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BSHS/422 Critique of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Affirmative Action

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Write a minimum 5-page (or 1700 words)* critique of ADA and Affirmative Action
based on your readings, the lecture, and your own research. Include an introduction,
history and the pros and cons of these legislative acts.
Format your paper according to APA standards, and use 3rd person.
Critique of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Affirmative Action
BSHS/422
Critique of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Affirmative Action
Violations of civil liberties and acts of discrimination are often precursors to the creation or
modification of laws and public policy in a moral society. The Americans with Disabilities Act
(ADA) and affirmative action are both examples of moral society demanding change. Both were
the result of the Civil Rights Movement and the Individuals with Disabilities Movement that
advocated for needed social change. The following critique will provide a brief history of each
and some popular arguments of proponents and opponents for both public policies.
Americans with Disabilities Act
History
The Americans with Disabilities Act was the result of the individuals with disabilities movement
in the United States that challenged social barriers excluding the disabled from communities,
the educational system, and employment opportunities, and fought against the cultural norm of
institutionalization (Mayerson, n.d.). According to Affirm Able Action Associates (2013),
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is the most significant civil rights legislation to be
enacted by congress since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The ADA makes it illegal to discriminate
against anyone who has a mental or physical disability in the area of employment, public
services, transportation, public accommodations and telecommunications. (para. 1)
In addition, “The ADA prohibits discrimination in … job application procedures, hiring, firing,
advancement, compensation, training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of
employment. It applies to recruitment, advertising, tenure, layoff, leave, fringe benefits, and all
other employment-related activities” (Affirm Able Action Associates, 2013, para. 4). The ADA
also mandates organizations make reasonable accommodations that allow the disabled access
to the aforementioned areas.
Proponents of the Americans with Disabilities Act
Proponents of the ADA argue the act promotes and supports the education (public service) of
the disabled and results in gainful employment; hence, allowing the disabled self-sufficiency and
independence. This reduces reliance on government programs and government spending on
disability programs like social security that support disabled individuals who cannot support him
or herself. Moreover, the reasonable accommodations mandate of the ADA ensures equal
access to public transit, public housing, access to public restrooms, and buildings in general,
thus overcoming physical barriers previously present, which prevented the disabled from
participating fully in society.

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Opponents of the Americans with Disabilities Act
Opponents of the ADA claim the inclusion of disabled students in the classroom disrupts
learning and takes valuable time away from able-bodied students. Recent studies show;
however, that the inclusion of disabled persons in the classroom has no adverse effect on able-
bodied students (National Institute for Urban School Improvement, n.d.). In point of fact,
inclusion promotes social skills, patience, commitment to moral and ethical principles, and social
advocacy for the disabled (National Institute for Urban School Improvement, n.d.).
Opponents also argue that the expense of providing reasonable accommodations is too cost
prohibitive for small businesses. According to the United States Department of Labor (n.d.),
The majority of workers with disabilities do not need accommodations to perform their jobs, and
for those who do, the cost is usually minimal. … two-thirds of accommodations cost less than
$500, with many costing nothing at all. Moreover, tax incentives are available to help employers
cover the costs of accommodations, as well as modifications required to make their businesses
accessible to persons with disabilities. (para. 12)
Additionally, businesses with fewer than 15 employees are not required to provide reasonable
accommodations under the law (United States Department of Labor, n.d.) Furthermore,
businesses employing more than 15 persons that cannot afford to make the required changes
are not required to do so if it would create an undue hardship (United States Department of
Labor, n.d.). "Undue hardship is defined as an action requiring significant difficulty or expense
when considered in light of factors such as an organization's size, financial resources and the
nature and structure of its operation” (United States Department of Labor, n.d., para. 14).
Affirmative Action
History
The term “affirmative action” came to existence in 1961, when President John F. Kennedy
signed Executive Order 10925 into law (The University of California, 2002). Kennedy’s order
created the Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity and mandated that ”projects financed
with federal funds ‘take affirmative action’ to ensure that hiring and employment practices are
free of racial bias” (Brunner, 2007, para. 2). This was a brave political move for Kennedy
considering that many against the African American’s right to vote prevented minorities in the
South from voting for Kennedy in fall of 1960. Segregation and violence were still very much a
part of the culture in the South at this time.
President Lyndon Johnson later added to the initiative of affirmative action by signing the Civil
Rights Act of 1964. According to the National Archives (n.d.),
The provisions of this civil rights act forbade discrimination on the basis of sex as well as race in
hiring, promoting, and firing. … Section 703 (a) made it unlawful for an employer to "fail or
refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual
with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions or privileges or employment, because of
such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." (para. 2).
Johnson also provided for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to implement the law
(National Archives, n.d.).
Despite the fact many consider affirmative action a specific law; it is in point of fact, a
compilation of several laws, orders, plans, and policies. A more recent addition to the
aforementioned laws, The Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act of 1972,
mandated

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the preferential employment of disabled veterans and veterans of the Vietnam era ... who are
otherwise qualified." The act was amended a year later to require federal agencies and
contractors to take affirmative action in employment and promotion for people with disabilities.
(The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, 2013, para. 12)
President Richard Nixon also initiated many programs between 1965 and 1967, which became
known collectively as the Philadelphia Plan. The Nixon administration created these programs
with the building trades in mind because these owners and unions refused to admit African
Americans and other minorities to the payrolls. The plan called for these businesses to set hiring
goals (not quotas) for minorities. No official goals were ever set, but the government began
hiring contractors who hired more minorities. In 1968, officials ruled these practices violated the
Civil Rights Act of 1965 that prohibits the use of quotas; officials immediately ended the
Philadelphia Plan (Kotlowski, 2009).
Even though the Reagan Administration opposed many concepts of affirmative action, it
ultimately did little to alter the program. More recently, President Bill Clinton vowed to support
affirmative action in a speech given in 1995,
My experiences with discrimination are rooted in the South and in the legacy slavery left …The
job of ending discrimination in this country is not done. . . . We should reaffirm the principle of
affirmative action and fix the practices. We should have a simple slogan: Mend it, but don't end
it. (Harris, 1995, para. 2)
Proponents of Affirmative Action
Proponents of affirmative action claim the policy ensures employment and educational
opportunities for every person regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, or gender.
Furthermore, proponents assert America still needs affirmative action because discrimination
still exists in society and the workplace. Moreover, affirmative action creates a diverse
workplace better equipped to solve problems and meet the needs of customers and the
community and provides a means of legal remedy. According to the Leadership Conference on
Civil and Human Rights (2013),
the continuing need for affirmative action is demonstrated by the data. For example, the
National Asian and Pacific American Legal Consortium reports that although white men make up
only 48% of the college-educated workforce, they hold over 90% of the top jobs in the news
media, 96% of CEO positions, 86% of law firm partnerships, and 85% of tenured college faculty
positions. (Para. 5)
Opponents of Affirmative Action
Opponents of affirmative action argue that the policy creates reverse discrimination and violates
the same laws and moral obligations of true-equal opportunity. Some minorities believe they
face increased resentment and alienation because other majority members assume minorities
attain positions based on the aforementioned factors alone.
In summary, violations of civil liberties and acts of discrimination are often precursors to the
creation or modification of laws and public policy in a moral society. The Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA) and affirmative action are both examples of moral society demanding
change. Both were the result of the Civil Rights Movement and the Individuals with Disabilities
Movement that advocated for needed social change. The ADA increased awareness of
problems the disabled face daily and consequently resulted in dramatic changes for the

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