and if you call the ADA information line, you are calling the official "United States Department of Justice ADA Information Line." For eight years, Attorney General Janet Reno had responsibility for the enforcement of the ADA.
The U.S. government takes the ADA very seriously indeed.
Please note that law enforcement should be the primary responsibility of the Department of Justice. Nothing is inherently wrong when a law falls within its jurisdiction-quite the contrary. Many people believe that too many unofficial laws known as regulations (or as critics call them, unconstitutional laws) fall into the hands of too many non-DOJ officials. They say that layers of bureaucrats control a plethora of environmental, taxation, health, and other regulations that are not called "laws" and therefore not monitored appropriately and ultimately by the Department of Justice. If a law is good, it should ultimately be enforced by the Department of Justice.
But Disabling America questions whether or not the ADA should ever have been made into law in the first place. Does the government really have the ability and the authority to regulate the public's reaction to disabilities? Both ability and authority are needed for a law to be good so it can protect and serve the people it proposes to help. In the guise of compassion, we get state coercion. With a legal gun to your head, the government now states that you will be compassionate to the disabled and you must implement that compassion exactly the way the government spells out that you are to do so. Such force is cruel to both the disabled and the non-disabled. Compassion comes from the heart, never from the state.
THE ADA: IT'S YOUR MONEY
Why should the general public learn or care about the ADA? Why should healthy people hear its history, be it positive or negative? Do the ADA's unintended consequences overshadow its good, and should the public be concerned? Why should you learn what the ADA is all about if no one in your family has need of this law?
The primary answer is that you are paying for the ADA. You pay for the ADA's administration, you pay for the ADA's publications, you pay to bring about the ADA's lawsuits against businesses and organizations, you pay the damages of those businesses and organizations as customers, you pay for the ADA officials' salaries, and you pay higher prices virtually everywhere you go thanks to the ADA. If the ADA is a good law, then the costs should be worth the result. If, on the other hand, it is not a good law, the costs should be exposed for what they are-legalized theft.
MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS?
The Americans with Disabilities Act has been called "Civil Rights for the Disabled." This assumes that disabled American citizens have been widely discriminated against. But you have to look long and hard to find where these citizens had crutches kicked out from under their arms before the ADA was implemented. The ADA is purported to give disabled citizens equal access, equal accommodation, and equal protection under the law.
The proponents of the ADA, for instance, fought hard so that those with parking permits had equal access in parking lots. In other words, the disabled have extra-wide parking spaces right next to building entrances which are available no matter how full the non-disabled spaces become. The disabled spaces must measure at least eight-feet wide, designated with the international wheelchair symbol, and be van-accessible. Vertical clearance of more than eight feet on the vehicular route into the space must be at least ninety-eight inches also on the route to the space and along the route to an exit. (One must give the authors of ADA law credit for being extra specific and verbose.) So where is the "equal" in "equal access"?
In a brochure written for business owners, the ADA states, "It is illegal to segregate people with disabilities in one area by designating it as an accessible area to be used only by people with disabilities." By these words, no accessible area can be segregated solely for use by the disabled. You can test how little the ADA's authors mean this by trying to park in a handicapped parking space without a permit. Such a statement should raise concern as it suggests that no area can be designated as a handicapped area because doing so would segregate (and separate) the disabled. Yet virtually every aspect of the Americans with Disabilities Act does just that. The ADA's entire massive collection of rules and regulations states how areas must be changed, marked, and separated for those with disabilities. The very specifications of the ADA violate its own statement against segregation.
ADA opponents also ask how equal the ADA-approved door opening widths are. Can all disabled citizens now get through the required thirty-two-inch-or-greater width? The answer is a resounding "No." Bed-ridden patients could never be wheeled through such a small opening. So equal access actually means equal for some disabled but not for all disabled. Perhaps some ADA opponents won't like that fact being mentioned out of a very real fear that the Department of Justice might update the minimum door width requirements to handle bed widths soon-I don't want to give the DOJ any more ways to intimidate.
Without wanting to get too tongue-in-cheek about the law, let it be said that many good intentions paved the road to the ADA.
WHO NEEDS IT?
Nobody wants to see disabled people harmed. Nobody wants to see disabled people left out of life-fulfilling activities. Yet I will attempt to show that the ADA causes more harm than good. That harm often goes undetected below our radars. Unseen harm is far more damaging to a society than visible harm because well-meaning people cannot address problems if they do not know or see that the problems are there.
Speaking as someone who, without doubt, would be considered handicapped compared to an assumed average man (for details see Chapter Three), let me state plainly that discrimination has certainly run rampant in America's past and at times still does for many. We're all guilty of this charge at some point in our lives. Nevertheless, there is very little evidence for a true pattern of discrimination against the handicapped in our history. While anecdotal, single-case evidence may sometimes prove differently (and I am sure I will hear such anecdotal evidence in ample supply when this book hits the shelves), you cannot prove a general case with a specific. This book strives to show that this all-encompassing, world-changing law solely based on anecdotal evidence creates far more discrimination than it prevents.
Obviously, one of the ADA's primary goals at its inception was to protect the handicapped from discrimination. The effect of the law is quite the opposite. My charge in a nutshell: the ADA actually nurtures discrimination against the handicapped.
YOU DON'T GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
Please consider a pre-ADA business owner of a new, small coffee shop. The owner is struggling to make ends meet because a startup business rarely generates sufficient cash flow and loans are difficult to obtain. In such a hypothetical scenario, the owner probably works in the shop more hours than any other employee. There is no doubt that the owner values each and every customer's business.
Suppose such an owner sees a man pushing a walker approach the front door. Hardly an American business owner exists who would not happily stop immediately to go help the person with the door, ask if there is any assistance at all needed while in the shop, leave the "Order Here" area to bring a menu, take the order, and serve coffee and re-fills to whatever table at which the disabled customer wants to sit.
Consider that same business owner in a post-ADA America. He was given two or three years in the mid-1990s to spend from $20,000 to well over $75,000 to change the entire parking lot layout, to widen every door, to change all door knobs (round doorknobs are illegal in post-ADA commercial America-you didn't know that, did you?), to lower some counters, to raise other counters, to add a ramp in front, to change the bathroom entrance, to replace every bathroom fixture, to add handles and bars throughout, to replace some built-in benches and stools, to eliminate inventory so as to have room to widen the aisles, and possibly be required to provide home delivery. All of these cause financial hardship for such a small business.
You now need to ask yourself the real question: Is that small business owner more likely or less likely to view disabled customers with happiness, care, and compassion?
Now that the government has forced the owner to spend so much money to renovate the doors, possibly requiring one employee to be let go-often a relative in such a small shop-he is far less likely to go the extra mile to help disabled customers. Instead, the owner is more likely to let the handicapped customer fend for herself because the owner was already forced to accommodate that customer under threat of losing his business for not complying with ADA-required changes. His help has already been coerced; he's not likely to offer more.
History proves time and time again that when the government provides a service to a select group of people, families and friends and caring strangers stop helping. When the government gives thousands of welfare dollars in food, housing, clothing, and other living expenses to a household, extended family members almost always stop helping, and simultaneously a breakdown in traditional family structures begins to occur. Marvin Olasky explains this phenomenon well when he describes the American welfare system, which is generous with money but stingy on human involvement. People used to want to help others, but now they want to help by dispensing government money (after the government keeps its transaction fee).
You see this phenomenon in all aspects of governmental control and redistribution of wealth. When the government takes over education and childcare, parents relinquish their own responsibility. Consider when the government takes money to build museums from people who don't want to visit museums so that people who want to go to museums get in free. Those who want the museums should be the ones paying the bills, but the very opposite takes place. Certainly some private money pays for museums, but the public "endowments" come right out of the pocketbooks of many who care nothing for them. When the government punishes criminals with community service work such as cleaning alongside roads and highways, the public is less likely to pick up its own litter. (Only government would think it is good to train the public that a nice idea such as community service should be turned into a punishment.) When the government takes over a free society's traditional responsibilities, that now less-free society instantly begins to abandon its natural instinct to help those who need and want help.
So who can blame the business owner who believes enough has been done to accommodate the disabled and no longer feels compelled to come to the aid of a handicapped man or woman who approaches the business's ADA-required new $4,000 door and frame? The ADA required equal treatment, and the ADA got equal treatment; handicapped customers can now fend for themselves just as everybody else does. Compassion and good deeds have been turned into forced coercion by the government. Now discrimination can safely rear its ugly head and go completely unnoticed because the ADA's i's are dotted and its t's are crossed.
WE'RE ALL "DISABLED" NOW
Dissent against the ADA is rare. A number of explanations are obvious. Many hesitate to discuss the ADA negatively for fear of being seen as anti-handicapped. The current hands-off-the-ADA attitude seems to be more a civil rights issue for the ADA itself than civil rights for the disabled. In other words, the ADA needs to be defended and protected more than handicapped people themselves. ADA advocates certainly will respond to this book as a biased and unnecessary portrayal of the ADA's negative consequences. They will ask, "How can such a negative message be helpful when the Americans with Disabilities Act provides so many needed services for so many needy disabled persons?"
Attorneys involved in ADA cases and others who share in massive financial gains provided by such a law might question my criticism of the ADA. However, Arkansas Judge H. Franklin Waters states that the ADA has the effect of "turning federal courts into a workers' compensation commission" and allowing almost anything to be called a "disability" and therefore worthy of federal protection.
Judge Waters has insight. He understands why the term "handicapped" has virtually been removed from our politically-correct vocabulary and replaced with the more general "disabled." Proving that one is disabled is easier than proving that one is handicapped. Consider Waters' account of the dentist fired for fondling patients; he says that the dentist used as a defense that his urges were innocently the result of a "disability." The case would sound more ludicrous, if that is possible, had the dentist claimed that his urges were because he was "handicapped."
Excerpted from DISABLING AMERICA by GREG PERRY Copyright © 2007 by Greg Perry. Excerpted by permission.
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