Recent Op-Eds

When a person is in good health it can be easy to forget that there are many people in South Dakota and across the nation who overcome disabilities every day. As a Senator, I have the opportunity to meet with various groups representing Americans with disabilities, and I never cease to be amazed by the courage of those who sometimes struggle to do things that many of us take for granted.

Nearly 20 years ago Congress passed the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which has opened doors for thousands of Americans to work, go to school, and lead lives that might not have been possible before. Still, there is work that needs to be done in expanding opportunities for disabled Americans.

Last month, I proudly signed on as an original cosponsor of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (S. 3406). This important legislation clarifies the intent of the original ADA and will better protect the rights of all Americans with disabilities.

In recent years there have been court cases which have deprived deserving individuals of ADA protection. The ADA Amendments Act instructs federal courts to take a more generous interpretation of the original act, so as not to allow those who are overcoming serious disabilities to slip through the cracks.

I am pleased to say that this legislation enjoys the support of both disability advocacy groups as well as major business and human resources groups. The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent on September 11th and was passed in the House of Representatives by a voice vote on September 17th. It is my hope and expectation that the President will sign it into law.

While the Americans with Disabilities Act and the subsequent clarification of it are major victories for Americans with disabilities, there remains much work to be done. On September 16th, the Senate passed legislation which included my amendment to make cost of living adjustments for disabled veterans permanent and not subject to annual approval by Congress. I hope the House acts quickly on this bill.

The opportunities available to individuals with disabilities today might not have been imagined decades ago. I vow to continue working to expand opportunities for those in South Dakota and across the nation who show great courage in overcoming challenges in ways that so many of us take for granted.