Disability Rights: Attitudes of Private and Public Sector Representatives

By Hernandez, Brigida; Keys, Christopher B. et al. | The Journal of Rehabilitation, January-March 2004 | Go to article overview

Disability Rights: Attitudes of Private and Public Sector Representatives


Hernandez, Brigida, Keys, Christopher B., Balcazar, Fabricio E., The Journal of Rehabilitation


Enacted in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been hailed as the most significant civil rights law for individuals with disabilities. This legislation was passed following increased political pressure from disability advocates with the goal of greater inclusion of people with disabilities into mainstream United States culture. The ADA impacts nearly every aspect of American society, providing protection of rights in the areas of employment, state and local government services, transportation, private and public accommodations, and telecommunications. Positive attitudes toward disability rights were vital to the passage of the ADA, and they may give rise to future changes in the law. Therefore, it is important to assess public opinion about disability rights. Such an assessment is particularly needed among representatives from the private and public sectors, given that these individuals are primarily responsible for implementing the Act's key provisions. Although attitudinal research regarding people with disabilities has been extensive (Hernandez, Keys, & Balcazar, 2000; Wilgosh & Skaret, 1987; Yuker, 1994), studies are only beginning to investigate attitudes toward their civil rights as codified by the ADA provisions (Hernandez et al., 2000). Therefore, this study examined attitudes toward disability rights as well as demographic, organizational, experiential, acculturation, and knowledge predictors among representatives of the private and public sectors.

The Americans with Disabilities Act

Although the ADA was modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the disability rights movement dates back to the early 1950's with the origin of the Association for Retarded Citizens (ARC) (Altman & Barnartt, 1993). At the time, the ARC was an advocacy organization comprised primarily of parents who sought a life of decency and dignity for individuals with mental retardation. In 1973, the Rehabilitation Act was passed, with Section 504 of this law prohibiting discrimination against Americans with disabilities in all programs and activities receiving federal assistance. Seventeen years later, the ADA was enacted to ensure the inclusion of all people with disabilities to mainstream society. The ADA includes five titles. Title I prohibits discrimination against qualified persons with disabilities in the realm of employment. Title II ensures that eligible individuals are not denied state or local government services, programs, or activities because of their disabilities. Title III prohibits private establishments and places open to the public from discriminating against people with disabilities in the full and equal enjoyment of goods, services, and facilities. Title IV ensures that telecommunications relay services are available for people with speech, hearing, and voice disabilities. Lastly, Title V of the ADA consists of miscellaneous provisions that cover an array of issues, such as the nonprotection of the ADA for those actively using illegal drugs.

Attitudes toward disability rights

Hernandez et al. (2000) reviewed ten studies that examined attitudes toward the ADA provisions among a diverse group of pertinent individuals including executives, recruiters, human resource directors, employers, managers, rehabilitation professionals, individuals with disabilities, and undergraduate students. As a whole, respondents endorsed the overall spirit of disability rights. They were positive about general issues that supported the inclusion of people with disabilities. However, when attitudes toward the employment provisions (Title I) were assessed, representatives from the private sector were less supportive of the law. Specifically, they espoused negative views toward a title perceived as legally complex and costly to implement. Hence, the present study examined attitudes toward disability rights as codified by the ADA among representatives of the private and public sectors, with a particular focus on their views toward the employment provisions. …

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Disability Rights: Attitudes of Private and Public Sector Representatives
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