Copyright (c) 1993 Cleveland State University
Journal of Law and Health
SYMPOSIUM: THE ADA AND PERSONS WITH MENTAL DISABILITIES: CAN SANIST ATTITUDES BE UNDONE?
8 J.L. & Health 15
Michael L. Perlin 1
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) 2 is the most innovative and far-reaching federal civil rights legislation--ever--on behalf of disabled persons. Its purpose is nothing less than "a national mandate to end discrimination against individuals with disabilities and to bring those individuals into the economic and social mainstream of American life." 3 It provides basically the same bundle of protections for the disabled as the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960's did for citizens of color. 4 Through the ADA, Congress provides clear, strong, enforceable standards, and ensures that the federal government plays a central role in the enforcement of those standards. 5
The language that Congress chose to use in its introductory fact-findings is of extraordinary importance. Its specific finding that individuals with disabilities are a "discrete and insular minority . . . subjected to a history of purposeful unequal treatment, and relegated to a position of political powerlessness" 6 is not just precatory flag-and-apple-pie rhetoric. 7 This language was carefully chosen. It comes from the heralded "footnote 4" of the United States v. Carolene Products case. 8 This decision has served as the springboard, for nearly a half century, for challenges to state and municipal laws that have operated in discriminatory ways against other minorities, and reflects a Congressional commitment to provide "protected class" categorization for disabled persons.
As a result, this in turn forces courts to employ a "compelling state interest" or "strict scrutiny" test in considering statutory and regulatory challenges to ...
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