Bill to Lift Protection for Alcoholics and Drug-Abusers

The Alcoholism Report, May 1989 | Go to article overview

Bill to Lift Protection for Alcoholics and Drug-Abusers


Bill to Lift Protection for Alcoholics and Drug-Abusers

Sen. Dan Coates (R-IN) termed "shocking" and "absurd" the fact that alcoholics and drug abusers are placed in the same category of handicapped persons as the blind and mentally retarded under federal law. He introduced legislation (S-956) which he said would exclude alcoholics and drug abusers from the definition of handicapped under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Coates said the intent of the Rehabilitation Act, to bar discrimination in federally assisted activities on the basis of handicap, is "both admirable and vital."

"But the difficulty comes in the fine print," he said. "An individual with handicaps is not defined in a way that most Americans would understand. It is broadened to include drug abusers, addicts, and alcoholics. Thus, substance abusers are protected from any effort to exclude them from activities or benefits based on their drug or drinking problems. They are put in the same category with the blind or the mentally retarded."

"The results of such definitional gymnastics are as shocking as they are absurd," Coates said. "Expelling a drug addict from school becomes the moral equivalent of throwing out a student for being confined to a wheelchair."

The Indiana Republican said he was introducing the bill to exclude drug abusers and alcoholics from the definition of handicapped "not because they are unworthy of help or concern, but because this is the only way we will restore credibility to our fight against the demand for illegal drugs. …

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