Chairman Nadler Statement for Subcommittee Hearing on "Oversight of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990: The Current State of Integration of People with Disabilities"
Washington, October 20, 2021
Washington, D.C. - Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement, as prepared, during a Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties hearing on "Oversight of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990: The Current State of Integration of People with Disabilities:"
"Thank you, Chairman Cohen, and thank you to all of our witnesses for joining us today.
"In considering the current state of integration of people with disabilities into their communities, today’s hearing provides us an important opportunity to examine the extent to which the Americans with Disabilities Act has ensured that people with disabilities have access to housing, employment, and voting rights, as the law intends.
"The ADA is one of the nation’s most important civil rights laws. Thirty-one years ago, on a strong bipartisan basis, Congress passed this historic law to 'provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.' Yet while the ADA has helped break down many barriers facing people with disabilities, our nation has yet to achieve the law’s promise of full integration.
"Notably, the Supreme Court, in its landmark 1999 decision in Olmstead v. L.C, held that Title II of the ADA, which provides that people with disabilities must have the chance to participate in or benefit fully from the services of public entities, and the DOJ’s regulations interpreting that provision, prohibited the unjustified segregation of people with disabilities. Such unjustified segregation, the Court held, constituted discrimination and required that states—should an individual not oppose it—must provide community-based services to people with disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate.
"The importance of the Olmstead decision to the disability community cannot be overstated. Transitioning people from congregate institutional living or treatment settings has enabled people with disabilities to live better, more independent lives as individuals with the dignity they deserve, which is one of the core purposes of the ADA. Twenty-two years of experience with Olmstead has not only demonstrated that states can comply with the decision, but also that Olmstead has made state service systems better and more responsive to the individual needs of the people they serve.
"Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the urgency and necessity of implementing Olmstead. The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted people with disabilities, partly due to their overrepresentation in congregate settings such as nursing homes or other assisted care facilities.
"According to the New York Times, as of June 1, 2021, over 184,000 deaths had been reported among residents of nursing homes and other similar congregate facilities. The pandemic has made implementing Olmstead literally a life-or-death matter.
"To promote state compliance with Olmstead, Congress should create incentives for states to expand their community service systems. The American Rescue Plan provided a one-year incentive to states to expand home and community-based services by providing an increase in federal Medicaid fund matching for those services. The Build Back Better Act would also make a similar incentive permanent, provided that states meet certain conditions. I hope this will be enacted into law soon.
"It is also important to recognize that the segregation of people with disabilities is not just limited to where they live or receive treatment, but that it can also manifest in where they work.
"Another one of the core purposes of the ADA is to ensure that people with disabilities can achieve economic self-sufficiency and independence. Yet the majority of people with disabilities are not part of the labor force, and a significant number of those who are employed work in sheltered workshops where they are relegated to performing menial tasks below their capability, sometimes for subminimum wages, and segregated from the wider community.
"To fully realize the ADA’s integration mandate, we must also ensure that states’ employment service systems comply with Olmstead. Rather than provide services in segregated settings cut off from the rest of the community, state employment services should transition to providing supported employment in the community to ensure that people with disabilities can develop the skills necessary to achieve competitive, integrated employment and economic self-sufficiency.
"Last but certainly not least, ensuring that people with disabilities are integrated into the community requires that they are fully able to participate in the electoral process. Indeed, as I have stated before, the right to vote is instrumental in securing and defending all other rights. Yet, over thirty years after the ADA’s passage, people with disabilities still face too many longstanding obstacles to exercising their right to vote.
"Many of the changes to our voting laws in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic made the 2020 election more accessible to people with disabilities than past elections. While that perhaps unexpected progress is welcome, it only highlights the continuing and persistent barriers that people with disabilities face when voting.
"Moreover, as this Subcommittee learned during its oversight hearings on the Voting Rights Act this past summer, the current attack on voting rights includes a roll-back of those positive voting law changes and would institute additional barriers to voting that disproportionately impact voters with disabilities, and especially voters of color with disabilities.
"Congress took an important step when it passed the ADA in 1990, but as a nation, we still have a long road ahead to achieving the goal of full community integration. We must continue to ensure robust enforcement of the ADA and compliance with the Olmstead decision across the board."I thank Chairman Cohen for holding this hearing and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses. I yield back the balance of my time."