As a primary author of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and as a person with a disability, I take issue with Peter Coy's ''Dubious aid for the disabled'' (Economic Trends, Nov. 9). The article asserts that Census Bureau survey data show a drop in employment among individuals with disabilities. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology study giving rise to the article compares different survey questions from one year to the next--apples to oranges--producing inaccurate findings.

In fact, the latest statistics from the Census Bureau, released in 1996, show that more than 1 million Americans with disabilities entered the workforce during the first years after the law was passed. Even more encouraging was that 800,000 of those people have disabilities that are severe.

Coy states that ''the mandate for 'reasonable accommodation' can require costly investment in such items as special elevators.'' He neglects to point out that employers are not required to make changes that would cause undue financial hardship. Nor does he mention that tax incentives exist to help many businesses defray such expenses. The President's Committee's Job Accommodation Network reports that the mean cost of workplace accommodations is $200. During the eight years since ADA was enacted, I have not heard of a single business that closed as a result.

Finally, Coy voices employers' fears that workers with disabilities might sue them over wages or dismissal. The American Bar Assn. recently disclosed that 90% of lawsuits brought under ADA are won by employers. Like all civil-rights legislation, ADA has been tested by frivolous claims. The courts have found that the remaining 10% of discrimination charges are legitimate, giving all Americans--those of us with disabilities and those who may acquire disabilities in the future--assurance that our rights are protected.

Tony Coelho
President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities


Updated Nov. 19, 1998 by bwwebmaster
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