The Americans with Disabilities Act is Only the First Step
The United States of America is founded upon the groundwork that "all men are created equal." America is also viewed as the "land of opportunity," as large numbers of immigrants enter the country in order to make a better life for themselves. These catch phrases used above are an honorable attempt to portray America as a land where everything is fair and everyone possesses a chance to succeed. These slogans, which we so easily state, do not tell the full story, however. Racism and prejudice abound in "the land of the free" and can be witnessed on an almost daily basis. The government endeavors to remedy the inequalities through programs such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which is a noble attempt to present all people with a more equal playing field. This program, and others like it, are effective, but it is not the final solution that people often think it is. There is much to be done to gain equality, especially regarding the physically disabled in the work force. The ADA is a foundation upon which a greater sense of equality should be created.
The Americans With Disabilities Act was passed in 1990. The ADA strives to guarantee disabled individuals protection from discrimination. Marjorie Baldwin defines a main principle of the ADA when she states, "One of the main objectives of the ADA is to improve the employment prospects of persons with disabilities by eliminating employer discrimination" (Baldwin 39). Under the ADA, a disabled person is one who is limited in one or more life activities by a physical or mental impairment. Through five titles of the act, disabled people are defended from being denied access to a job if they can meet the demands of the work with "reasonable accommodations" (Baldwin 41). Sociologist Sharon Harlan defines reasonable accommodation as "meant to provide the same opportunity for a qualified person with a disability to perform as productively on the job as any other qualified employee" (Harlan 420). These reasonable accommodations are somewhat vaguely defined, and this leads to various problems between employer and potential employee. All things considered, the ADA has been a help to a great many people and various success stories can be found in the business, sports, and professional worlds. However, inequality still abounds as the disabled continue to struggle to gain their self-dependence. This is unacceptable in a culture that prides itself on equal opportunity, and it is only through increased policy that this problem will be rectified. Despite the successes by the ADA of protecting individuals from discrimination, it should still be treated as a stepping-stone for equality reform, rather than the answer to it.
Numerous instances of discrimination against handicapped workers still exist, ten years after the ADA was passed. In surveys conducted by various healthcare organizations, it has been found that workers with...