Principle over Politics? The Domestic Policy of the George H. W. Bush Presidency

By Richard Himelfarb; Rosanna Perotti | Go to book overview
Save to active project

Discussant: Joseph P. Shapiro

I was asked specifically to talk about opposition to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and that’s a relatively easy thing to talk about in a brief period of time because there wasn’t very much opposition.

The ADA literally sailed through Congress with surprising little opposition for such a sweeping civil rights law—for what Ed Berkowitz nicely described as “America’s most ambitious civil rights law.” Now, I’ll divide the opposition to the ADA into three groups: there was the NFB, the NFIB, and the NHABE. So the NFB, the NFIB, and the NHABE.

So first, what’s the NFB? Well, that’s something called the National Federation of the Blind. Not all disabled people were happy with the ADA, and the National Federation of the Blind was the rare group that spoke out publicly against the bill. The NFIB worried about the bill’s language on accommodations. An important part of the ADA is to say that reasonable accommodations have to be provided to people with disabilities.

So what’s an accommodation? This wheelchair ramp to get up to the stage is an accommodation. A ramp on a building and in the classrooms here at Hofstra—that’s an accommodation, because if buildings aren’t accessible, then how can students in wheelchairs become participants in the opportunities that Hofstra provides. A sign-language interpreter is an accommodation. For a student with dyslexia, maybe extra time on a test is a simple accommodation that helps level the playing field for that person. For somebody with a different type of learning disability, it might be living on a quiet floor in a dormitory so they’re able to concentrate and study. These are simple accommodations, things that are easily done, that are inexpensively done, things that allow people with disabilities to become full participants on a college campus like this, or in the workplace, and in our society in general.

So the members of the National Federation of the Blind have a rather strong and somewhat iconoclastic view of accommodations: They don’t like them. Why not? Well, they reject special help because they fear that taking help will cause sighted people to conclude that blind people are inferior. If they take these accommodations, therefore they must be inferior. So, for example, members of the National Federal of the Blind objected to crossing beepers at traffic signals; they object to voices on elevators that announce a floor number. Their argument is that this kind of help further stigmatizes blind people. If sighted people think that they can’t figure out what floor on an elevator to get off without some mechanical voice reminding them, then are we going to think that somehow they’re going to be incapable as employees, incapable as colleagues in school, incapable of making their way in the world?

So you may remember that, around the time that the ADA was being debated, members of the federation were insisting that they be allowed to sit, for example,


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Principle over Politics? The Domestic Policy of the George H. W. Bush Presidency
Table of contents

Table of contents



Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 452

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?