restricted access Chapter 29. Experts
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489 29 Experts The German statesman Otto von Bismark once famously declared that “laws are like sausages; it is better not to see them made.” Certainly, lawmaking can be complicated, arcane, even sordid. Deals are cut, agreements reached, favors traded, and often no one knows for certain what the final product will be until the law is passed and enacted. The ADA was no exception. Indeed, large parts of it were ground out, sentence by sentence, in negotiations the details of which are for the most part recorded only in the memories of those who were present. Arlene Mayerson (continued) “There was never a time when there wasn’t a lot of work to do.” One of the experts the community turned to during this process was attorney Arlene Mayerson. Mayerson would get “down in the weeds” with senators, members of Congress, and congressional and White House staff to make sure that the actual words of the law did what the disability community wanted them to do and try to steer clear of amendments or other changes designed to limit or even kill the bill. The critical stuff in the Senate happened in a condensed-enough period that I could be there, not through everything, but for those few months when a lot of things happened. In the House, I was there sometimes, but I was also here [in California ] sometimes. The fax, its use as a tool of communication, was somewhat new during that period. Not only did it allow me to be very involved without being physically present, it also allowed us—those 490 chapter 29 on the East and West coasts—to work around the clock, which we did, often times. I was most involved in the [House] Judiciary Committee. Small business had a hearing that I actually testified at, with a disabled person from the National Federation of Independent Businesses who said that people shouldn’t have to have disabled people around them if it made them uncomfortable. That was one of those amazing things where you have someone who is a beneficiary of the bill speaking out against it. [It was amazing to me] that the NFIB would make the decision to use someone who had that much internalized prejudice. It was one of those situations where if you change it from disability to any other group, if you had a Jewish person testifying that he thought people shouldn’t be subjected to Jews if they didn’t want to be—there’s no way anyone would even think that would be something that you would want to promote in a congressional hearing. So I was in the position there of speaking out against his position, with him sitting there, using a wheelchair. On the House side there were a lot more questions that came up about the actual implications of the bill. That had been done to a certain extent on the Senate side, but on the House side it was really hopping. Steny Hoyer, majority whip, was in charge of coordinating what was happening in all the various committees, and it was a very unique role, since he wasn’t on any of them. So we were working very closely with his office with amendments that were constantly coming up by members [in response to] particular things that were being raised by their constituents . For instance, the police didn’t want to have to wait until post-offer [of employment] to do a psychological exam.1 They thought that they should be able to do that pre-offer. That was a perfect example where he would say, “We need to know by tomorrow how many police departments are in fact doing post-offer psychological exams, because if there are, then obviously it’s not so much of a hardship.” Every time there was a potential amendment, it would be our job to do [something like] that. What I would do in response to that kind of amendment was to network really quickly, and call someone who would have contact with people who knew police work. And that is just one example. Sometimes it would be a legal issue, and then it would be more turning to the books. Sometimes it would just be a hypothetical that had really no answer other than what we made up. For instance, “Do you have to get experts 491 rid of stools at bars?” At the time no one had really thought about stools at bars, so...


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Subject Headings

  • United States. Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
  • People with disabilities -- Civil rights -- United States -- History.
  • People with disabilities -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- United States -- History.
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